Word Choices Show We're Me-Centric, Less Moral

And those long-term trends should worry left and right: David Brooks
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2013 1:22 PM CDT
Word Choices Show We're Me-Centric, Less Moral

Lexicologists poring over a Google database of books and word usage suggest three general traits of the past half-century, writes David Brooks in the New York Times. Society has become more individualistic (with words and phrases such as "self" and "I come first" on the rise), less moral ("virtue" and "bravery" on the decline), and more political ("nationalism" and "run the country" on the rise). All of which should give pause both to those on the right and the left, observes Brooks.

Conservatives want to scale back the government to what it was in the 1950s, "but the underlying sociology and moral culture is just not there anymore," writes Brooks. Because society is not as "tightly knit," a too-small government could be disastrous. Liberals, meanwhile, "sometimes argue that our main problems come from the top: a self-dealing elite, the oligarchic bankers. But the evidence suggests that individualism and demoralization are pervasive up and down society, and may be even more pervasive at the bottom." It also suggests that liberals' favorite fix-all solution—redistribution—won't work in the face of these "social and moral trends." Click for Brooks' full column. (Read more language stories.)

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