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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1113026
 
 

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A Statute by Any Other (Non-Acronomial) Name Might Smell Less Like S.P.A.M., or, The Congress of the United States Grows Increasingly D.U.M.B.


Chris Sagers


Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University

March 27, 2008

Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 08-151

Abstract:     
While the question why we Americans name our statutes is rarely asked and not obvious, it turns out to be extremely interesting and, at least in the case discussed in this essay, illuminating. Namely, it appears to have occurred to someone on Capitol Hill that there is something to be gained by devising statute names that spell out clever acronyms. These things normally aim to be amusing or cute in some sense, and also usually serve some rhetorical purpose. A first surprise about them is their recent and shocking profusion. During the first two hundred years of the Republic there appear to have been perhaps two such statutes. In the twenty years since, there have been at least fifty-three.

But on closer examination the practice turns out to be not actually so amusing after all, and thinking about it is not just some trite diversion. This trend in its detail turns out to have something fairly sobering to say about the way our Congress has operated for some years now. It also has something to say 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; American democracy, like the popular names of several recent statutes, is a joke that isn't funny.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 21

Keywords: Statutes, statute names, legislation, congress, satire, can-spam

JEL Classification: K4, K40, K49, N4, N42

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Date posted: April 2, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Sagers, Chris, A Statute by Any Other (Non-Acronomial) Name Might Smell Less Like S.P.A.M., or, The Congress of the United States Grows Increasingly D.U.M.B. (March 27, 2008). Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 08-151. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1113026 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1113026

Contact Information

Chris Sagers (Contact Author)
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University ( email )
2121 Euclid Avenue, LB 138
Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
United States
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