By John Newsome on 22nd September 2010

There are well over half a million words in the English language. You might have thought that with all that choice, it wouldn't be too difficult to make a decent stab at accurate description. Yet, curiously, modern life appears to struggle increasingly when it comes to conveying the essence of reality. Of course, there are misnomers with which we are all familiar. We know that 'spin' means lie, 'PR' stands for probable rubbish while 'MP' too often equates to mendacious parasite. In the investment industry, it's common knowledge that a 'hold' recommendation means sell while a 'sell' recommendation means you've got to be kidding.

Interestingly, it's a phenomenon that has become more apparent as economic conditions have deteriorated. The truly cynical might even arrive at the conclusion that governments/politicians don't want you to understand the true nature of what is actually happening. Take 'quantitative easing' (QE) for example. An innocuous sounding phrase, we hear it so often it's easy to forget what it really means. It's something to do with supporting the economy so it must be a good thing? In reality, it represents the printing of money. It's as simple and crude as that although if you did it in your garage, the authorities would not be quite as relaxed about it.

QE has enabled the Bank of England (B of E) to own a quarter of the UK's existing government bonds. While currently suspended, ironically so are plans to exit QE which will entail the sale of the bonds in order to recapture the freshly printed funny money. You could be forgiven for believing there is real fear as to what happens when that cash is withdrawn.

How often have we heard that via QE, the B of E has 'injected' money into the economy? It all sounds very technical; far beyond the understanding of mere mortals. It evokes a doctor administering a life saving drug to a patient. It gives the public the impression the economy is a complex machine and the experts know just which buttons to press. Alas, if that were true, we wouldn't be where we are now.

The US government uses the phrase 'discouraged' to describe members of the workforce that are fit and able but not actively seeking employment. After a certain amount of time, such people are not included in the unemployment statistics. It's a great way to cut the jobless numbers but it's patently misleading with regard to the true rate of US unemployment. Remember that the next time the US (or UK) government reports rising GDP. Unless you know how the numbers are put together, you might be looking at Grossly Distorted Propaganda.


John Newsome can be contacted on:
01423 705123