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plat • i • tude n.  A trite or banal statement or remark, esp. one expressed as if it were original or significant.

Printed in the  Wall Street Journal weekend of Aug 16th, 2014; originally printed in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Aug 12th – Economist Donald Boudreaux wrote:

A good way to test if someone is speaking in platitudes is to ask yourself if you can imagine a normal human adult believing the opposite.

Suppose someone informs you that he favors policies that promote human happiness.  Can you imagine, say, your neighbor responding, “I disagree.  I favor policies that promote human misery”?  Probably not.

If you cannot imagine any normal person disagreeing with some proclamation, then that proclamation is a platitude.  It tells you nothing of substance.  Consider today’s fashionable call for “sustainability.”  The academy, media, cyberspace are full of people proclaiming support for policies that promote economic and environmental “sustainability.”  So whenever you hear such proclamations, ask if you can envision a sane adult sincerely disagreeing.

You’ll discover, of course, that you can’t imagine anyone seriously supporting “unsustainability.”  Therefore you should conclude that mere expressions of support for “sustainability” are empty.  And they can be downright harmful if they mislead people into supporting counterproductive government policies.

 

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