"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. ... The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink."
--George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"
How interpret a law to mean the opposite of what it says? That's no big problem for lawyers; it's more their specialty. For why would you need sophisticated legal scholars if the law were clear without their services?
Current case in point: the debate before the
Unfortunately, a too-talkative adviser to the administration responsible for framing the law -- the now notorious
The solution? Just ignore the plain words of the law -- even if it repeatedly refers to those subsidies being limited to exchanges "established by the State." Law, shmaw. Why let mere words stand in the way of what the feds want, namely subsidies for their own insurance exchanges?
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."
If the federal government is to be master of the law's meaning, why quibble over mere words? And so the law of the land is reduced to whatever the administration wants it to be. Any questions? If so, keep them to yourself. Big Brother knows best.
Here we have the essence of arbitrary government, the kind based not on the rule of law but whatever the regime says the law means, even if it must ignore what the law actually says. Welcome to George Orwell's "1984," which never seems to grow irrelevant. "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." And the law is whatever Big Brother says it is.
The use-and-abuse of legal language is not without its comic aspects. In the course of legal arguments before the
Why? In order to follow the constraints on freedom of expression embodied in the campaign-finance law known as the McCain-Feingold Act, a position that seemed to shock even the leftier members of the court. Much to their credit.
But to hear counsel for the government explain it, in order to uphold free elections, freedom of speech would have to be curtailed. Freedom isn't free, you know. The Hon. Humpty-Dumpty, Esq., would understand.
In the end, the court's decision in that case, Citizens United, marked a new advance for freedom of speech and the right to exercise it. Not to mention the simple meaning of words.
Happily, there are some arguments that not all justices of the