Thursday, September 13, 2007

If These Are Our "Prospect"s, Then We May Be In Trouble

There are a number of obvious ways that editorial choices can tilt media coverage: the writers hired, the stories chosen, the perspective taken; however, I think it’s rarely noted the degree to which style makes a difference. When I refer to style, I don’t mean it in the fully technical

Take, for instance, the following sentence from this article in The American Prospect:

America builds ever-more-innovative products, but ever-fewer Americans share in that bounty.

See a problem with this sentence? I mean the sentence itself, not the idea behind it. Ultimately, the two are related, but first things first. The sentence attempts to construct a parallelism contrasting increasing production with decreasing bounty. My argument is simple: this statement fails rhetorically before it even gets to the underlying idea. It fails because of the categorical differences in the two things the author is trying to compare.

The first phrase talks about America, but what does Meyerson mean when writes, “America”: the geographical place, the political entity, the numerous ideological constructs that tie together a people who call themselves countrymen? Whatever he means, he surely is not referring to the same thing, or group of things, that he refers to in the next sentence as “Americans”.

I would hope that my point is becoming clear. While it is correct to say that plenty of things are produced “in America”, or “by Americans”, or even “by the American government”; as far as I know, no tangible good or service has ever been spontaneously created out of the American ether. Individuals or firms produce goods, and that ought to be a simple and uncontroversial empirical fact.

A much more rational argument could be made that since individuals and firms benefit from being situated in a politically stable country with an educated workforce and affluent customer base that a significant portion of their productivity is due to being in America. And a rational response would point out that is why we pay taxes; in fact, the highest corporate taxes around.

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