Relief Versus Stimulus

One of you asked if this (“relief versus stimulus”) is not a mere “semantic quibble”?

Not at all. Confucius pointed out long ago that “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”

More recently, the philosopher Robert Brandom stated, exquisitely, that “Grasping a concept is mastering the use of a word.”

The concept of a stimulus is, as I pointed out, very different from the concept of relief. They have a different purpose, they are used under different circumstances, and they are expected to have different results.

If the program is called a “stimulus,” and if we think of it as a stimulus, it will be too easy, when this thing is over, for some skeptics to look back and complain that all of that massive spending did not do much stimulating of the economy. They will be correct. That was not its purpose.

Those with a more honest grasp of the situation will ask, instead, “did the program provide relief?” And, of course, the answer will be that, indeed, the program provided a great deal of relief. Was it “enough” relief? We must wait and see.

Dr. Daniel Bromley can be contact at dbromley@wisc.edu.