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 appeared to have been first used in 1991–1992, in a book about Gulf War weapons systems by Norman Friedman,[1] and On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones, a paper by Pete Worden about NASA's bureaucracy, to describe the relationship between the Space Shuttle and Space Station.[2][3]

Ice cream cone licking its own nose

Since then, the term has been used to describe the purported habit of government-funded organisations and programs spending taxpayer money to lobby for more funding from the taxpayer. Other things compared have included financial bubbles, chatshows and reality television. In The Irish Times, Kevin Courtney observed that "many organisations are also stuck in limbo, destined to keep lurching on without ever achieving their stated goal. That’s because their real goal is simply to carry on regardless."[4] The Cold War infrastructure has also been compared to a self-licking ice cream cone, given that expensive projects continued to be financed long after world communism had ceased to pose a viable threat.[5]

Richard Hoggart used the term to describe certain United Nations programmes.[6]

Franklin C. Spinney used the term to refer to the military–industrial complex.[7]

In sport, the Bowl Alliance was criticised using the term.[8]

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  1. ^ Friedman, Norman (1991). Desert Victory: The War For Kuwait. Naval Institute Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-1-55750-254-4.
  2. ^ Worden, S. Pete (1992). "On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones". Proceedings of the seventh Cambridge workshop on cool stars, stellar systems, and the sun. ASP Conference Series. Vol. 26. Astronomical Society of the Pacific. pp. 599–603. Bibcode:1992ASPC...26..599W. ISBN 0-937707-45-7. This unfortunate train of events has resulted in a NASA which, more than any other agency, believes it works only for the appropriations committees. The senior staff of those committees, who have little interest in science or space, effectively run NASA. NASA senior officials' noses are usually found at waist level near these committee staffers.
  3. ^ Зацний Ю., А.; Янков, А. В. Нова розмовна лексика і фразеологія: Англо-український словник.: Довідкове видання. Нова Книга. ISBN 9789663822952 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Courtney, Kevin. "CON TEXT: SELF-LICKING ICE CREAM CONE". The Irish Times.
  5. ^ Leffler, Melvyn P.; Legro, Jeffrey W. (May 15, 2011). In Uncertain Times: American Foreign Policy after the Berlin Wall and 9/11. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801461293 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Hoggart, Richard. An Idea and Its Servants: UNESCO from Within. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 9781412848138 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Mattis: One More General for the 'Self Licking Ice Cream Cone". The American Conservative. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  8. ^ Antitrust implications of the College Bowl Alliance: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Business Rights, and Competition of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Fifth Congress, first session ... May 22, 1997. Washington D.C.: United States Congress Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Business Rights, and Competition. December 14, 1997. ISBN 978-0-16-055467-4 – via Google Books.

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