The independent. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1902-1907, February 26, 1903, Image 1

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Vol. XIV.
LINCOLN, NEB., FEB. 2f, 1903.
No. 40.
DEFINITIONS VS. IDEAS
for
Mr- Tan VorhU Urges tha KcceailtT
Idea Rather Than Inflexible
Definitions
Editor Independent: Frequently, in
periodicals, I read articles written by
earnest and thoughtful men that im
press me with the difficulties in eco
nomic discussion occasioned by the in
considerate use of words that, in the
nature of language, are not precise in
meaning. It is impossible for words
to have such certain and specific
meaning as some writers desire to
give them.
Language, like everything related to
human development, is an evolution.
It has been evolved out of necessities,
the results of conditions and circum
stances. This is as .true of words, and
the meaning of them, in the develop
ment of language as it is of tools and
the use of tools in the development of
mechanics. Words have been loaded
with Uncertainty in meaning as much
as have traditions and theories with
errors. The want of precise meaning
in words, or, to express it in another
way, the various meanings and shades
of meaning with which the same word
is used, is the result of the same
causes that have filled history with
'"traditions and theories" that' are
Eiixed and confused, or that have lit
tle basis of truth. The minds of men
are warped "and made to fit" not only ! by a restriction of. the
and try to confine them to some mean
ing of our own, we shall find our
selves, I think, not only to be misun
derstood when we use them, but we
will have prepared ourselves to mis
understand the valuable writings that
make up what may be called the
standard literature of the subject.
There are not many writers, who
have attempted any very comprehen
sive consideration of economic sci
ence, that have not attempted some
definition of "wealth." Many of them
have recognized the difficulty, if not
impossibility, of a definition that
would be completely inclusive and ex
clusive. When I read, therefore, the
statement "that while the subject of
political economy is 'wealth,' yet no
definition of that subject has ever
been attempted," and that, because of
this, the science is vague and "has
proceeded without a definite subject,"
I am forced to conclude that the writ
er has allowed himself to be confused
by a desire for precision in definitions,
and by taking as precise definitions
that, in the nature of things, cannot
be. The desire for precise definitions
of some of the important words used
in economics, the effort to construct
'such definitions, and the acceptance of
some definitions as precise that are
not, and, in the very nature of things,
cannot be, have been the very bane of
economic study. Some writers at
tempt to give clearness to the expres
sion of their ideas of economics more
meaning of
"notions," but words "that have come
to us from the past"
in the evolution of language, we are
approximating, I think, a more pre
cise meaning in the use of words, but
it is worth while in the discussion of
any subject, particularly economics, to
use words with the meaning justified
by the best literature, but it must be
remembered that ideas are not ac
curately conveyed by words alone, but
by a proper combination, and ar-rangen-'ent
of them into language. In
this way, and in this way only-, can
ideas be conveyed with even approx
imate correctness and precision. To
fail to remember this is a fault from
which, I am afraid, none of us, who
attempt to write or speak, are as free
as we ought to be. The writer, who
attempts to give to certain words a
fixed and definite meaning, usually
fails to confine his use of the words
,to his own definitions, and generally
succeeds in having the average reader
misunderstand him.
' It ought always to be remembered
that no one writer or speaker can de
termine the meaning with which a
word shall be used. If readers are ex
pected to follow accurately our
thoughts; we ought to use our words
as they are generally used in the best
literature. There is no other guide,
and to follow this rule is the privilege
of every writer. Even when we do
this, there are words that we must
necessarily use of which the meaning
intended must be indicated by the
construction of sentences or phrases.
It is a most unfortunate defect in a
writing that aspires to be a work on
economics, and which is accompanied
by the announcement of a purpose to
reconstruct the science, and which
shows much labor and ability, when
there occurs so frequently the unnec
essary doubling of words, such as
"resulting conclusions," "accepted
along with," etc., or when wofds are
used with such literary inaccuracy as
the word "incapable" in "Many of the
assumptions are incapable of verifica
tion," or as the word "collision" when
it is asserted that a theory "comes in
collision" with an assumption. Con
clusions'are always results. "Accepted
with" is not made better by the ad
dition of the word "along." It is of
questionable literary accuracy to say
Assumptions have no capacity, or that
they can-collide with theories. Never
theless, these inaccuracies do not pre
vent the writer from being under-
stood. If such use of the words is in
accurate, the language is still such
'"" tbat you got tne i(iea Intende(i to be
expressed; and that, after all, is the
important purpose to be attained. It
is possible to express an idea clearly,
so that there will be no misunder
standing about the meaning intended,
bv the use of words in a way not jus
tified by literary accuracy.
There is very lielv to be confusion
and uncertainty when we begin the
effort to confine too closelv the mean
ing with which a word shall be used.
