Government failure

'Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited'

When discussing government, cynicism just can't go far enough

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James Bovard

That definition in the headline comes courtesy of occasional Reason contributor James Bovard (pictured at right), author of such politician-puncturing and bureaucrat-tormenting books as Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, and Lost Rights. At USA Today he "celebrates" (notes? mourns?) tax week with an updated devil's dictionary of common terms you're likely to see acquire slippery if not completely perverse meanings in the mouths of government officials elected, appointed, and indicted.

Perhaps my favorite of Bovard's current batch of definitions is the one quoted above: "Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited." Yeah, that about covers it. Freedom, of course, involves activities that have not yet been engulfed by the body of "Law — Any hodgepodge of commands and special interest windfalls heaved together under a misleading title which is rubberstamped by Congress and fails to make five Supreme Court justices visibly retch."

Then again, perhaps Bovard's definitions, and my agreement, are "Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs."

See the whole thing here.

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  1. Freedom ? whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited.

    Benevolently?!?

    1. Good intentions, something, something, end result – ROADZZZ!

    2. Its always for your own good, now shut up and pay your taxes.

    3. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing
      http://www.work-mill.com

      1. Strangely, this is the response that makes the most sense— in a just-drive-on-because-we’re-all-doomed kind of way.

  2. Anarchist ? anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%

    The sad fact is that people like Tony will read this and not only take it seriously but think this Bovard fellow really understands the kind of nihilist tea bagging racist we are up against. It is like this guy hacked Tony’s computer and stole his Democratic Underground Lexicon of political terms.

  3. I really enjoyed his book Public Policy Hooligan.

  4. Election ? when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties

    Pretty much.

  5. Constitutional ? any White House action that fails to spur simultaneous armed uprisings in the majority of Red States

    Yep.

  6. Freedom – Just another word for nothing left to lose.

    1. +1 McGee

  7. “Historic ? different than last week

    Unprecedented ? different than last month”

    I joked last week how frequently these terms tends to get used to describe anything the Obama administration points its finger at – particularly in terms of international affairs.

    Between Iran and Cuba, everything there is *Unprecedentedly Historic* recently…. but it goes farther to describe even the most boring of issues.

    Obama’s recent meeting in Jamaica was “historic”, or when he went to China and they all agreed “Pollution is bad = and lets do Something About That Eventually” = OMG Super-Historically Unprecedented Happenings!

    To be fair, its not much different than how Weathermen describe any kind of recent weather-event. They also like to use, “Record-Breaking”

    1. To be fair, its not much different than how Weathermen describe any kind of recent weather-event. They also like to use, “Record-Breaking”

      And everything is above or below “normal.” Not “average,” but “normal.” Which means it’s abnormal. As in GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE AAAUUUGGGHHH!

    2. Everything he does will go down in history! His legacy is secure!

      1. You know who else went down in history?

        1. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?

        2. Linda Lovelace?

        3. Buddy Holly?

          Ritchie Valens?

          The Big Bopper?

        4. Edward Smith?

  8. I’ve been missing Ambrose Bierce…

  9. He is being generous. Freedom means that which has been expressly approved.

    1. Yes. Bovard gets that wrong. Freedoms are permissions given us by government.

  10. They can take our lives, but they will never prohibit our pot DDT Sudafed Buckyballs e-cigarettes religious conscience abortions!

  11. EVERYTHING NOT MANDATORY IS PROHIBITED

  12. Salon’s use of “vile” – anything every said or proposed that is to the Right of Chairman Mao.

    1. Don’t forget “spew”, which means what anyone does when they argue for any policy to the Right of Chairman Mao. The Libertarians spew their vile ideology.

      1. The Libertarians spew their vile ideology.

        Ideology is a nice one too.

        If I plainly think no one should be forced to bake a cake or even simply state a fact like “We can’t continue to borrow money from China forever.”, I’m supporting any one of a number of ideologies up to and including violent purging of homosexuals or isolating American outright and possibly triggering the next Cold War.

      2. Would they even use “ideology”? Doesn’t that lend some credibility, some authority, even some principle, to the opposition?

    2. Don’t you know Mao was “far right”. He killed a bunch of people; it’s practically a tautology.

  13. That guy looks like my dad. But more alive and with more fingers. The hair and beard and giant forehead are identical.

    1. But more alive and with more fingers.

      Your dad work for the railroad?

  14. Shocking — not in any way shocking.

  15. Due process ? any government process that gives troublemakers what they deserve

    Except for accused rapists.

  16. Presumably terms not listed are unknown, not understood, and/or entirely lacking from the administration’s vocabulary.

    Words like Foreign Affairs, Balanced Budget, Duty, and Conscience aren’t understood until they are published in the media and then looked up.

    1. The unenumerated terms.

  17. Unexpected-Predicted by everyone who thought about it for more than 5 seconds.

  18. Due process ? any government process that gives troublemakers what they deserve

    I’m not sure if that one is funny or not.

    1. It’s funny in a fox-hole-humour kind of way.

  19. Intentions – the rosy predictions legislators convince themselves of when proposing new programs

    Unintended Consequences – the completely foreseeable negative outcomes that result from the implementation of these programs

    1. Unintended consequences — that which must not be named.

  20. Freedom, of course, involves activities that have not yet been engulfed by the body of “Law ? Any hodgepodge of commands and special interest windfalls heaved together under a misleading title which is rubberstamped by Congress and fails to make five Supreme Court justices visibly retch.”

    I like this guy. A little bit of a Pollyanna for my taste, but he’s on my short list of cool dudes.

  21. Common Sense – If you disagree, then you’re stupid. (also, so uncommon that common people don’t have it.)

  22. Interstate Commerce – All commerce, including commerce within a state or commerce that could be done, but isn’t.

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