Thomas Sowell
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 A recent angry e-mail from a reader said that certain issues should not be determined by "the dictates of the market." With a mere turn of a phrase, he had turned reality upside down.
 
Decisions by people free to make their mutual accommodations with other free people were called "dictates" while having third parties tell all of them what they could and couldn't do was not.

 Verbal coups have long been a specialty of the left. Totalitarian countries on the left have called themselves "people's democracies" and used the egalitarian greeting "comrade" -- even though some comrades had the arbitrary power of life and death over other comrades.

 In democratic countries, where public opinion matters, the left has used its verbal talents to change the whole meaning of words and to substitute new words, so that issues would be debated in terms of their redefined vocabulary, instead of the real substance of the issues.

 Words which have acquired connotations from the actual experiences of millions of human beings over generations, or even centuries, have been replaced by new words that wipe out those connotations and substitute more fashionable notions of the left.

 The word "swamp," for example, has been all but erased from the language. Swamps were messy, sometimes smelly, places where mosquitoes bred and sometimes snakes lurked. The left has replaced the word "swamp" with "wetlands," a word spoken in pious tones usually reserved for sacred things.

 The point of this verbal sleight-of-hand is to impose the left's notions of how other people can use their own land. Restrictive laws about "wetlands" have imposed huge costs on farmers and other owners of land that happened to have a certain amount of water on it.

 Another word that the left has virtually banished from the language is "bum." Centuries of experience with idlers who refused to work and who hung around on the streets making a nuisance -- and sometimes a menace -- of themselves were erased from our memories as the left verbally transformed those same people into a sacred icon, "the homeless."

 As with swamps, what was once messy and smelly was now turned into something we had a duty to protect. It was now our duty to support people who refused to support themselves.

 Crimes committed by bums are covered up by the media, by verbally transforming "the homeless" into "transients" or "drifters" whenever they commit crimes. Thus "the homeless" are the only group you never hear of committing any crimes.

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Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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