Elision (OR Time to find a new word?)

Marketplace is doing a series of interviews of “average americans” about the economy and politics this week… Today, there’s a story from Nebraska. On the whole, it’s about what you’d expect, the financial crisis is creating worry, and there’s uncertainty about the effectiveness of the bailout. This, from one of the interviewees, jumped out to me, though:

MELISSA: If this is an indication of change that suddenly business is more regulated, if this means more fiscal conservative behavior both on the part of the consumer, and on the part of business, and on the part of the government.

I think I know what she’s saying, but I’m really concerned about this concept of “conservative behavior” and how easily that can be (and sometime is, I’m afraid) elided to “conservative politics” … Conservative politics do not encourage regulation, thus removing rules which generally reign in high-risk business practices. Conservative politics also discourage policies that benefit the poor and middle class, indirectly encouraging them, as consumers, to take more risks (like credit card debt or sub-prime mortgages).

So, do we need to be more “conservative” in the sense that as individuals, organizations, and a country we should be a little more risk-averse? Absolutely. Does that mean that we should elect “fiscal conservatives”? No.

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