(eco)nomics

Leonard Silk in 1972 wrote a book titled Nixonomics. It collected, extended, and rearranged previous text from the Saturday Review and from the New York Times, where Silk was editorial page writer and columnist. The book chronicled how the economic policies of Nixon, initially monetarist and pro market, turned in August 1971 towards control and Keynesianism. Nixonomics was not a consistent doctrine. Nixon’s policies were the thing of “politics,” pragmatic responses to the electoral challenges faced by the White House.

“Nixonomics” was not Silk’s term. William Safire, guru of political-speak and also New York Times connected, has claimed the first use of the term to a 1969 memo. Safire observes that Fordnomics did not catch on, neither did Carternomics, but Reaganomics was a success. Even embraced by Reagan.

Economics, or economic policy, was thus abbreviated to the suffix -nomics. Reaganomics is the “economics of Reagan.” The string is “nomos,” or “law”, suggesting the literal reading of the “law of Reagan.” For Silk and other economic journalists, it is by professional hazard that they consider economic ideology as framer of government action. Yet it is a statement on our culture that we now label the economics of the President as “his law”. My observation may be meaningless since cognitively few among us will note the semantic twists. Even so, it testifies to economics’s public prominence that it creates new nouns with each electoral cycle.

P.S. For the above video and many more see  “The Living Room Candidate” curating political advertisements (1952 onwards) from the Museum of Moving Image.

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