In his last and best-known book The Law, Frederic Bastiat provides us with a striking description of the essence of State lawlessness:
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
The Enlightenment conception of the rule of law is supposed to prevent agents of the State from claiming the privilege of violating the law that binds private citizens. Yet we know all too well that agents of the State frequently violate the law and are excused for it…as long as they serve the interests of the State and its masters. The fracas over sovereign immunity and qualified immunity is about exactly this.
In Western countries, the rationale offered for permitting agents of the State to violate otherwise binding laws usually sounds like this: “It’s for the greater good.” That’s a clear admission that as far as our rulers are concerned, their agenda trumps the law: “The needs of the State must come first.” Candid analysis of what’s meant by “the needs of the State” is discouraged. We the Put-Upon are basically told to sit down and shut up.
I don’t expect anyone to find the above an unprecedented illumination of matters previously swathed in shadow. It’s all “previous work” for anyone aware of the degradation of the Republic these past dozen decades. What’s brought it to the top of my thoughts this fine morning is that the privilege expressed above is being asserted by a widening circle of politically connected and influential people. The hypocrisies involved should not escape our scrutiny.
Consider handguns and who is allowed to carry them in public. Hardly any federal officeholder is without a concealed-carry permit. In all probability, their staffers are similarly empowered. But the typical member of that set blanches at the thought of an armed populace. It makes him tremble with fear to imagine all those…commoners equipped with the same tools that he bears as a token of his status. Why, they might take it into their heads that they don’t need him…and what follows.
That behavior is common enough among officeholders that it gets virtually no attention except from us gun nuts. But recently the legions of the politically influential and connected have been behaving similarly and being blatant about it…and not just about handguns.
For some years now, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has been headed by a certain Randi Weingarten. She rose to that position after the retirement of her predecessor, Albert Shanker. Among other things, Shanker is known for making explicit something that was considered unspeakable before him:
“When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”
Weingarten has made it plain that she shares Shanker’s sentiments. She’s been vociferously against any and every educational alternative to government-run, taxpayer-funded public schools, and openly compares those who promote such alternatives to segregationists:
A top teachers union boss cited a far-left smear factory in demonizing the parental rights movement by comparing it to the “Uptown Klans” that opposed the end of racial segregation in the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
“Those same words that you heard in terms of wanting segregation post-Brown v. Board, those same words you hear today,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a podcast interview published Tuesday.
“I was kind of gobsmacked when I was talking to Southern Poverty Law Center, and they showed me the same words, ‘choice,’ ‘parental rights,’ and an attempt to divide parents versus teachers,” Weingarten added. “At that point, it was white parents versus other parents, but it’s the same kind of words.”
That rhetoric is being echoed by regional teachers’ union officials across the land. But recently, a small inconsistency in that position became visible to the public:
The president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is facing backlash after it was recently revealed that she had enrolled her eldest child in a private school.
Stacy Davis Gates – who was elected president of CTU in 2022 and also serves as executive vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers – placed her teenage son in a Catholic high school located in Chicago’s South Side, according to a report by NBC Chicago.
The report, which cited multiple sources and Davis Gates’ own social media posts as confirmation of the enrollment, did not specify the name of Davis Gates’ child or the school he had been enrolled in.
Davis Gates, whose two younger children attend public schools, has voiced strong opposition to private education and school choice in the past. She has also taken a stance against the Illinois Invest in Kids program, which “offers a 75 percent income tax credit to individuals and businesses that contribute to qualified Scholarship Granting Organizations” and “provide[s] scholarships for eligible Illinois students to attend qualified, non-public schools in Illinois.”
So Miss Gates – who’s black, by the way – is opposed to private education for everyone but her own son! She had to double-clutch when that datum became public…and she did:
“You may have seen the recent online attacks against my family and our union related to the school where my eldest child recently enrolled. This story was initiated by a disgruntled former CTU employee with a history of violent incidents who has stalked members of my family and made threats against other CTU members,” Davis Gates claimed.
She couldn’t refute the message, so she attacked the messenger! At least she didn’t try to claim her son’s enrollment is “for the greater good.”
This is how people who believe themselves superior to you and me – they who seek to reduce our choices while preserving and expanding theirs – reveal themselves to us.
I could go on about this and similar behavior, but I think the point will stand. The dyed-in-the-wool statist, whether or not he holds a public office, is all in favor of freedom…for himself. As for you, well, you just don’t know what’s best for you, Citizen! Besides, we’re working for the greater good, and you’re just pursuing your grubby personal interests. So no backtalk! We’ll make the decisions; your role is to obey.
From his writing desk in heaven, Frederic Bastiat is nodding sagely as we speak. And why shouldn’t he? He did tell us so.