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Georgetown Law Journal


statutes, acronyms


Why we name our statutes is a rarely asked and non-obvious question, but it turns out to be deeply illuminating. This essay examines one little-noticed trend in particular, which has simply exploded within the U.S. Congress during the past twenty years. What at first might seem a frivolous, innocuous, and maybe even sort of likable kind of statute name appeared perhaps three times in the entire history of the Republic before 1988. In the twenty years since, there have been nearly seventy of them. But much more important than its recent and arresting profusion will be the deeper philosophical insight this behavior sheds upon our representatives and the politics over which they preside.

Namely, it appears to have occurred to those on Capitol Hill that something can be gained by devising statute names that spell out clever acronyms. A trite diversion? Hardly. Thinking about it turns out not to be really that amusing at all, and in its detail it says something fairly sobering about who our elected representatives are as people, how they see their responsibilities, and just how low their opinions of we their constituents really must be. The ugliest thing about it is that, with we Americans, this sort of thing works.





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