… is from page 282 of the late Vincent Ostrom’s 1997 volume, The Meaning of Democracy and the Vulnerability of Democracies:
A minor distinction in language may have radical implications for theoretical discourse in the same way that a shift in perspective from a revolving sun to a spinning and orbiting earth had profound implications for many different sciences, professions, and technologies.
DBx: Quite by coincidence, I was today re-reading much of V. Ostrom’s 1997 book and ran across this passage not two hours after opening an e-mail from Cafe Hayek patron “Nullify” who insists that my insistence on distinguishing “law” from “legislation” is “tedious” and “purely semantic and without any relevance.”
I disagree with Nullify. In my opinion, Vincent Ostrom – here like Deirdre McCloskey – is completely correct to insist on the great significance of the particular ways that we use words (what McCloskey calls “habits of the lip”).