That’s essentially what Glenn Reynolds asks in his USA Today piece:
All over America, government officials enjoy privileges that ordinary citizens don’t. Sometimes it involves bearing arms, with special rules favoring police, politicians and even retired government employees. Sometimes it involves freedom from traffic and parking tickets, like the special non-traceable license plates enjoyed by tens of thousands of California state employees or similar immunities for Colorado legislators. Often it involves immunity from legal challenges, like the “qualified” immunity to lawsuits enjoyed by most government officials, or the even-better “absolute immunity” enjoyed by judges and prosecutors. (Both immunities — including, suspiciously, the one for judges — are creations of judicial action, not legislation).
Lately it seems as if these kinds of special privileges are proliferating. And it also seems to me that special privileges for “public servants” that have the effect of making them look more like, well, “public masters,” are kind of un-American. Even more, I’m beginning to wonder if they might actually be unconstitutional. Surely the creation of two classes of citizens, one more equal than the others, isn’t the sort of thing the Framers intended. Why didn’t they put something in the Constitution to prevent it?
Reynolds goes on to talk about Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution and titles of nobility. As you probably know, they’re prohibited here. But that doesn’t stop us from having what appears to be a defacto nobility at times. A group we collectively call “public servants” or people we’ve hired to do the work of governing and management. Our employees.
However, somewhere along the line the “servant” part of the description morphed into a completely different animal. Now we have an elite which, in many cases, enjoys special privileges that they’ve granted themselves. That has also translated into an attitude. The “force of law”, which they enjoy cloaking themselves in, has changed many “servants” into perceiving themselves as masters and citizens into subjects of their will. Consequently many of them see themselves not as someone hired to do the will and work of the people, but instead in a position to dictate to the people what they will do. Michael Bloomberg among many, many others, comes immediately to mind, as do many petty and faceless bureaucrats.
As our “public servants” have gathered power unto themselves and built their little fiefdoms, they’ve also leveraged that into positions of privilege and abuse. The partial list Reynolds provides doesn’t even touch on Congress. They exempt themselves all the time from rules, regulations and costs the rest of us have to bear. Instead of having to live with what they impose on the rest of us by the “force of law”, they simply exempt themselves. And because of that, they haven’t any idea of the hardship their actions may impose or the real consequences of their law.
All of this should be unacceptable to the rest of us. We should require service from our public servants. They have no right to exempt themselves from any law in a land that claims equality under the law as one of its highest ideals. Until we hold them accountable and make them live with the same rules they impose on us, this elite class with continue to grow and abuse it’s power. And the scandals of today will pale in comparison to the abuses we’ll see in the future.
Reynolds is willing to consider “compelling government interests”, narrowly defined, as an exception to the “no special privileges” rule. I’m less inclined to give government even that much – mostly because abuse will surely follow as night follows day, even with a narrow interpretation. Maybe it’s necessary to take that risk. But what is clear to most is the privilege “public service” now grants itself in many areas is not consistent with the concept of equality under American law and must end.
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