Sign showing an oxymoron

Eleven Oxymorons Too Few

Weekly Irrefutable

“George Carlin and Orwell were right about everything” – @EconCircus[i]

An oxymoron may work when used in a Shakespearean comedy, but does it have any place when discussing economics or politics?  On Twitter, Facebook or even in person it is difficult to convey that under capitalism, individuals own the means of production while under socialism the State owns the means of production.  Every word must be defined and someone will probably ask if “the State” means government or if it means “the People,” and then someone else will say that Hitler was not a socialist and the conversation generally falls apart fairly quickly.  With each passing day, the ideas of George Carlin and George Orwell seem more and more true and this is not good.

In such a world my question is: how difficult does conversation become when someone takes two contradictory words and puts them together?

See below for 11 (mostly) oxymorons that may deceive you:

1) Crony Capitalism

The logic goes like this: when the government bails out a poor person, this is both good and it is socialism.  But when the government bails out a rich corporation, this is both bad and it becomes crony capitalism.  Until someone can provide a definition for crony capitalism that is “not socialism,” then just use the word socialism.  To use crony in front of capitalism blames capitalism for the problems that are caused by socialism.

2) State Capitalism

See #1 above; the problem is still the same.  Once you understand the definition of capitalism and socialism, you’ll realize that once “the State,” “the Party,” “the People,” or the Great Dictator” own the means of production, then it becomes anti-capitalism, see socialism.

3) Capitalist Totalitarian

See #2 above; this oxymoron is just the reverse of State Capitalism, but is another way to say socialism. I’ve heard Hitler’s NAZI Germany being referred to as such in order to say that Hitler was not a socialist.  But what does this oxymoron mean?  If a dictator owns and controls the means of production and conducts business, even if he makes a profit and even if the nation is prosperous, because the means of production are owned/controlled by a totalitarian dictator, then it still falls under “not capitalism,” or socialism.

4) Responsible Government

Like all political oxymorons, they are created by a demagogue and meant to deceive.  What does a responsible government look like and where have we seen this?  Is it possible to measure whether a government is responsible or not?  Would anyone ever campaign under a platform of dishonesty?  Consider the War on Drugs, Poverty and Terror, consider the CIA, consider every scandal or broken promise and also consider the US national debt.  In America the debt is currently at $22 Trillion but the M2 money supply is only at $15 Trillion which means that the debt can never be repaid.  Luckily, readers of Econ Circus know that contrary to what they’ve been told, debt does matter!

5) Libertarian Paternalism

One of the worst books I’ve ever read was from Nobel Prize winner and behavioural economist Richard Thaler of the Chicago School.  The book is called “Nudge,” where he famously invents the oxymoron libertarian paternalism.  The problem with the word is that it has nothing to do with libertarian principles and everything to do with central planning.  Thaler uses the word to validate his Nudge theory, whereby Central Planners will “only” influence the public to make decisions that the planner knows to be the best for the public.  Since it’s only a Nudge, or a slight influence rather than blatant coercion, the public is still free to choose and thus libertarian principles remain in tact.  This deserves no further discussion and if you would like to see the hubris of a Nobel prizing winning mainstream economist, this is one of the best (worst) books.

6) Democratic Socialism

This may not be an oxymoron; however, it may be the most damaging word on the entire list.  If socialism means that the State owns the means of production, and if democracy is used to mean the will of the majority, then one might say that it’s not an oxymoron.  However, even if democratic socialism is not an oxymoron, it still is a meaningless word.  People should remember that democratic socialism only became popular as a campaign slogan and if you were to ask a socialist how it differs from regular socialism you’d be hard pressed to find an answer.  Lastly, why use two words when one will do?  If you read enough books on liberty or Austrian economics, you’ll quickly realize that democratic socialism is socialism, meaning anti-capitalism and the destruction of liberty, freedom and capital.

7) Free Market Intervention

It was George W. Bush who famously said that he “abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.”[ii] The $25 Billion auto company bailout and the $700 Billion taxpayer funded bailout amounted to one of the biggest anti-capitalist interventions the world has ever seen.  This amount later went up to $4 Trillion by the Fed but this is beyond the scope of the article.  What is important to note is that the world is so deep into anti-capitalist Keynesian-type of “economics” that very few people realize that once the government intervenes in the free market, the market ceases to become free.  A more appropriate word would be socialism.

8) Alt-Right

In this Orwellian world, there is nothing more confusing than defining the “left” and the “right.”  Do you mean democrat vs. republican, liberal vs. conservative, or can you set aside partisan politics and think in terms of free versus not free, socialism vs. capitalism or collectivism vs. individualism?  If you’re able to do this then the term “Alt-Right” requires an explanation.

We should ask who invented the word with hopes that it could shed a better understanding of the intention behind the word.  If the word was invented by white supremacists thinking that it best represents themselves, then I like to know what does white supremacy have to do with the right and please define right.  While if the media invented the term, then it makes sense why they want to use the word Alt-Right instead of Alt-Left.

If collectivism is defined as left and individualism as right, then would it not be more appropriate to call white supremacy an Alt-Left movement?

9) Wealth Effect

Yes, there is a term known as the wealth effect, but it’s actually not a real economic term.  What they mean to say is a long-standing policy called inflationism, whereby an anti-capitalist central bank increases the supply of money and credit.  This act of inflation pushes up the price of stocks, bonds, real estate and general prices and causes life to become unaffordable for the masses; but that’s just a harmful and longstanding policy which does not create wealth.  Inflationism benefits the few who get access to the new money first at the expense of the many.  The masses suffering at the hands of the few is synonymous with socialism and central banking.

10) Economics as a Social Science

Isn’t it strange that economics use the term “Orthodoxy?”  Can you imagine what would happen if mathematics, biology or physics had an orthodoxy attached to it?  How is it possible that a field of study has subject matter that can never be discussed and even when proven wrong will fail to acknowledge its failure?  And how is it that Austrian economics dates back to around 150 years ago which makes it older than the mainstream orthodoxy itself?  The reality is that economics functions more like a religion than it does a social science.

11) Trade Surplus vs. Trade Deficit

The notion of a trade surplus and trade deficit is a term that is often used, but it is a false idea.  I have an essay on this topic to release eventually, but I will leave a challenge for now:

Please explain how a trade surplus or deficit works in a world absence of money, i.e. can it exist in a barter economy?  If so, how?

Bonus Word:

Liberalism. The belief that the State should only protect the life, liberty and property of its people, and that no individual, corporation or group receives any special favours from the government.  It is free market capitalism that is the natural outcome from liberalism and Austrian economics is the only field of economics that understands this.  In the 20th century the word liberal/liberalism came to mean the exact opposite of liberalism as defined above.  Today’s “liberal” has nothing to do with what is commonly referred to as classical liberalism.  See the Econ Circus website for January’s Book of the Month: Ludwig von Mises’ Liberalism. 




[i] @EconCircus tweets on November 6, 2019.

[ii] STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY, George W. Bush: Two Years Later, Aired November 14, 2010 – 20:00   ET,

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