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A fantastic column from Glenn Reynolds, appearing in USA Today.
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?
Well, actually, they did. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution prohibits the federal government from granting “titles of nobility,” and Article I, Section 10 extends this prohibition to the states — one of the few provisions in the original Constitution to impose limits directly on states. Surely the Framers must have considered this prohibition pretty important.
I think it’s time for a new constitutional amendment which simply reads: Congress shall make no law from which they are exempt or which grants them its members special privilege. And then it’s time to roll back all of the ones that currently exist. Like the health care and pension programs that they have given themselves.
And it addresses a real problem: The growth not only of government, but of a governing class that believes, in a very real way, that it is fundamentally above the law.
Address this my way, or some other way. But one way or another, it’s likely to be addressed. At least my way doesn’t involve pitchforks.