Constitution

Glenn Reynolds: Why Are Some Public Officials Treated Like Royalty?

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In his column for USA Today, Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds takes a dim view of the proliferating privileges enjoyed by many so-called public servants. All over the country, elected officials and others in the public sector are allowed to carry guns when and where mere taxpayers are not, they get immunity from parking and speeding tickets, enjoy immunity from prosecution, and more.

This may well be unconstitutional, says Reynolds, a longtime law prof at the University of Tennessee. Regardless, it stinks and should be stopped. But how?:

I'd provide that any rule giving government officials—whether elected, appointed, or members of the civil service—preferential treatment compared to ordinary citizens would have to withstand "strict scrutiny." That is, I'd treat discrimination based on government employment status the same way we currently treat racial discrimination. To withstand strict scrutiny, a government action must serve a "compelling government interest," and must be narrowly tailored to serve that interest. And there must be no less restrictive means of achieving the same goal. That would be especially true where the distinctions—special privileges relating to legal process, or the right to bear arms, for example—parallel those enjoyed by the nobility in the Framing era.

Read the whole thing.

And read Steven Greenhut's 2010 masterpiece for Reason, "Class War: How public servants became our masters," which takes a long look at many of the perqs that Reynolds describes.

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  1. I will say it again. Term limits. We need them badly. We have allowed a political class to develop in this country that makes european royalty look like humble public servants. It is unacceptable.

    A simple fix for unaccountability is to make recall elections easier.

    1. OK, but term limits only apply to ~0.1% of the people Reynolds is talking about.

      1. A draft would sort out the civil service, unlibertarian though it may be.

    2. Term limits have been counterproductive in CA, because the increased the power of the bureaucracies, civil servants and public employee unions.

      Instead, we need to:
      1)eliminate civil service ‘protections’ – even if that means returning to a spoils system,
      2)outlaw public employee unions &
      3)bring the bureaucracies under directly political control.

      1. How about term limits for the squirrels?

      2. Spoils system is shit too. There has to be another approach. Maybe capping any and all public sector employment at 10 years, or drafting voters at random (so you can skip it, if you don’t register to vote).

    3. Term limits have been counterproductive in CA, because the increased the power of the bureaucracies, civil servants and public employee unions.

      Instead, we need to:
      1)eliminate civil service ‘protections’ – even if that means returning to a spoils system,
      2)outlaw public employee unions &
      3)bring the bureaucracies under directly political control.

  2. Why didn’t I get one of those jobs? I’m even barred from bringing a pocket knife to work because it violates our “weapons policy”. I use it to open carboard boxes, saves me five minutes of fighting packing tape with my hands.

    1. What the hell do you do that you cannot use a pocketknife?

      1. I work in a state agency controlled by panicky progressives who thing mere possession of something capable of causing injury will trigger a rampage. I work in IT where a multitool comes in handy, but I’ve been repeatedly told to leave mine at home.

        1. Have you considered just bringing it in anyway?

          1. *shhh* Don’t tell the management.

      2. Scruffy, where I work the no weapons policy applies to your vehicle when on company property and when commuting to/from work or business function – many people just ignore the rules.

        I know a couple of bow hunters who have had to hand over their bows to security while they are at work – they have to pick them up after they leave for the day.

  3. How about no special privileges, period. No strict scrutiny, no review, no nothing….

    1. Absolutely concur.

      And, this doesn’t even begin to address the issue of said officials having de facto immunity due to the exercise of “discretion” on the part of the agencies who rigorously enforce the rules on the rest of us.

    2. Well, the powers of office are a special privilege of sorts, so you are arguing for abolishing the state, which I doubt will fly with the state-run courts. But since the most historical form of inequality is between rulers and ruled, there might be a Constitutional argument there.

  4. They’re better than you.

  5. A simple fix for unaccountability is to make recall elections easier.

    Unfortunately, that would require a motivated citizenry. Most people seem completely unconcerned by the disparity between the rights of the people and the privileges of the rulers.

  6. As the villain in The Avengers said, we as a people crave subjugation. Do you think Arab Spring was about freedom? It was about the populace finding the most palatable overlord to bring them under control.

  7. To withstand strict scrutiny, a government action must serve a “compelling government interest,” and must be narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

    Sorry, but that’s not enough and exactly why we’re at where we’re at today because an overwhelming amount intervention and a swiss-cheese of exceptions have been justified under such constitutional jurisprudence. “Compelling government interest” jurisprudence derives from the “Necessary and Proper” clause.

    I’m also sick of “narrowly tailored”. This is exactly the opposite of what real law is: general or universal. That is:

    2 + 2 = 4. Always. Not most of the time, except in some narrow circumstances, in certain cases, or for some people, 2 + 2 = 5.

  8. Something that drives me slightly nuts is the habit of addressing former elected and appointed officials by the title of the office that they no longer hold, as if they had been bestowed some fucking title of nobility.

    1. Former? I’d throw current officeholders into that too. Fuck you Senator Shitstain, Mr. Shitstain is good enough.

    2. One of my pet peeves as well, Naz.

    3. My pet peeve is naming things after politicians who are not just alive, but still in office. Ban that.

  9. To be fair, Senators and Representatives are immune to arrest save for felonies and breach of the peace while travelling to and from Congress, as per the Constitution. I recall Barry Goldwater confessing after his 30-year Congressional career was over that he used that to go about 15 feet the wrong way down a one-way street to his apartment in DC when leaving the Capitol because it was a real pain to go the long ways around to get there.

  10. Fuck
    You
    That’s
    Why

  11. There is a well-established literature on libertarian class theory. Basically there are two classes: those who derive rents, power, and privilege through coercive action by the state, and those coerced to foot the bill.

    The coercive extraction of rent, power, and privilege is the real purpose of any state just as much as profit is the real purpose of any business enterprise. The ruling elite seek as much rent, power, and privilege as their subjects can bear. The business owner seeks as much profit as the market can bear. The only difference is that the former arises from coercive activities while the latter arises from voluntary activities (to the extent it does not involve the state, which it often does).

    1. Same story, different costumes.

  12. On another note, the guy that writes Tuesday Morning Quarterback at espn.com has been on the case of something along these same lines for a while now: the tendency for unimportant public officials to have bodyguards that the government pays for.

  13. Government school teacher, 49, bangs 14yr old student who later kills herself, and judge gives him just 30 days in jail.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..icide.html

  14. Somehow I expect that the elected swine and sinecured jackasses will find continued protection from the natural consequences of their highhandedness a fairly “Compelling interest”.

  15. It’s almost as if the U.S. has turned into an Animal Farm.

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