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Don't Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy    by Anat Shenker-Osorio order for
Don't Buy It
by Anat Shenker-Osorio
Order:  USA  Can
PublicAffairs, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Don't Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy would seem to be a book many people should be interested in. A communications strategist, the author addresses the mixed signals that politicians, the media and various political groups send by the language they use to describe what is happening with the economy.

Shenker-Osorio contends that economic discourse is constructed around a series of faulty messages, deceptive personification and barely coherent explanations of what the economy actually is. She doesn't accept the popular idea reinforced by metaphors and passive language that the economy is an ungovernable force of nature that is a force unto itself and not governed by individuals.

Making no bones about the fact that she is a progressive, the author takes to task the conservative interpretation of what the economy is and how it must be dealt with. That's not to say, though, that she fully agrees with the other side of the political spectrum either. Shenker-Osorio is critical of both sides when it comes to disseminating inaccurate or misleading economic information or using phraseology that masks where the problems regarding the economy really stem from.

By allowing our language to convey that the economy is self-governing and natural rather than controlled by the decisions made by individuals, we transmit unconsciously the idea that government intrusion does more harm than good says Shenker-Osorio. This 'affirms what conservatives want people to believe'.

She continues that 'if we fail to give a credible explanation for what makes the economy go haywire, we cannot make a compelling case for the policies we favor to set it right again.'

Although one might agree that there isn't perhaps a strong understanding of what the economy is or how it functions in today's world, don't expect the author to provide a clear answer to this key question. She makes interesting points about the fact that how we talk about the economy only muddies and confuses our understanding of how it operates, but she doesn't really point to an alternative.

That's not to say Shenker-Osorio doesn't have some ideas on how to begin to repair the mess we are now in. She does offer a few ideas, like creating more jobs through job sharing, adjusting the way student loans are repaid and rethinking how home foreclosures are dealt with. That will strike a positive cord with some readers but turn off others.

Given her strong political biases, the valid observations Shenker-Osorio sometimes makes about language and its use in explaining the economy are negated by some of her own progressive solutions. At times this communications expert focuses on her topic but then, at other times, she drifts off into areas where she has little expertise but strong opinions.

I find it amusing that a strategic communications expert has problems, at times, staying on message!

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