Doherty Dominates the Dictionary

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The Dictionary.com Word of the Day today is coterminous (koh-TUR-muh-nuhs, adjective: 1. Having the same or coincident boundaries. 2. Having the same scope, range of meaning, duration.)

To illustrate the best way to use the word in a sentence, Dictionary.com has turned to the ultimate authoritative source, Reason's own Brian Doherty:

That kind of sociological prejudice rests on a false supposition, . . . that "social" and "governmental" are coterminous, and that anyone who is against governmental action is therefore essentially "atomistic."

— Brian Doherty, "Cybersilly", Reason, August/September 2000

Read the the article that vaulted Brian to lexicographical fame here.

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  1. That sounds like a word my father would use and then go “Ha! Isn’t that an awesome word? COTERMINOUS!”

  2. I’m glad you linked to a dictionary. I went ahead and looked up “atomistic” while I was there.

  3. Sounds like life was a thrill a minute growing up in the dagny house.

  4. One of the key insights of libertarianism revolves around the notion of the “spontaneous order,” the idea that social orders and markets can, do, and will develop to meet human needs without central direction or control. For instance, just because government has taken it upon itself to finance and run schools does not mean that no one would be educated if it didn’t. Nor would restaurants start poisoning their customers if municipal food inspectors disappeared overnight.

    But Borsook doesn’t understand what libertarians mean when they talk about spontaneous order. Thus she asserts that such a theory of “self-organization” appeals to “engineers’ physics envy” and that “the reason for the rise in technolibertarianism is that engineers are practical and like to fix things and get things right, so of course only the sensible political choice of libertarianism would fit.”

    In fact, the engineering mentality, which presumes a single best way of doing things in accordance with unchanging “natural” laws, is the exact opposite of the spontaneous order mentality that pervades libertarian thinking. That’s why Hayek specifically identified the engineering mentality as the mind-set from “which all modern socialism, planning and totalitarianism derives.”

    Just don’t break up Microsoft! That would be bad.

  5. I’m glad you linked to a dictionary. I went ahead and looked up “atomistic” while I was there.

    Main Entry: at?om?is?tic
    Pronunciation: “a-t&-‘mis-tik
    Function: adjective
    1 : Sharing similarities with Prof Ray Palmer.

  6. While it’s not quity as hoity-toity as dictionary.com, the UrbanDictionary added a term I made up.

  7. Borsook was a regular contributor to Wired magazine during its start-up period in the early-to-mid-1990s. During that time, she became alarmed at what she saw as the undue influence of libertarian thinking at the magazine and in the world it covered.
    . . .
    It’s that she considers libertarians unpleasant people. They’re selfish, asocial, too into Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein; they indulge in impersonal, perverted sexual games because they can’t stand real intimacy. She finds them “nasty, narcissistic, lacking human warmth.”

    She peppers little insults like this throughout the book, and on some level this book could be seen as a personal lament: “Why is it so hard to meet nice guys in Silicon Valley?” Dotting the book are tales of bad dates with libertarian geeks who make snide remarks about bums and who send her unwanted e-mail, only to get riled when she explains she doesn’t believe all that free-market stuff.
    . . .
    Borsook’s problem with an inherent “selfishness” that may not even exist is part of a general negative feeling about people who don’t want as much government as she does. She doesn’t feel spiritually akin to these espousers of libertarianism; their strongly expressed belief in a philosophy she only half-understands but associates with stinginess disturbs her. That kind of sociological prejudice rests on a false supposition . . .

    Let me first say that I do not agree with Borsook. Not about libertarianism generally, and not with her assertions that libertarians are somehow not-nice people. I mean, they always treat me super-nice, for instance.

    But I am going to have to quibble with Mr. Doherty’s use of the words “prejudice” and “supposition” here. Judging by his review (haven’t read the underlying book), it does sound like Borsook actually met and interacted with actual, real life libertarians and is drawing her conclusions, however flawed, based on these real life anecdotes. it does not sound like she is engaging in “prejudice” or “supposition” at all. That would be if she were judging libertarians without first conversing with them, about all kinds of things, and at great length.

  8. Lonewacko

    just

    commented

    about

    something

    other

    than

    immigration.

    I need to go lie down.

  9. UrbanDictionary turned me down.

  10. dagny | March 9, 2007, 2:54pm | #

    That sounds like a word my father would use and then go “Ha! Isn’t that an awesome word? COTERMINOUS!”
    ———–
    highnumber | March 9, 2007, 3:08pm | #

    Sounds like life was a thrill a minute growing up in the dagny house.

