Humans are herd animals- they seek acceptance by others. Words appear out of nowhere and come into vogue. Adopting usage of these delightful words make people feel “chic.” As long as any claptrap idea is labelled with one or more such words, people are likely to agree with it.
A few years back the words “natural,” “light,” and “organic” gained near universal acclaim. Include at least one of these adjectives in any advertising jingo, and product sales increase exponentially. Even a beer was huckstered as “Natural Light.” Apparently folks forget that things like lightning strikes, poison mushrooms and rattlesnake bites are perfectly natural. The chemical benzene is listed in every organic chemistry book, yet it is deadly poison. Nevertheless, the words “natural” and “organic” are still must-haves in consumer advertising.
One of the most appealing words in English is “affordable.” After all, who can buy something that is UNaffordable? Affix that word in front of any product, service, or government initiative, and one is sure to generate instant interest. Wall Street knows this as well as experienced politicians. A corporate dental chain places the word in its clinic name, and attracts patients by the thousands. Despite the name, the clinic is not a cheap place for care by any means; neither is it a place one will likely receive quality dentures. Also let us not forget one of the stupidest pieces of American legislation ever to be enacted. The bill’s writers were sage enough to name it the “Affordable Care Act,” despite it increasing the cost of health care by adding a new tax on medical equipment and supplies!
“Green” or “Green Energy” are words that can be attached to any idea, no matter how ridiculous, wasteful or inefficient, and people will embrace it with abandon. Norfolk Southern Railways has affixed a logo including a green stripe to its locomotives, to make them more appealing. When motorists are stuck at a railroad crossing, at least they can be comforted to be waiting for an eco-friendly locomotive, which is helping save the planet. Even while their cars waiting at the crossing are burning gasoline to run the air conditioning. Incidentally, just underneath the locomotives’ green logo are the enormous diesel fuel tanks.
A micro power company whose stock I own even changed its corporate name from Capstone Power to Capstone Green Energy. One must guess this change will attract hordes of new ESG investors.
So it is not surprising that on the heels of our Congress voting over $1 trillion for a bill that at least does spend money on things that could be called infrastructure, another “infrastructure” bill is in the works- at a price of $3.5 trillion- that contains none.
Forget that never before was a welfare bill termed an infrastructure bill, because never before in English language history were humans ever termed “infrastructure.” If you are trying to transform a society to a socialist paradise, I guess any tom-foolery with semantics is permissible. Dental and vision benefits added to Medicare is now building “human infrastructure”- or at least that is what the bill’s sponsors contend.
As any legendary investor will tell you, it is hard to be contrarian. Going against what is popular at the time does not come naturally for most humans. We want to be accepted, and spurning ideas labelled with trendy words is not likely to engender admiration from our peers. Of course, it doesn’t help that the decline in American public education has apparently made critical and independent thinking virtually extinct. But that is another story for another day!
Dr. Kim Henry
August 21, 2021