Semantics: "the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text" (Oxford Languages, 2022 09 07).
Over long periods of time, the meaning of words change. The context for their use may change, the way they are used may change, and their frequency may change. "Square" in the 1950s was used differently and more frequently that it is today. "Lit" is not just lighting, or literature, it is cool or legitimate. These examples are the result of youth repurposing a word in a way adults hadn't considered. Today we are seeing a change in the meaning of the word for political purposes.
Inflation is a simple word, if we have inflation then prices are rising. In the spring of 2021, the United States government made an effort to explain rising prices as something else. Rising prices weren't inflation, they were "transitory" or temporary. The efforts to redefine the word because it wasn't popular to recognize inflation when it surfaced resulted in policy choices that entrenched inflation. Inflation will end when one or more of the following occurs: the supply of money is reduced, demand for goods and services falls, and/or productive capacity increases.
It is difficult to fight inflation with higher interest rates when policy choices increase disposable income (forgiving student loan debt) and increase supply costs (eliminating fossil fuels). As long as fiscal policy (government spending and taxation) and regulation is increasing demand and constraining supply, the Federal Reserve's monetary policy efforts to reduce inflation through higher interest rates are sterilized. We will see inflation rates fall, but price levels are likely to remain high.
Recession is another word fallen prey to semantics. Recession has historically been defined by two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP. The first quarter of 2022 saw real GDP fall by 1.6%. This means the output of goods and services in the United States fell by 1.6% compared with the same quarter in 2021, on an annualized basis. The second quarter saw real GDP fall by .6% compared with the second quarter of 2021. Traditionally, this would be a recession. Because employment and wages increased during this time, prices were rising (inflation), and calling a recession was not expedient, the government has been unwilling to identify the recession of 2022 as a recession.
There are other words the government is trying to change. Man, woman, male, female, racist, and capitalist are all facing transitory meanings. When you look at the words around these words you can see the meaning changing. Such as, "I identify as a man". In the past, it wasn't the choice of the individual to identify or not identify. You were or you were not. A racist was someone who labeled people by race, class, or some other category and deemed them inferior. A racist is now someone who does not accept the labels applied to them by others. A capitalist was someone who took care of themselves and created opportunity for others by responding to the forces of supply and demand. Now a capitalist is someone who takes advantage of others using market power and influence.
Who will defend the words? If we choose to change their meaning, what words do we use to say what we used to mean?
The solution to economic prosperity is straightforward. Fiscal responsibility, sound money, and stable regulatory policy. The solution to our identity is not to rewrite history, whitewash it, or redefine it, it is to learn from it and be better today because of it.