Define Your Terms
Written by Darrell Anderson.
“If you wish to converse with me,” said Voltaire, “define your terms.” How many a debate would have been deflated into a paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms! This is the alpha and omega of logic, the heart and soul of it, that every important term in serious discourse shall be subjected to the strictest scrutiny and definition. It is difficult, and ruthlessly tests the mind; but once done it is half of any task. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (Chapter 2, Aristotle and Greek Science, Part 3, The Foundation of Logic).
I try hard to write consistently and I usually am well aware of how I use fundamental terms and definitions. Many such words are listed and defined below.
I accept that readers might disagree with me. Yet, my definitions provide my foundations and boundaries. If a reader disagrees with me, any subsequent discussion must be within the boundaries outlined by my definitions. If a reader disagrees with my definitions, then all related debates are irrelevant because our starting points are different. The only topic to then discuss is the definitions.
So before writing to me, please be sure you understand my terms and definitions. Thank you.
When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty — Often attributed to Confucius
Accident: unintentional trespass.
Authority: a subject matter expert. Not to be confused with people who operate under the color of law.
Capital: previously produced wealth devoted to producing more wealth. Capital is a feedback mechanism from the distribution of wealth back into the production of wealth. Capital is not to be confused with currency, which is only a potential claim on future capital.
Conflict: a disagreement about interpretations of happiness and trespass. All conflicts are rooted in a desire to survive — both individually and collectively. Conflict might occur in several ways: 1) When an individual believes trespass has occurred; 2) When an individual believes trespass is about to occur and the alleged offender disagrees; 3) When an offender agrees trespass occurred but disagrees about how to resolve the trespass; 4) When an individual is denied an opportunity to pursue happiness and believes no restraints are necessary.
Conjecture: ideas about that which does not exist or has not yet been proven to exist.
Crime: intentional trespass.
Currency: the physical thing that circulates commonly as a medium of exchange to represent the concept of money. Currency is a token symbol representing an unfinished exchange of wealth (debt), not wealth. Not to be confused with the concept of money.
Debt: an unfinished exchange of wealth. Debt arises when one party in an exchange does not immediately receive wealth in an exchange for wealth.
Efficiency: the process of controlling energy flows as close as possible to the source of the energy.
Energy: the capacity to perform work. That capacity exists in the form of atomic, light, mechanical, electrical, magnetic, chemical, and heat energy.
Entropy: unusable energy.
Fact: a reasonably authenticated idea or observation.
Fear: an individual’s emotional reaction to a real or imagined threat expected to interfere with that individual’s pursuit of happiness.
Fiat: a decree, often made under the color of law.
Good faith: a desire to deal with other people with honesty and with intent to abstain from fraud, misdirection or other advantage.
Government: a process of regulating human action peaceably, and a natural outgrowth of human social systems. Not to be confused with statism.
Ignorance: a lack of knowledge. Ignorance is not stupidity — ignorance is curable.
Illusion: a false belief.
Income: wealth received. The word has meaning only with respect to an individual and has no meaning with respect to the aggregate flow of wealth. The word loses meaning in a true wealth-for-wealth exchange system because people exchange wealth directly and do not use currency as a token symbol for unfinished exchanges.
Land: all natural resources, including water, oceans, air, wind, minerals, plants, and animals. All natural resources are forms of energy.
Legal fiction: a contrived assumption in order to operate under the color of law. Legal fictions exist for two major reasons: 1) to provide an illusion of jurisdiction and, 2) to hide the fact that a rule or principle of law has changed.
License: a social and legal convention whereby the lawful titleholder of property allows other people to use those resources without transferring title. Not to be confused with political permits, which often are misnamed licenses.
Matter: a form of energy.
Money: a concept representing any thing that is used as a medium of exchange. Not to be confused with currency.
Myth: an untestable belief.
Possession: the concept of physically holding or controlling something. Possession does not necessarily mean one is a titleholder to property.
Privilege: derived from the Latin word privilegium, rooted in the words privis (private) and legis (law); and essentially means “private law” or a law pertaining to a particular person or group of people. The idea of privilege implies a structured relationship within a specific group.
Production: the effort to convert energy from natural resources into a form of energy that is directly useful.
Profit: an ambiguous term describing excess wealth obtained through an exchange of goods or services. The word has meaning only with respect to an individual and has no meaning with respect to the aggregate flow of wealth. The word loses significance in a true wealth-for-wealth exchange system because all exchanges are considered equivalent.
Property: the concept of lawfully holding or controlling something. A concept describing boundaries through which human actions are limited with respect to other humans. Property is ownership of certain rights to an object. All property is associated with the concept of title — recognition of ownership. Title to property is the way people recognize jurisdiction over specific objects and resources. Title can be written and witnessed or simply acknowledged. Title can take the form of a deed, a bill of sale, a cash register receipt, or often, mere possession. The idea of property — jurisdiction — allows people to use resources as they see fit, and necessarily implies power to exclude. The concept itself does not convey how title is obtained or controlled, although the concept of property arises from the economic principle of scarcity. To become property an object must become scarce with respect to an entire population.
Rent: with respect to the flow of wealth, the return received from leasing land. Not to be confused with the general social use of the word, which often is a combined payment of rent, wages, and interest.
Restitution: the act of restoring what was lost through trespass.
Scarcity: a principle that the things humans need or want do not exist abundantly or immediately. Scarcity does not necessarily mean unavailable or nonexistent, only that supply is limited or restricted in some fashion. Scarcity in resources gives rise for potential conflict.
System: a model describing a collection or process of things or variables, all possessing certain interrelated observable characteristics and relationships. Systems are defined by boundaries, elements, and relational rules.
Trespass: any unsolicited human action against another individual that deprives the offended individual of personal interpreted happiness. Trespasses are acts that violate the property title boundaries of another individual — whether intentional or unintentional.
Vice: an act where no trespass occurs but other people nonetheless find the act undesirable.
Virtual wealth: potential wealth to be created through future production and assumed to currently exist for accounting purposes; wealth that could be created provided all requirements for its production existed.
 Thanks to Dr. Harvey Barnard for this definition.