The Washington Post

Uncertainty Principle

Okay, I’m going to focus on one word today. To which word do I refer? Before I tell you, let me leave you uncertain for a minute while I indulge my weakness for preamble.

Ever have that thing where somebody says something and it hits you the wrong way? But then you think about it a little and it seems more or less reasonable, so you let it go. But then you hear it again and it still rankles. It strikes you like it’s, well, if not out-and-out dishonest, at least disingenuous. Like it’s a diversionary tactic, or using a reasonable-sounding word to cover for a separate agenda. Of course you’ve had this experience! People are crafty all the time this way! Here’s today’s rankler.

UNCERTAINTY. For sure! Businesses are now in the habit of saying what they hate above all is uncertainty. Sounds plenty reasonable! Businesses need to PLAN! But this word was introduced at a time where its real effect on the debate was “Don’t make any regulations we don’t like.” See the switch? Changing regulations, and the debate that goes with that, creates ‘uncertainty.’ That’s what they purport to be against! But what they’re REALLY against is any regulation that might crimp their style, or bottom-line, even if that crimping yields much larger social benefits. They’re not against social benefits, see, they just don’t like ‘uncertainty.’

And why am I so exasperated at this ‘uncertainty’ meme? Because think about it. It flies in the face of EVERYTHING ELSE they say, now and always. And particularly now! Globalization? “Adapt, you slow-footed workers!” Disappearing middle-class jobs? “Go borrow a fortune and get a different education, slacker!” And the crown jewel of them all: Creative Destruction! The invisible hands on the scythe that mows down entire longstanding community economies. All good! “The dynamic marketplace at work! Deal with it, losers!”

I’m sorry, at least spare me hypocritical corporate whimpering about not liking ‘uncertainty’.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.

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