    Well, my dad would go around singing “Mairzy Doats” a lot.

    Also he would screw up song lyrics and insist that he was correct. E.g., Battle Hmyn of the Republic: “My eyes have lived to see the glory of the coming of the Lord …”
    —————————————-

    While it’s not quity as hoity-toity as dictionary.com, the UrbanDictionary added a term I made up.

    That led me to run across another term, for which I think this is a pretty good definition:

    1. lindsay lohan

    Verb. To go from a beautiful redheaded, nicely curved teenager to an annorexic, nose-powdering Paris Hilton knockoff.
    ———————————–

    Borsook was a regular contributor to Wired magazine during its start-up period in the early-to-mid-1990s. During that time, she became alarmed at what she saw as the undue influence of libertarian thinking at the magazine and in the world it covered.

    I was a regular subscriber to Wired magazine during its start-up period in the early-to-mid-1990s. After that time, I became alarmed at what I saw as an undue retreat from libertarian thinking at the magazine and in the world it covered. I think one article that fretted about the possibility of “robber barons on Mars” unless space exploration remained firmly in the hands of government was the last straw for me.

  11. Dave W- I suspect she made two mistakes, only one of which can be fairly called prejudice. The first may have been to equate the libertarians* she met in Silicon Valley with libertarians in general. She may also have suffered from confirmation bias, and thus seen libertarians as unpleasant because she expected to see libertarians as unpleasant.

    *I’m not really sure what this woman even means by libertarian. I also have not read the book.

  12. She may also have suffered from confirmation bias, and thus seen libertarians as unpleasant because she expected to see libertarians as unpleasant.

    Yeah, I guess I just took the “bad dates” and “weird sex” quotes to mean that she had actually given up the prize to a Silicon Valley libertrian or three. I mean you really can’t do much more than that.

    I certainly gave it up for my share of Bay Area feminists and Gilligan readers in the 90s. I wouldn’t want anyone to call my opinions on them as prejudice.

  13. Can I coin a term?
    cosexual

  14. uncle sam,
    I may be wrong, but the way I understand things, you need to define the term too.
    And that word already has 10,700 hits on Google.

  15. The definition goes with context, as in: you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
    Guess I should’ve looked first.

  16. FWIW, here is another review of Cyberselfish, grabbed somewhat ineptly from an old proto-blog where I used to comment …

    http://www.cyberselfish.com/reviews31.html

  17. Well, my dad would go around singing “Mairzy Doats” a lot.

    Actually my dad does that too 🙂

  18. The essence of Doherty’s quote is a truth I’ve been wont to express like this for years: Don’t make the mistake of conflating “society” with “government.”

    Kevin

  19. The Defense Department’s role in developing ARPANet, the forerunner to the Internet, was more as a customer than as an engineer creating something by design; it provided money for researchers doing early work on a decentralized computer network, but didn’t plan or anticipate anything like the Internet we use today. Indeed, the essentially unplanned way in which the Internet developed is an example of the biologically informed models of growth and self-regulation that libertarians celebrate. It’s also worth pointing out that the Internet’s huge growth, both in terms of infrastructure and customers, came about due to commercial investment, not government financing.

    As for Borsook’s second line of attack: Anyone advocating a smaller role for the state is by necessity thrust into the realm of historical fantasy, of imagining the way things could be. Government has arrogated so extensive a role to itself that it’s understandable that many people might imagine that nothing the government has a hand in could possibly have happened without it.

    Not withstanding Gore inventing the internet…is that so hard to understand?

  20. “atomistic” ? or atavistic?

  21. It sounds like “Borsook” is coterminous with “idiot”.

  22. “One of the key insights of libertarianism revolves around the notion of the “spontaneous order,” the idea that social orders and markets can, do, and will develop to meet human needs without central direction or control.”

    An interesting example of spontaneious order developing in this way, when you take the long historical view, is the ubiquitous entity referred to frequently as “the government” or “the state.”

  23. Cyberselfish was a book the folks at pandagon kept mentioning during the great reason-pandagon blog battle of ’07.

  24. bubsy, the cat from that video game

    is that anything like that bat from that atari game Venture in which you where about to kill the dragon with the sword and then the friggin bat would swoop in and steal the sword and so the cow looking dragon would eat you and then the bat would drop the sword and the dragon would kill itself on the sword then the bat would pick the dead dragon with you in its belly and fly you all over the friggin place…..man i really hated that fucking bat.

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