If. in our use of words, we forget the
latitude given to the meaning of them,
words to a narrow limit than by a
free use of words and a proper con
struction of language. To accept the
statement that "the subject of politi
cal economy is wealth" as a precise,
completely inclusive and completely
exclusive statement of a fact is to lay
the foundation for error in the subse
quent discussion. As a rule, defini
tions are only attempts to approxi
mate precisions, and do not pretend to
be anything m6re. By reference- to
the Century Dictionary, it will be
found that there are three general
meanings with which the word
"wealth" is used in literature, but who
will assert that the use of the word
is, or can -be, confined to these three
general classes?
If the foundation of economic sci
ence is "sandy" and insecure, it is not
for want of attempts at definitions. It
has been much confused, certainly, by
attempts that, in the very nature of
things, could not be successful. Neith
er generally nor in economic literature
has wealth been used with any uni
formity of meaning.
The reason is obvious. It is an eco
nomic conception that is too broad to
have its bounds easily fixed. Every
attempt to fix the extent and limita
tion of the economic idea only results
in each particular writer reading into
the word his own economic concep
tions. The very growth of economic sci
ence is marked by the tendency to
abandon attempts at precise defini
tions, and to use words in a broader
and more liberal sense, and thus to
make language in its construction
more precise and accurate. When we
come to a full understanding of eco
nomic principles and laws, and the ap
plication of them to the best inter
ests of humanity, the science will
have constructed the definition of its
subject, but not until then. Econom
ics is not founded upon definitions but
principles and laws of existence and
action. It is not without a definite
subject or object because the word
"wealth" cannot be defined. The sub
ject of economics is as broad as hu
man action, and the object as compre
hensive as human needs, and no
definition of any word or words can
compass it.
The ablest writers have recognized
the different meanings, and have
sought to use words so that they would
be understood. Adam Smith, by a
short explanation, made clear that
the word "value" had at least two gen
eral meanings, "value in use" and
"value in exchange," and that one
use was just as correct as the other.
By what authority does any writer
assert that it is correct to use value
in the sense of its applications to
things "in exchange" and incorrect to
use it in the sense of its application to
mings "in use?" There can be nc
reason for it except the desire for
what does not exist in language. The
fact that such different meanings are
given to words cannot be avoided, and
the attempt to avoid causes more con
fusion than the meanings. The ab-.
surdity of the situation is made more
manifest when a definition that will
"separate value from price", Is de
manded. Price is lvalue expressed in
terms of money. IX Is just as reason
able to demand a' definition of fruit
that would separate it from apples.
Iwcardo, to distinguish the meaning
of "value in exchange" from other
meanings of the word, prefixed the
word "exchangeable," and, called it
"exchangeable value." The language
of a writer must be interpreted, of
course, according to the thought of
his time, but during the time of Smith
and Ricardo the criticism implied by
the question "How can value be ex
changeable?" would not have been
justified. It certainly would not be
justified now, and. if they were alive
today, they might exclaim concern
ing that, and the demand for a defi
nition that would limit value to one
precise meaning, "What nonsense!"
We do not need definitions but idef s
expressed in language that will be
understood by the average reader, whq
has neither the time nor the inclina
tion to follow an attempt to recon
struct either the science of economics
or the language of its literature.
FLAVIUS J. VAN VORIIIS.
Indianapolis, Ind.
Gradations
A poor man took they called it stole
A gunny sack half filled with coal.
To him, it seemed like hope and life,
For his young babe and failing wife.
A cop rushed up they grapple, fight;
In vain the poor man smote with
might
That night his wife and infant died-
Ana wncn the prisoners case was
tried
Condemned, by jury of his peers;
To Sing Sing doomed, for twenty
years.
Three desperate tramps in hunger's
"rage,
Held up a well-filled, frontier stage.
Yes, blood was shed, for some would
slay,
Ere parting with their gold, that way.
One tramp was shot the others fled,
Still weak - from hunger want of
bread. -Blood-hounds
were sent out on their
trail
Mangled and maimed when lodged in
jail.
Tried and condemned the two were
hung
A warning to the old and young!
Six idle toughs, great husky scamps
Some called them vicious, murderous
tramps
Derail a train blow off a door,
Dynamite the safe find gold, galore.
They clutch and grab, till three are
slain
Shot down by men who run the train.
With loads of loot three left took
flight.
Yet they were trailed yes, shot at
sight.
All killed, save one, whose wounds
will share,
That doom of dooms the eloctric
chair!
A greater gang a hireling horde,
Long drilled to fight with gun and
sword,
To march on land, or sail the sea
In search of weakness, or some plea,
To conquer, crush despoil, or kill.
