“normal” is not always acceptable

How we speak about things does affect how we perceive them, and that is a troubling aspect of the phrase “the new normal” being invoked to describe current conditions.

Unemployment, work force participation, college debt, government deficits, and many other current conditions that undermine human flourishing are being characterized as “the new normal” in the United States. Adding “new” to the phrase is an admission that what is now the case is abnormal in our experience, and that raises the question of whether our society is willing to accept the change and allow it to continue. That’s a bad idea.

Regrettably, it does seem to serve the interest of our current governing class to have the population at large accept these things as normal, because if they’re “normal” then there’s no particular reason to hold leaders accountable and work for change, beginning with who is leading the country on these issues. Bill Kristol points this out pretty well:

By the way, the new normal is bipartisan. It’s of course true that the administration in power during this period of national decline has a particular interest in selling the concept of a new normal. It’s true that the idea fits uncommonly well with the fatalism that, beneath the airy talk of hope and change, lies at the heart of modern liberalism. But Republican elites aren’t immune to the charms of the new normal, which excuses subpar performance in so many areas.

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