Self-licking ice cream cone

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In political jargon, a self-licking ice cream cone is a self-perpetuating system that has no purpose other than to sustain itself. The phrase appears to have been first used in 1992, in On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones, a paper by Pete Worden about NASA's bureaucracy.[1]

The phrase has come to be used as a metaphor for any similar system, particularly in contexts such as the War on Terror and the military-industrial complex.


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  1. ^ "On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones". Cool stars, stellar systems, and the sun, Proceedings of the 7th Cambridge Workshop, ASP Conference Series (ASP: San Francisco),vol. 26, p. 599. 1992. Retrieved March 10, 2008. 

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