The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

January 18, 2012
Did Jerry Brown invent the word "declinist?"

California Governor.JPEG-03.JPGIn his State of the State address today, Gov. Jerry Brown twice used the word "declinist" in reference to "dystopian journalists" and others in California who bemoan "the impending decline of our economy, our culture and our politics."

Declinists? My immediate reaction was: Is the governor now inventing words?

The answer, as it turns out, is "no."

According to the handy Word Spy website, declinist was first used by writer Samuel P. Huntington in Foreign Affairs magazine in 1988, in reference to writers who claim the United States is declining on the world stage, either because of economic stagnation or excessive spending on military ventures. As Huntington wrote:

Although predominantly of a liberal-leftist hue, declinist writings reflect varying political philosophies and make many different claims.

More recently, other writers have used the terms "declinist" and "declinism," but as far as I am aware, the governor is the first (or one of the first) to use it to rebut the doomsayers of California.

And just who was Brown referring to as part of the "declinist" faction? If I get a chance, I plan to ask him.

No doubt, Joel Kotkin would be on the list, and perhaps Peter Schrag.

But was he also referring to The Bee's Dan Walters?

If so, I'd be shocked. Shocked.



About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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