Buyer Beware

As Orwell and others have so astutely noted, we think in words — and the language and metaphors we use therefore shape our worldview.

Now that “the market is our only language,” even in sectors traditionally dedicated to the unquantifiable public good like government and academia, we’re applying inappropriately simple ideas to increasingly complex problems.

Not all quantification is bad, of course. But more data doesn’t mean more knowledge, nor necessarily better decisions. And just try to wrap your mind around what it might mean to “leverage” or “impact” a “space.”

Business, and especially business-speak, tends to demand simplicity and certainty.

To whatever extent it’s in business, government is in the business of dealing with real people — and therefore with complexity and uncertainty.

Government might well be simplified. But when powerful people oversimplify the problems of governance — caveat emptor.