Slate had an article yesterday defending President Obama against the conservative critique that his policies are "weakening" the dollar. I’m not at all equipped to adjudicate an argument about the intracacies of currency valuation. But the article takes as its premise the idea that a "strong" dollar is good, and a "weak" dollar is bad. Ezra Klein wrote about this language problem a few months ago:
The easiest way to improve our economic policy would be to change the way we talk about the dollar. No more "strong" dollar and "weak" dollar. Instead, talk about "high" dollars and "low" dollars.
When people hear "weak" dollar, they think something bad is being done to the United States. It’s terribly hard for a politician to advocate a "weak dollar" policy. It sounds like you’re throwing Osama bin-Laden a birthday party.
In fact, a "weak" dollar is actually the one that builds America’s manufacturing economy, as it makes our exports more competitive. A "strong" dollar, conversely, builds the production base of other countries, as it encourages Americans to import goods. My hunch is that most people who think they want a "strong" dollar wouldn’t be too happy if they knew what a strong dollar meant. If we talked about a "high" and "low" dollars, the issue would be a bit less confused.
Presumably there are financial situations that would militate against adopting a cheap dollar policy, and situations that would call for the opposite. But the language of strength and weakness really has limited descriptive value here, and can lead financial dilettantes (such as myself) to develop a warped and highly tendentious view of what’s really going on.