A Definition That Conflates “Inflation” With Only One Of Its Possible Causes Is False
What Something Is & What Causes It To Be Are Two Completely Different Things
Definitions Of A Word Or Term Are Factual Descriptions
The definition of a word or a term needs to be a factual statement describing what people who use that term understand it to mean.
Causes For A Word Or Term Are Opinions
The supposed cause for the occurrence of that defined term is an opinion about what causes the defined term to come to pass.
Combining The Two Is A Deceptive Tactic
A deceptive tactic that people sometimes use to oppose something they don’t like is to create a definition of an admitted bad thing that conflates the bad thing with whatever it is that the person creating the new definition doesn’t like.
A Definition Of The Word “Flood”
Suppose you’re the owner of a construction company that builds and repairs dams and levees. You want people to spend more money on building and fixing dams.
A valid definition of a flood might be: “An intrusion of water that covers an area that is normally dry land.”
One of the causes of a flood may be “the lack of or the sudden failure of a dam or levee.”
Re-Defining “Flood” To Promote Your Construction Business
You decide to promote your dam-construction business by conflating the definition of the word “flood” with the claim that floods are caused by the absence of a well-maintained dam, so that you end up with this definition:
“A flood is an intrusion of water that covers an area that is normally dry land caused by the lack of or the sudden failure of a dam or levee.”
Since floods are always bad then, logically speaking, this text tells people that, by definition, it’s always a bad thing not to have a well-maintained dam or levee.
Three Reasons Why This Conflated Definition Is False
1: The first problem with this definition is that it conflates an event with the supposed cause for that event by linking the definition of something bad (floods) with what you’re promoting (spending money on dams ).
In this way you escape ever having to prove that the failure to spend more money on building dams will actually result in a flood.
Sometimes maybe it will and sometimes maybe it won’t.
2: The second problem with this conflated definition is that it asserts that the absence or failure of a dam is the only cause of floods when, in fact, rain storms, clogged stream beds, storm surges, extremely high tides, etc. can all cause floods without the lack of or the failure of a dam or levee.
3: The third problem with this conflated definition is that it falsely implies that the lack of a well maintained dam or levee will always cause a flood when the absence of a dam in a particular place on a particular river might never cause a flood.
Contrary to what this so-called definition claims, dams can fail or not exist at all and not cause a flood, and floods can occur without the failure of a dam.
The Consequences Of A Flawed Definition — No Insurance
Imagine that a storm drops 8 inches of rain in 12 hours and the river completely floods your property. You make a claim under your flood insurance policy but it is denied because a “flood” is defined as being caused by the failure of a dam or levee and since that didn’t happen, you are not covered.
In General, Why This Tactic Is Deceptive
When you conflate a definition of something bad (a flood) with the position you’re advocating, (building and maintaining lots of dams) your definition becomes little more than a false, misleading and biased argument pretending to be a factual statement.
Using This Tactic To Attack Gov’t Spending
One of the strategies used to oppose government spending is conflating the definition of “inflation” (a bad thing) with your disliked activity (government spending).
The term “inflation” actually means an increase in the prices of commonly purchased items from which prices the government calculates a measure of the cost-of-living, the consumer price index.
People who oppose government spending want to conflate the definition of inflation (a general, continuous increase in prices) with something they oppose (government spending), namely:
“Inflation is a general, continuous increase in prices caused by an increase in the money supply as the result of increased government spending.”
“A stomach ache is a pain in your stomach caused by food poisoning.”
— — —
“There has been a general increase in prices.”
“You have a stomach ache.”
— — —
“Therefore there has been an increase in the money supply as the result of increased government spending.”
“Therefore you have food poisoning.”
— — —
If the definition is wrong the conclusion is wrong, but it is an easy, if deceptive, way to “win” and argument.
Why This Conflated Definition Of Inflation Is Wrong
This definition is false because:
(1) It claims that inflation is always caused by increased government spending, when, in fact, there are several situations where increased government spending does not cause inflation.
- A reduction in the money supply caused by a depression, pandemic, war, or natural disaster followed by an increase in the money supply back to its previous pre-disaster level will not cause inflation nor will an increase in the money supply proportionate to an increase in population cause inflation.
(2) It claims that inflation is only caused by increased government spending when there are several causes for inflation that occur without an increase in government spending and without an increase in the money supply.
- A reduction in the supply of goods, an increase in demand, a concentration in market power, or the creation of new monopolies or cartels which raise prices because they can will all cause inflation without there being an increase in the money supply.
To claim that a material increase in demand coupled with a substantial reduction in supply will not cause prices to rise is the economic equivalent of saying that 2 + 2 = 5.
Suppose that there had been no increase in government spending and no increase in the money supply BUT the chip shortage, shortage of low-paid workers, Ukrainian war, increased consumer demand and huge increase in oil prices resulted in the consumer price index going from 1.5% to 7%.
The creator of that definition of inflation would say that that massive increase in the consumer price index was not inflation.
To say that a material increase in the consumer price index as the result of a substantial increase in demand coupled with a material reduction in supply is not inflation is the economic equivalent of saying that 2 + 2 = 0
If not inflation, what is it?
No economist in the entire world, and no halfway-intelligent consumer, would say that an material increase in the consumer price index is not inflation but that’s the sort of nonsense you get when, to promote a partisan position, you include only one of the many causes for a thing as part of the definition for that thing.
We All Need Accurate, Truthful Definitions Of Terms
Definitions (what something is) need to be accurate which means that they need to factually describe what a word or term is understood to mean by the people who use it.
What causes that word or term to occur is an opinion that may or may not be valid, accurate or correct.
(1) Events and (2) the causes for those events are and need to be treated as separate things, facts on the one hand and opinions on the other, rather than joined together as partisan arguments masquerading as factual statements.