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In Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” Humpty Dumpty proudly declares: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” To which Alice replies: “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

Humpty Dumpty could have been an economist. The modern economics profession made a collective decision, long ago, to develop a system of jargon in which words have multiple, sometimes contradictory meanings. Unfortunately, the general public’s reaction tends to be similar to that of poor Alice.

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