To please their ruler's murderous
will
Till burning cities light the plain
"A howling wilderness" of slain.
Men call these: heroas; Patriot band
Shout "Glory!" and "Achievements
grand!"
LYDIA PLATT RICHARDS.
Pasadena, Cal.
A False Report.
The Co-operator, Kansas City, Mo.,
under date of January 24, 1903. says:
"The co-operative movement in
Kansas City continues to grow. The
statement in the daily papers concern
ing the 'failure' of the co-operative
movement was a misunderstanding,
and consequently a mis-statement of
the situation.
"Mr. Vrooman has not lost a cent
in experimenting on co-operation. An
employe may have mis-directed or
mis-appropriated T s. but all the
rest that he has . Unto the move
ment was not lost. M snent in es
tablishing the bush ss nf rnmmor.
cial co-operation. All other reports
to the contrary are false."
THAT "CONSPIRACY"
Corraipoadaae Otir Tht Appaal to
IUuoi'i Mid-Koad Allajtatloa of
FniUa Coatplracy '
In Ita" issue of January 24, 1903, Its
so-called "populist" edition, the Ap
peal to Reason, a "kangaroo" social
ist sheet, said:
"There is no use to argue that
the logic of the situation made it
necessary for the populists to t
nominate Bryan at St Louis In '
1896, for you know that Mr. Bryan .
and the populist leaders arranged
months before so that the peo
ple's party would be placed in this
humiliating position. Mr. Bryan
so stated to the writer in 1897."
This and pther statements The In
deDendent emoted in its Issue of Feb
ruary 5, and commented by saying:
"That is certainly a serious
charge if true and a damnable
lie if it isn't. Who is the 'writer'
to whom Mr. Bryan stated this
astounding thing?- (That is, that
Mr. Bryan and the populist lead-
ders had arranged months before
, the. populist national convention
to nominate him for president).
Where did he say it to the
.. 'writer'? The democratic conven
tion was July 7, 1890, and the pop
ulist July 22, 18. Evidently
If the 'writer' tells the truth the
populist leaders and Mr. Bryan
made all arrangements to have
Mr. Bryan nominated at Chicago."
Under date of February 7, 1903,
The Independent- received a letter
from Mr. A. W. Ricker, associate edi
tor of the Appeal to Reason, which
is printed in full hereinafter. Mr.
Ricker is an ex-mid-road populist of
Iowa. A day or two before the re
ceipt of Mr. Ricker's letter Mr. Bryan
had started on his trip through the
east; accordingly a copy of Mr. Rick
er's letter was made and sent him,
with the request that he reply to the
allegations therein, so that the two
could be published together.
Mr. Ricker's charge la simply a
variation of the one made by Joe
Parker in the Southern Mercury some
months ago, namely, that all arrange
ments had been made in 1895 for Bry
an's nomination. At that time he in
timated that he still held several large
cards up his sleeve, which he would
show in due time, but to date he has
brought forward no proof. Mr. Rick
er now comes forward and states that
Bryan told him that such arrange
ment had been made. Mr. Bryan has
no recollection of meeting Ricker, but
says it is not true that any such ar
rangements were made, and that he
is sure that he never said anything
that "could by any reasonable con
struction be tortured into a basis for
the charge" Ricker makes.
So. far not a scintilla of evidence has
been adduced to prove the "co'nspir- -acy."
The Independent has been pa
tient in giving space to "hot-air" blow
ers, simply to see if they have one
ftct upon which to base a reasonable
conclus.on, but so far they have ad
duced r.othing but suspicions. Wheth- .
er Mr. Ricker made his assertions ma
liciously is on open question, but no
reasonalle man will believe, without
better proofs than has been brought
forward, (a) that any such "arrange
ments" were made; or (b) that Mr.
Bryan fvor told Mr. Ricker that any
such arrangements had been made.
Mr. Ricker's letter is as follows:
Editor Independent. Lincoln. Neb.
Dear Sir: The coDy of vour naner.
dated February 5, in which you call
on the Appeal to Reason to produce its
proof that Mr. Bryan stated in 1897
that his nomination at Chicaeo was
arranged prior to the time of the dem
ocratic convention, lies before me and
I beg to submit the following:
In the campaign of 1897 in the stato
of Iowa, Mr. Bryan and I were both
engaged in very laudable work of pub
lic speaking, it so chanced that our
tour brought us in conflict with earh
other at Onawa, Monona county. I
was speaking for the people's party
and Mr. Bryan for the democratic par
ty, or ine tusion party to be more ex
plicit. I snolfe in the forennvn tn ti
moderately large crowd and Mr. Brv-
an in the afternoon to a very large
crowd. It so happened that our next
objective point was Council Bluffs and
as there was but one train to bear us
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