Thursday, March 18, 2010

Risk Management

Synonyms: Stop loss policy; structured finance

Categories: Euphemism, obscuritanism

Definition: Vague term ostensibly referring to a programme of activities promoting some good. Not inherently incorrect, just imprecise. Use of such terms are frequent examples of the ironic manner in which info speak misleads. Presented as plain, straightforward terms for uncontroversial practises to which there could be no reasonable objection, they are, however, many times couched within pleas for an audience to act against its own interest. For example, the unspoken subtext accompanying 'risk management' is usually the words 'for me'. Any consequences beyond the speaker's immediate circle--more than likely including the audience-- are deemed irrelevant.

What users of such terms require is the audience's uncritical identification with the speaker. Availing him or herself of the normal presumption that a speaker intends to promote some common interest held with the audience, the speaker employs positive-sounding but ambiguous terms to elicit approval to his or her proposals. Over time and a series of similarly vague proposals and implied approvals, a relationship dynamic is established in which it becomes increasingly difficult to raise effective objections.

Even in scenarios in which there is a clear and objective difference between the interest group represented by a speaker (e.g., insurance company executive) and that of the audience (e.g., policy holders), there is often a wider, more profound ideological identification that prevents effective objection. Although it seems obvious that an insurance company makes more profit on a policy where no claims are paid, a situation that would hardly satisfy a policy holder, such conflicts are rarely acknowledged.

Two a priori assumptions of the current culture aid and abet these strategies of misidentification. Firstly, the idea that the optimization of outcomes by each individual will always lead to the optimal outcome for the whole, which legitimizes aggressive behaviour. Worse than merely ignoring the waste of resources that could be more efficiently pooled together, it attempts to convert selfishness from a private vice into a public virtue. Secondly, the conflation of wealth and power with moral virtue, which has progressed to such an extent that to posit any distinction will almost certainly result in a barrage of charges ranging from naivete to stupidity to insanity to gross immorality.

Etymology: Unknown

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