The moment tautology went tautological

Bear Stearns marks the moment when the global financial crisis went critical.

Larry Elliott. More:

Indeed, it is somewhat surprising that there is not already rioting in the streets, given the gigantic fraud perpetrated by the financial elite at the expense of ordinary Americans.

That’s cos they all bought houses a 45 minute drive from anywhere, Larry.

Bush again:

President Bush on Saturday said the government must guard against going too far in trying to fix the troubled economy, cautioning that “one of the worst things you can do is overcorrect.”

For ‘overcorrect’ to have any meaning, the most common meaning of the word ‘correct’ must be wronged. To correct something means to make right. You might correct me on that and say that in fact, to correct something means to stand over it in leather underpants and whip it.

Is it correct to say that the first sense of ‘correct’ in the last sentence is a correct way of using the word ‘correct’? You might say, well, as long as I understand what you mean in the way you intend it, considerations of what is correct goes out the window. And you would probably be correct to say so. It is probably more correct to say that the correct meaning of the word ‘correct’ depends on the context in which it is spoken.

That said, there needs to be some sort of distinction between ‘to correct’ when it means ‘to make right’ and ‘to correct’ when it means ‘to act to make right’. In the first sense, it would be simply impossible to ‘overcorrect’, since this would mean ‘to make too right’. But a situation can never be ‘too right’, in the same way that you can never be ‘too 26’. You are either 26 or you aren’t. There is nothing you can do to make you more or less 26. It is the second sense, however, that appears to inform Bush’s use of the word ‘overcorrect’. Superficially, what Bush is saying is that you can overdo it in making things right.

At first glance, this appears to be good sense -no point in overdoing it, only do as much as you need to do. But no amount of ‘acting to make right’ is sufficient, or insufficient, if you don’t actually make right. Bush is expressing a preference for not doing too much in acting to make things right, but there is no difference between this and not doing too little to make things right. Perhaps part of what informs Bush’s view of things is the popular idea of a market ‘correction’: the belief in the condition of commodities possessing a ‘real’ price (not real in the sense of adjusted for inflation, but real in the sense of ‘true’). But all this is precisely the sort of waffle that the interested parties will accept from the spokesman when things appear to be in some rough state of progress and profitability. They know they’re being bullshitted, but have more important things to think about, like staffing levels on their yacht. But once the crisis becomes critical, things begin to acquire an urgent clarity.


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