Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Need for "Reform"

A wonderful letter to the New York Times ("The Need for 'Reform,'" February 26, 2005, p. A14), from James O. Freedman:
To the Editor:

More than half a century ago, George Orwell warned, in his essay "Politics and the English Language," against the immorality implicit in the use, especially by government officials, of intentionally misleading words. I think of Orwell's essay every time that President Bush speaks of the need for "reform" of Social Security and tort law.

Orwell's contemporary George Bernard Shaw got it right when he reputedly retorted to an adversary whom he was debating: "Do not speak to me, sir, of reform. Things are bad enough as they are!"

Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 24, 2005

The writer is president emeritus of Dartmouth College and the University of Iowa.
The apocryphal remark on "reform" is actually more often attributed to Lord Salisbury and employed to promote the very sort of Orwellian attempt to destroy a social program in the name of "reforming" it that Freedman criticizes, but Freedman's letter memorably turns the remark into one of the sharpest arrows in the working-class quiver.

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