Friday, December 09, 2011

Words Are a Shorthand for the Things They Describe, Not the Things Themselves

Newly minted Samizdatista Rob Fisher has a great post over at Samizdata (of course) on why we should always try to think past the words we use as a kind of shorthand to describe things and be more aware of what they actually mean. For example, "property" or "tax" :

I propose that if people were in the habit of of questioning the deepest meaning of words, that statism would be much less acceptable. For example, such questioning would yield the realisation that 'property' really means what Julie from Chicago described in a recent Samizdata comment: "One's property is untouchable by others because it is the product of a portion of one's life."

Imagine there were no word for tax, or you disciplined yourself not to use it, much as Korzybski recommends listing individuals rather than using group words. You would be unable to say, "I propose an income tax." Instead, you would have to say, "I propose that for every hour you spend working to provide for your family, we are going to demand that you spend a further hour in servitude to some men you have never met, and if you refuse to do this eventually we will send some other men round to your house who will drag you away from your family and lock you in a cell." It would be a lot harder to advocate certain statist ideas.

It should be harder. Read the whole thing.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent synopsis of a great article.