Google Ngram


Google provide a programme called the Ngram Viewer, which enables the tracing of words or phrases as they have been used in books over the centuries. At a recent regular meeting with an ex-colleague of mine, we discussed  wealth, prosperity and happiness, in the context of growth and inequality. The problem withe Ngram is the context in which the words are being used, by whom, when and for what purpose.

Google books provided a link to the following extract that appeared in the 1829 ‘Edinburgh Review, Critical Journal’ and while the term ‘political class‘ was in use in 1829, it could be said that the mid to late 1980’s introduced its exponential rise in usage.

Does Mr Bentham profess to hold out any new motive which may induce men to promote the happiness of the species to which they belong? Not at all. He distinctly admits that, if he is asked why governments should attempt to produce the greatest possible happiness, he can give no answer. ‘ The real answer,’ says he, ‘ appeared to be, that men at large ought not to allow a government to afflict them with more evil or less good than they can help.  Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journa

What interested me was the use the Ngram Viewer to consider the terms that I had used in relation to inequality. I wondered what happened circa 1875 when consideration of the word happiness fell significantly below that of wealth and would have fallen below ‘prosperity’ had it not also fallen. At the same time the use of the term growth grew at a very fast rate and circa 1925 could be taken as being synonymous with the term ‘economic growth’.

While the Ngram Viewer is interesting it raises the question of misinterpreting the data — particularly if the x and y axis are ignored — and (for example) the increasing use of the word happiness may reflect more on book sales than people’s well being.  It looks as though the terms ‘prosperity’ and ‘inequality’ have become equal in their use and are still at a very low level of use compared to ‘economic growth’ usage.

I decided to look at changes in my lifetime to some of the terms being written about relating to ‘technology, social responsibility‘ and economic growth‘. Social responsibility is on the rise (albeit very small), while economic growth is falling (clearly dependant on its relationship to the uses of the words ‘growth’ and ‘economics’). During my lifetime technology has become a major consideration, so finally I looked at a number of the terms used during my lifetime that could be related to global inequality and here’s what I found.

One response to “Google Ngram

  1. Pingback: Inequality & Economic Growth | Aasof’s Reflections

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

The Land Is Ours

a Landrights campaign for Britain

The Bulletin

This site was created for members and friends of My Telegraph blog site, but anyone is welcome to comment, and thereafter apply to become an author.

TCWG Short Stories

Join our monthly competition and share story ideas...

The Real Economy

Blogs and stuff from Ed Conway

Public Law for Everyone

Professor Mark Elliott

Bleda

Am I my Brothers keeper?

The Land Is Ours

a Landrights campaign for Britain

The Bulletin

This site was created for members and friends of My Telegraph blog site, but anyone is welcome to comment, and thereafter apply to become an author.

TCWG Short Stories

Join our monthly competition and share story ideas...

The Real Economy

Blogs and stuff from Ed Conway

Public Law for Everyone

Professor Mark Elliott

Bleda

Am I my Brothers keeper?

%d bloggers like this: