The technique has long formed an integral part of dialogue within the public square: institutions under siege embrace grandiose visions of change in order to deflect external pressures and preserve the essence of the status quo. Nowhere is the practice more widely or blatantly employed than in politics. Sensing the rising tide of sentiment that would "throw the rascals out," members of Congress hungry to retain office announce that the time is ripe for election reforms ostensibly designed to clean up politics once and for all. Yet such effrontery is hardly unique to politicians. With dissatisfaction at the inadequacy of American education grown rampant, the National Education Association finds the moment opportune to unveil bold new plans to reinvent public schools. With the cost of health care and access to treatment rising to the forefront of the national agenda, lobbyists for the American Medical Association trundle out far-reaching proposals for overhauling the entire health care system.
That duress or self-interest figure prominently in shaping such calls for change does not mean that they are without value. Nor does it mean that advocacy of such proposals is dishonest or insincere. On the other hand, neither is it disinterested. Reform springing from within reflects something other than unadulterated concern for the common good. Indeed, institutional prescriptions for change that provide certain answers are intended to preempt other answers and to keep other questions altogether unasked. In short, however handsomely packaged, institutional advocacy of change almost invariably conceals a defense of orthodoxy. For the most part, the public understands this and treats pronouncements issued by politicians and interest groups accordingly.