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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


James Taranto (with thanks to Instapundit for the link and the quote):

In 1999 Lionel Tiger coined the word “bureaugamy” to refer to the relationship between officially impoverished mothers of illegitimate children and the government.

A little googling tells me that this word hasn’t been completely ignored since 1999. But if the internet had been more of a Thing in 1999, I surmise that it might have become a universal commonplace by now.

So far it seems to have been mostly Americans using the word, but we could sure use it here in the UK. That link takes you to a quote of Tiger’s original suggestion, with some more context from him.

What may have been holding this word back is that it is not instantaneously clear (or not to me – comments?) whether it should be pronounced byoo-rogue-amy, or byoo-rog-amy. It has to be the latter, but I found myself having to stop and work it out, which is not what you want with a neologism, however badly needed. It’s that “eau” in a slightly unfamiliar setting that slows you (me) down. Is the answer actually to change the spelling, to “burogamy”. i.e. switching from “bureaucracy” to “monogamy” one syllable sooner? Neither is perfect, but it’s probably better to stick with the Tiger original.

What is very excellent about the word is that you know at once what it means.

(Last minute editing of this, changing “byoo-roe-gamy” to what you see above, suggests also a word like “buroguery”. Or should that “bureauguery”? Time to stop this.)

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19 comments to Bureaugamy

  • Laird

    How about “bur-uggery”?

  • Paul Marks

    The “Great Society” programs were not sold as a Welfare State – indeed it was specifically denied that they would produce a Welfare State (just as it was specfically denied that the 1964 Civil Rights Act would lead to quotas, and the 1965 Immigration Act would lead to massive demographic change – perhaps the demographic change was a really nice thing, but the fact remains that the people who passed the 1965 Act promised again and again that the Act would not lead to it). The Great Society programs were defended as “hand up, not a hand out” (it sounds utterly absurd today – but this claim was often made).

    However, a Welfare State is what the Great Society programs have led to – schemes that started off small have become huge. And for wide sections of society the government has replaced fathers.

    1950s America was far from perfect – for example even after segregation was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1954 (please note this was 1954 – the 1964 Act was not really about outlawing Jim Crow regulations, it was about imposing new orders on private individuals and business enterprises Jim-Crow-in-reverse) racism in State and local government still existed (just as it existed in private individuals – human beings being sinners, rather than angels in Heaven).

    However, 1950s America WORKED – it was (to use the once famous term of the sociologist Talcott Parsons) a “functionial” society.

    People paid for the own health care, prices were inflated due to doctor licensing and FDA regulations – but it was nothing like the Medicare and Medicaid (etc) dominated country of today.

    People paid of their own food (what does it say about a society were many millions of people depend on the government dole for their daily bread), and so on.

    The New Deal schemes had already undermined fraternal (mutual aid via voluntary societies) for old age provision – but, for the most part, the United States was still recognisable as (semi) free society.

    And IT WORKED.

    The present society does not work – just as Britain does not work.

    It is not (to use the much used word) “sustainable” to have government provide the basic needs of most people “from the cradle to the grave”.

    It destroys civil society – and no amount of moral preaching (C.M. please note) can restore civil society. Only rolling back the unsustainable programs that are destroying civil society, can restore civil society.

    And there is the problem – because the economic and cultural institutions (including, to a great extent, custom and belief) that existed in the 1950s have been destroyed by the 1960s Great Society (just as they were already being destroyed in a few places in the 1950s – such as the New York City of Mayor Wagner).

    So to roll back the problems now really would produce dreadful suffering – far WORSE than any suffering that existed in the 1960s (the suffering that was used as an excuse to introduce the Great Society programs). This is because the economic and social institutions that used to exist have been destroyed – destroyed by the very schemes that were supposed to make life better. And cultural and economic institutions take a lot of time and effort to build up – especially customs and traditions.

    However, the alternative to rolling back these government programs is worse.

    The alternative is total economic and social breakdown.

  • Mendicant

    For the tiny-brained 1950s sentimentalists out there, here’s Philip Larkin’s brutally truthful debunking of such nostalgic twaddle:

    This Be the Verse
    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

  • Well, Mendicant, your parents would appear to have fucked you up something dreadful. (Or then again, maybe you did it yourself.)

