Many words are chosen and brought into common use to further an agenda. Our favorite example is “Capitalism”, a term that implies a system based on money, a system based on wealth. Thus a system which is based on the freedom of everyman to exchange goods and services with his neighbor has become known by a name that implies something quite different. The word “Capitalism” comes with an agenda. Words that come with an agenda are propagandic. Most people would look unfavorably on a system built around wealth but who could be against a system built on ‘pleasant companionship with friends or associates’? There was a reason Karl Marx chose to identify the two systems as Capitalism and Socialism rather than as Free Markets and Government Controlled.
Now we look at “austerity.” Say what you will about European Socialism, it does provide a comfortable life style. Savor six week vacations, short working hours, retirement at age 55 on a government guaranteed income sufficient to live in modest comfort. Some would argue that you give up many individual freedoms in exchange for that. However, I ask how can you give up something you never had?
Merriam-Webster defines austerity as “stern and cold in appearance or manner, giving little or no scope for pleasure.” That is not at all what advocates of “austerity” in Europe are calling for. What they want is a responsible government that does not spend what it doesn’t have. Yet they allow themselves to be known by a word that would identify them as seeking an uncaring government that leaves little or no scope for pleasure. Thus applied, the word austerity is propagandic.
The irony of propagandic is the acceptance and use of words by the targets against whom the term was coined. Even Milton Friedman called the Free Market system Capitalism.