Slate’s Jack Shafer wants reporters to ban the word “reform” from their vocabulary:

“Reform” may have once meant something in American politics, but overuse has so neutered it that both parties routinely compose legislation in its name. Congress has passed scores of bills containing the “R” word in their titles in the last couple of decades, and dozens more await action. There’s the First Responders Funding Reform Act; the Veterans’ Prescription Drug Reform Act; the Captive Supply Reform Act; and the Citizenship Reform Act, just to name a few. My favorite reform bill is the Government Reform Act. Why settle for piecemeal reform of veterans’ prescription drugs, captive supply, or citizenship when reform of the whole shebang is just one bill away?

Having co-opted the R word and drained it of its original meaning—”altering for the better … some faulty state of things,” as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it—politicians can insert the word into their speeches and bills no matter what the program. The word gives a pleasantly positive spin to whatever they’re pushing and makes their critics look like foes of reform. And who could be against reform?!


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.