  • Paul Marks

    I am many things (some of them rather nasty) but “sentimental” is not one of them (actually I might be a better man if I had more sentiment).

    Notice that there was no ARGUMENT or EVIDENCE from Mendicant – instead he just quotes a poem from the English poet Philip Larkin.

    I am not sure that Mr Larkin was a great supporter of President Johnson’s “Great Society” programs, or (even if he was) what relevance this is supposed to have.

    However, Medicant (unintentioinally) does make a cultural point – the deliberate sneering at and smearing of 1950s society (both in Britain and the United States) should be noted.

    Larkin himself was not some socialist (inspite of building that big collection of socialist works in the University of Hull) – he was more of a cynical and depressed Tory. A man whose poetry is oddly disconnected from the actual facts of his life (Oxford, good job, no lack of romantic relationships or of friendship…..) – “crying for luck” (i.e. a man crying without anything real to cry about) are the words that spring to mind.

    However, socialists also whined about middle class conforminity, the boring burbs, artificial and superficial life and….. (on and on). Indeed far more than Larkin did.

    Progressive education has (for decades) been dominated by people whose deliberate intention has been to destroy this society and replace it with….

    Well replace it with something wonderful – but which they are a bit vague about (the good side of Larkin is that he understood that the socialist, and radical “liberal”, promises of a better society were actually cover for an effort to create a vastly WORSE society).

    Also it is now known that the cultrual output of the 1960s and so on (in television and film) was not “Progressive” by accident.

    It was the deliberate intention of those who had a stranglehold on the movie and television industries (the “creative” entertainment part of these industries) to undermine and destroy “reactionary” society. To promote fatherless families, sexual promiscuity, dependence on government, a spend-now-pay-later attitude – to ridicule and undermine religious faith, thrift, hard work and self denial. Everything for the union stranglehold on Hollywood to the FCC regulations in television were used to give the left a de facto monopoly of entertainment – in order to work for the “cultural revolution”.

    Who have been the real victims of this cultural revolution?

    Not the rich. Their life (on average) is much the same as it was in the 1950s – even the rate of births out of wedlock has not much increased.

    The victims of the cultrual revolution (and of the Great Society welfare programs) have been THE POOR.

    Go to places like the South Side of Chicago (or areas of Manchester and every city and large town in Britain) and look around – and compare these places to how they used to be, back in the “boring” days of “reactionary conformity”.

    Then you will see the true “achievement” of the Progressives.

    And the true horror is still to come.

  • Julie near Chicago


    You say, “It was the deliberate intention of those who had a stranglehold on the movie and television industries … to undermine and destroy ‘reactionary’ society.” And so it seems to me, and it fits with what I believe I’ve observed of the demolition, a.k.a. the leftward movement, of our general “culture and belief” (as you put it) from the time I turned 18 and started college, in 1961.

    For example: As it happens, my school was The University of Chicago (we will pass over the fact that that once-great institution now welcomes lowlifes like Cass Sunstein and the current White House occupant). I’ve never forgotten that in 1961 you could set down any of your possessions, books, papers, even your expensive K&E slide rule, anywhere on the main quadrangle–which was in the middle of somewhat dicey Hyde Park–and it would still be there when you went back for it an hour or four later.

    By Fall of 1963 you couldn’t turn your back on so much as a Kleenex.

    So my question is this: Do you have any sources you could recommend that back up the claim, specifically, of “deliberate intention”? There’s Ron Radosh’s Red Star over Hollywood, but even that book doesn’t (as I recall) actually detail a specific intent on the part of post-HUAC-hearings Hollywood.

  • Julie near Chicago

    By the way. My little memory of ah! happy college days–what has disappearing property got to do with “the leftward movement of culture and belief”?

    Nothing at all, unless you realize that to demolish the very institution of private property, to disrespect it in every possible way, was a central part of the New Left’s agenda. (Of course, a person’s property is among other things a symbol of his personhood, so to diss the concept of private property is to diss the concept of private personhood, that is, it is to diss persons for being persons.)

