Californians are such amateurs when it comes to
bureaucratic-speak. The pros are overseas.
the European Union, as I did this week, is disorienting for an American.
Everyone appears to be speaking English, or at least using English words for
everything. But you can’t understand what they’re saying. It’s European
bureaucratese, spoken by people using English at once as a second language and
as a defense mechanism. Actual words spoken to me in Brussels: "We are
conventioning for human rights to conversation."
I sort of
think I know what that means.
And then there’s EU’s reliance on
non-paper isn’t a European invention. The term has long been used in diplomacy
to refer to an unofficial message. But in Brussels, non-papers are everywhere
and appear to be the default mode of communication, used for messages and
policies that go beyond anything sensitive or diplomatic.
What is a non-paper? Non-papers
look like, feel like, and read like, well, papers. Except they say "Non-Paper"
at the top. Naturally, over time, "non-papers" – risk free and more honest than
real papers, of which there seem to be rather few – have proliferated. And
while non-public, they are talked about in public hearings and circulate rather
freely. During five hours in the European Parliament, I, not even a European
citizen, got my hands on a half-dozen "non papers."
should adopt the "non-paper" in California governance. The budget demands and
term sheets and draft language and non-public analysis that circulate in
Sacramento are sort of like this, but they’re not quite the same. The label
makes a difference. The non-paper is specific, but allows the author to be
unaccountable. If you don’t like something in a non paper, well, heck, it’s
just a non-paper. The non-paper is a way to advance policies and debate that is
at once official and unofficial, public and non-public. It’s a way of opening
light, but not too much light, on the closed-door deliberations of government.
In a way, the non paper is
Which is to say it’s perfect.