Suppose a parliament that tries to "outsource" their responsibility in various ways (they take the gains but not wanting to take the risks). Of course, the situation cannot last: risks and gains should have a correlation, here arbitrages are surreal. For some reason, this video here about point 0:50 came to my mind about the situation. Artificial obfuscation and complexity are intentional, I think to hide something evil. Which vocabulary or phrases would you use and when to describe this kind of situation that some parties are trying to make more obscure?

Issue requiring more descriptive phrases or vocabulary

A parliament may avoid responsibility in various ways such as

  • does not underwrite official documents with signature or official stamp
  • floods important documents with less important documents so the next parliament (particularly if it is opposition) cannot find them
  • maintain the location to store and process important documents in an inferior quality so outsiders cannot realistically find there anything
  • may censor public documents
  • ...many other things

Some Analysis

Most of the terms below have drawbacks. The denial of responsibility does not really grasp the reason -- the responsibility may be avoided so that controversial decisions can be made. Then again, it catches the intent where denial infers consciousness decision. The hard part is that decision-makers may just "forget" things such as underwrite things or be lazy to process the documents or more evil i.e. totally intended denial of responsibility (outlined above).

A. Conventional terminology

  1. denial of responsibility
  2. obfuscating things but it may have some technical meaning like here

B. literature-biased terms

  • Orwellian or better totalitarian (but they are extremely loaded words)
  1. of or pertaining to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.
  2. exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others; authoritarian; autocratic. (source)
  • Kafkaesque
  1. "Marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity." (source)
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    abdicate responsibility Mar 21, 2012 at 8:19
  • +1 Pete. Also suggest you start here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster and follow the links for further reading
    – Wudang
    Mar 21, 2012 at 11:21
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    The kind folks here actually do leave comments along with their downvotes surprisingly often. If they don't, that could be a sign that they simply can't tell you how to improve the question, because they simply can't make heads or tails of it. And frankly, neither can I. More to the point, this is not the first time you ask a confusing question, collect a couple downvotes for it, and then get all up in arms about it in comments, wondering if people are conspiring against you. Well, no. They just plain don't understand you. You should really work on expressing yourself better, is all.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 21, 2012 at 19:48
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    @RegDwightѬſ道 I disagree. The English in the question isn't perfect, but it's good enough to be understood - and at the time that I'm writing this, there are three pretty good answers to it. No comments other than yours indicate any confusion or difficulty understanding. If the OP's English were perfect, they probably wouldn't need to ask the question. The very fact that there is (some) room for improvement in the wording of this question demonstrates the OP's point, that quality could be improved if the downvoters would say WHY they were downvoting.
    – user16269
    Mar 22, 2012 at 8:11
  • @David: I am not talking about the English. Grammatical mistakes can be easily fixed; people do that automatically in their heads as they read along. But if what they get after fixing the grammar is still unintelligible, then people should be allowed to downvote. Especially if it's not OP's first question of that kind. And look, the OP has actually improved his question in response to the downvotes, and in fact all but one of them seem to be gone now — so arguably they have done their job well, even without comments. At any rate, I am not part of the picture here, so shrug.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 22, 2012 at 19:22

3 Answers 3


An obfuscator is someone who [deliberately] makes things obscure and confused - which OP's legislatures may do in order to conceal either the fact of having accepted responsibility they don't wish to honour, or of not having actually taken responsibility, so they don't have to honour it. Or they may obfuscate details so they can take a more active role than voters might have expected. In short, obfuscation itself implies little in respect of the level of responsibility accepted.

An obstructionist is someone who systematically blocks or interrupts a [legislative] process, which again doesn't really imply anything at the level of taking responsibility for any legislation passed.

I suggest limitative (tending to limit, restrictive, conditional) may summarise the approach of legislatures who don't want their laws to embody any real commitment to actually do anything.


Obstructionism is a method used to subvert the act of decision-making. It is defined as

deliberate interference with the progress of business especially of a legislative body

Here are some other expressions with a similar meaning:

  • Act with benign neglect
  • Abjure responsibility
  • Sit on one's hands
  • Turn a blind eye
  • Cite your sources! Why do you say obstructionism is a recent phenomenon? Mar 21, 2012 at 23:19
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    You are correct @FumbleFingers It is a phenomenon cited in U.S. political contexts with greater frequency than in the recent past. However, the practice of obstructionism is old as the hills, a time honored tradition! I'll edit my answer accordingly. Mar 24, 2012 at 13:36

What they are engaged in is obfuscation (noun) -- the process of deliberately making more confusing in order to conceal the truth (wiktionary); or the activity of obscuring people's understanding, leaving them baffled or bewildered (wordnetwb.princeton.edu)

It's not a technical term, but the idiom to pass the buck also came to mind. It means to evade responsibility by passing it on to someone else. phrases.org

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    ...yes the term "obfuscation" came also to my mind but I usually use it in the context of programming, like C obfuscation contest. Is the "pass the buck" low-brow term referring to the sport? Can one say "pass the ball" or something like that also?
    – hhh
    Mar 21, 2012 at 12:32
  • I saw that obfuscation was a programming term (I was not familiar with that use). No, I don't think pass the buck is ever used in sports, unless a coach blames someone else for a losing season. As for being low brow, I don't consider it so, but it is an idiom. I don't think "pass the ball" would suit the question you asked. It doesn't have the same meaning of dodging responsibility.
    – JLG
    Mar 21, 2012 at 12:40
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    The notion that obfuscation is related only to programming is nonsense. Obfuscation contests took their names from well-established general use of the term. "Pass the buck" is idiomatic but not "low brow". Harry Truman kept a The Buck Stops Here sign on his desk. See link for photo plus etymology of "pass the buck" idiom plus quote: 'In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to [the sign] in asserting that, "The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody."' Mar 22, 2012 at 15:56

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