Every so often, a new word becomes de mode in the political sandbox. While the metastasizing social justice movement has provided a veritable deluge of such, along with words to describe those words, oftentimes a “new” word is merely one being used in a new fashion.

While “woke” has been a favorite target of mine, today I ponder the weaponizing of the adjective “structural.” We have been informed by our self-appointed betters that racism is structural. Janet Yellen, one of the many fossils President-Elect Biden has fished out of his curio cabinet to fill his political cabinet, has informed us that the power of the Treasury will be used, under cover of COVID-19 relief, to address “deeper structural problems,” including “racial inequality and stagnant wages,” ignoring the government’s prime culpability in both these areas (and many more). Educational inequities, including the imagined and the naturally occurring, are “structural,” as are health care inequities, power of various sorts, transportation access, gender matters, and even spacial distributions.

The matter at hand isn’t that the purported inequities, bigotries, and injustices do not exist. They do (though the degree to which they do, as well as who the real culprits are, are their own debates). The gag is that the application of the modifier “structural” is intended to affirm that direct government action is the only viable solution to the problems.

Let me repeat that. The purpose of hanging “structural” on various issues is to assert that direct force is required to remediate them. These issues are purportedly so embedded in our culture, our business, and our way of life that the benighted masses need to have correctness imposed upon them from above and without.

Using jargon and “insider” language is an intimidation tactic. It’s about demonstrating one’s greater knowledge of a matter than one’s ideological opponents, a form of “appeal to authority.” If you don’t know and use the right words, you’re clearly insufficiently informed and therefore your arguments don’t carry weight. “Control the language, control the masses,” as Orwell noted. Visit some online forums dedicated to social justice, and unless you’ve been steeping yourself in this stuff, you’ll find all sorts of words and phrases that you’ll have to Google to figure out.

The joke is that, while this passes for erudition, many culprits’ actual knowledge and insight is as shallow as a curbside puddle, and challenging their premises is often countered not with depth, but with deflections, insults, or dismissal. It’s often enough for them to assert that you are a bigot, or “privileged,” or ignorant of the hard realities. We witness this behavior on a daily basis, and have as prime examples Hillary Clinton’s declaration regarding the “deplorables” and Barack Obama’s comment about bitter clingers. Those who aren’t on board with the agenda are of inferior intellect, which imparts unto the Best-and-Brightest an obligation to coerce behaviors that aren’t, at least in their view, coming around of their own accord.

Awareness of these tactics is the first step in countering them. Knowing the intent behind the use of words such as “structural” is key to responding effectively.

As for the premise itself? Jim Crow was “structural,” as in it was the law of the land that actually prohibited non-racist behaviors on the part of store owners and public spaces. That was structural racism, and those laws are long gone. Racism still exists, it should go without saying, but how we address it should not be artificially restricted to coercive measures. The “structural” modifier is a begging-the-claim fallacy, in that it asserts a specific form of racism (that calls for a specific solution) under the cover of the broader reality. So it goes for all the other “structural” inequities. Dig just below the surface, and you’ll find the problems that actually exist have been caused by the very people and approaches that promise to resolve them.

If and where there are laws that force inequitable outcomes, those laws should be repealed, and not papered over with more coercive laws. Where such do not exist, government should keep its meddling nose out. History has made it amply clear that behavior cannot be coerced, and outcomes of such coercions are rarely, if ever, the intended ones.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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