Words Poorly Used #143 — Nation

According to Reason’s online publication, Benjamin Franklin once said, “No nation was ever ruined by trade.”

Then a Facebook friend and I engaged in an amicable dispute about Franklin’s intent relative to the word “nation.”  My friend said it was a stand-in for “government.”

I responded

I am critical of BF for his lazy use of “nation.” I agree that he was probably using it as a metaphor for state. The most frustrating aspect of etymology is to learn that society frequently takes perfectly serviceable words, but through misuse and wordsmithing often changes them to perverted meanings.

I do believe, however, that the quote would be improved by a more precise word, such as “society” or “economy.”

I laud [another Facebook friend], nonetheless, for posting the sentiment.

We may recognize that a scant 300 years ago there was not much difference between “nation” and “state” — people were not highly mobile.  Then colonization and the religio-territorial wars of Europe began to reshape both words, moving them closer together for politicians and their bandwagons.  Concepts of “nation” were sacrificed on the altar of “nationalism” — the presumption that one sort has supremacy over another.

I will link the Facebook thread here.  If you choose not to or cannot access Facebook, I am copying the thread in the comment section.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Words Poorly Used #142 — Loyalist

A few days ago, I sent out a Facebook Friend Request to a person who had over 750 friends in common with me.  This person politely replied that we could not be friends since he was a “Trump Loyalist,” so he feared I would be offended by his posts.  Such offense would have been a certainty, but I was offended already by the language of the phrase, “Trump Loyalist.”  But let us be clear, the utmost problem is not Trumpism — it’s loyalism of any sort.

We can, however, momentarily address the lesser of two evils:  Trumpism is a temporary derangement.  I have suffered a few myself, first LBJ-ism, then a nearly neck-breaking pivot to Nixonism, then a Zombie-like knee-jerk to Carterism (more on this shocking passage at a later date).  Remember, that which can end, will end.

But can loyalism, an affliction upon humanity, end?  Merriam-Webster lists the following synonyms for “loyal:”

constant, dedicated, devoted, devout, down-the-line, faithful, fast, good, pious, staunch (also stanch), steadfast, steady, true, true-blue

These are also synonyms for unchanging, unstimulated, unfree, and unthinking.  I am a Jefferson aficianado, for example, but I am not a Jefferson loyalist.  In fact, our country (back when it had a minuscule government) was founded on the principle of anti-loyalism — the Declaration of Independence WAS a declaration of apartness from (premeditated disloyalty toward) the old order.  Loyalism, in a general sense, is constant dedication to the status quo (but I repeat myself.)

I am mostly gratified by insults toward POTUS, the current edition especially.  But I am the sworn opponent of loyalty.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Words Poorly Used #141 — Leviathan

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “leviathan” is described and historically accounted for:

leviathan (n.)
late 14c., “sea monster, sea serpent,” sometimes regarded as a form of Satan, from Late Latin leviathan, from Hebrew livyathan “dragon, serpent, huge sea animal,” of unknown origin, perhaps from root l-w-h- “to wind, turn, twist,” on the notion of a serpent’s coils. If so, related to Hebrew liwyah “wreath,” Arabic lawa “to bend, twist.” Of powerful persons or things from c. 1600. Hobbes’s use is from 1651.

An aquatic animal mentioned in the Old Testament. It is described in Job xli. apparently as a crocodile; in Isa. xxvii 1 it is called a piercing and a crooked serpent; and it is mentioned indefinitely in Ps. lxxiv. 14 as food and Ps. civ. 26. [Century Dictionary]

Both Higgs and Hobbes use the leviathan as metaphor to discuss government, the former as an anarchist, the latter as a statist — first as a bad thing, second as a boon to civilization.  Consulting the above Biography WWW site, its authors contend that “Hobbes argues for the necessity and natural evolution of the social contract … .”  While Goodreads.com quotes Higgs as follows:

In debates between anarchists and statists, the burden of proof clearly should rest on those who place their trust in the state. Anarchy’s mayhem is wholly conjectural; the state’s mayhem is undeniably, factually horrendous.

What images come to your mind when you encounter the word, “leviathan?”

— Kilgore Forelle

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Words Poorly Used #140 — Corporatism

In its worst misuse, “corporatism” is given as a synonym for capitalism.  Corporatism is made of fictions, while capitalism is a natural economic occurrence.  Corporatism is the case where statism is used to control purely natural market activities.  When well-meaning people complain about the excesses of capitalism, they are usually resenting the dodging of responsibility, legislatively by the state-licensed corporation or illegally by the marauder.

In free markets, where individual actors make economic choices, interchange will be optimized — both parties will approach satisfaction with the transaction because that was their intent on entering the engagement.  One or both parties may be dissatisfied, to some degree, with some outcomes.  This is a critical point.  The partners in the transaction may realize that dissatisfaction is part of the risk of free exchange, or a partner may feel that she needs help from some authority, some corporate protection from the state.  The alternative may be that an aggrieved party will violate laws to seek adjustment.  When this type of crime is organized we have another form of corporatism — Might makes right.

The capitalist, however, underwrites risk.  She understands that her best interests are served by the risk management that is typical of her field of endeavor.  The finest example of risk management is in maintaining cordial, voluntary exchange.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Words Poorly Used #139 — Complexity

When a minion uses the word complexity it is an action of CYA, not a true description of a problem.  After all, conventional wisdom holds that if you can truly define a problem, then the solution is forthright.  Complexity is not a definition of a problem.  The speaker of the word complexity is essentially saying, “leave me alone … you are playing with fire (and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain)” and/or “I am a member of the priesthood, and you’re not.”

Complexity is an ambiguous word covering any combination.  It is a minefield.  It is the stuff of unforeseen consequences.  The user of the word can stretch its meaning to post-describe any set of relationships.  Compound relationships can contain more compound relationships, including serial relationships.  Serial relationships can contain more serial relationships, including series of compound relationships.

Number one, the wielder of complexity at least understands the complexity without being able to divine the unforeseen consequences, and number two, such wielder understands that, within limits, she understands more about the complexity than the wieldee.

The use of the word, complexity, does not mean the problem is fully plumbed with a solution at hand.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Words Poorly Used #138 — Collusion

Rudy is right, collusion is not a crime.  One can collude in planning a surprise birthday party.  Such collusion is only a crime if the birthday party is illegal and if it actually takes place.  Even then, collusion is only a compounding element.

Collusion is a loose synonym to collaboration or participation.

There is a bit of sophistry in saying collusion is not a crime.  Mostly it is an attempt to re-focus on the wrong question.

— Kilgore Forelle

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