    So I will go farther and say that demolishing the institution and the very concept of private property was THE core strategy of the New Left, whose goal was actually to demolish every person’s sense that he is an individual human being. To demolish the existence of “I.” (Yes, Anthem, and also 1984.)

    Back to the memoir proper–it wasn’t the neighborhood Bad Guys, at first, who helped themselves to whatever was there (Look! A buffet!) –it was the students. (The neighbors started getting their licks in a little bit, not much, later. As far as we knew, anyway.)

    In that short space of time–less than two years–the general understanding went from “I dunno whose this is, but it’s not mine” to “I dunno whose this is, I guess I’ll take it.”

    I saw the exact same mindset in the case of the green peppers in the refrigerator in the break-room at work, presumably among fully-grown adults, 20 years later.

  • Alisa

    No more tradition’s chains shall bind us Arise, ye slaves, no more in thrall; The earth shall rise on new foundations We have been naught we shall be all.

  • MattP

    Here’s a message from our leading bureaugamist.


    Feminism is a creed, apparently, that gathers incompetent women to its bosom and soothes them by saying they’ll never expose them to the ugly truth. They can’t scratch a living without depending on a man.

    And that man is apparently Barack Obama. Who needs to be President for life so he can redistribute wealth form mean to womyn who are “strong enough” to embrace the fact they’re entirely dependent on government. And then turn around and bite the hand that feeds it. It’s empowering, apparently, to be liberated from any feeling of obligation toward those who pay to keep you alive.

    It’s getting so that when you’re born, you get a congratulatory message from the gub’mint. “It’s a boy! Here are his child support obligations. Get to work. Julia can’t wait.”

  • Laird

    Alisa quoting poetry! Finally! Nice.

  • Alisa

    Right, we womyn don’t need no mean – we can quote poetry ourselves!

  • MattP

    Mean, men, whatever.

    If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear the sound of it crashing to the ground, it’s my rich, white racist fault for oppressing it to the point it died.

    As an aside, is it old-fashioned of me to wonder why if I’m paying for all these kids and their cradle to grave care why I’m not at least getting massive amounts of sex?

    Or is it just silly of me to wonder why I get all the costs of parenting millions of welfare kids without at least getting a kiss?

  • Paul Marks

    Julie from Chicago.

    Two qwestions here.

    That the academics (and teacher training people and…) wanted (and want) to destroy “reactionary” civil society is fairly open – the “Critical Theory” people and so on, actually say so (although in their own weird language) over and over again.


    The media is a more difficult thing.

    A book of interviews recently came out (last year I think) where the writers of various well known entertainment shows openly state their “Progressive” intentions (these are the people that the change in FCC regulations in the early 1960s gave vast power to – no more could any company just produce a show and pay to have it broadcast, creative control was put in the hands of a few people at ABC, CBS and NBC, ironically in the name of “creative freedom”).

    However, I can not remember the title of the work – I do remember it concentrated too much on social issues (and too little on economic issues) for my taste.

  • Alisa

    As an aside, is it old-fashioned of me to wonder why if I’m paying for all these kids and their cradle to grave care why I’m not at least getting massive amounts of sex?

    You are not married, are you:-P Oh, and trees are for hugging, of course!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks, Paul. I’m always on the lookout for suspects who indict themselves. :>)

    Alisa–Whence the lines? Very well done, and how apt. Thanks for them. :>))

  • Alisa

    Oh, it is from The Song of All Songs, of course:


  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh! *blush* Well…viewing it within the context of our discussion here, I took it as a gibe, not as a call for the soldiery to mow down everyone standing in the way of the Grand Union of All in All!

    I guess I gave myself away with that one…I never did learn the words to the Anthem (in any version, including the original French). *Sigh* A misspent youth and all that…. :>))!!

  • Alisa

    Life is wasted on the young, isn’t it:-)

    I grew up on the Russian version. The relevant verse is similar in its meaning, but – unsurprisingly – much more blatant.

  • speaking of feminists, where’s Charlotte Corday when you need her.

    She was a real heroine.