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Beltway Confidential

They’re ‘public servants,’ not ‘public masters’

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Beltway Confidential,Government,Ashe Schow,Analysis

Public officials are afforded many privileges over ordinary citizens, which essentially puts them in a different class than those they are meant to serve, said Glenn Harlan Reynolds, law professor at the University of Tennessee.

Such privileges make them less like “public servants” and more like “public masters,” according to Reynolds, the founder of Instapundit.com, one of the oldest and most widely read blogs.

“All over America, government officials enjoy privileges that ordinary citizens don’t,” Reynolds, writing in a Tuesday USA Today column, said.

“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,” he said.

Then there are legal immunity privileges enjoyed by many public employees.

“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),” Reynolds said.

Reynolds noted that the Framers of the Constitution sought to prevent the development of such privileged classes in America.

“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,” he said.

Of course, since titles like “baron” and “duke” don’t exist, the government gets away with treating “judge” and “officer” differently.

Reynolds proposes treating “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.”

Though it’s clear that a “compelling government interest” – to the government, at least – would be an excuse for continuing things the way they are now.

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Ashe Schow

Commentary Writer
The Washington Examiner