When Congress passes legislation that “excludes” certain groups or people from compliance with otherwise-universal legislation, isn’t this the granting of a special entitlement or immunity to a select “nobility”?
By Jack Beavers
Nobility is defined as a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges than members of most other classes in a society. The privileges associated with nobility are special advantages over or relative to non-nobles. Americans often think we have moved beyond the era of a nobility class, but such privileges have simply taken another form in our nation.
A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state to a select group. (A privilege contrasts with a right which is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all people from the moment of birth.) One of the objectives of the French Revolution was the abolition of privilege, by subjecting everyone to the same laws rather than preserving separate laws for different social classes (i.e., nobility, clergy, and the common people). This same objective in part fueled our country’s own revolt against the English Crown.
In the past, membership in the nobility and the prerogatives thereof were regulated or acknowledged by the government, thereby distinguishing nobility from other sectors of a nation’s upper class. Usually privileges were granted by the government to those who possessed a specific title, office, or estate. In its strictest sense, nobility is an acknowledged supremacy, and the English government was dominated by nobility until the middle of the 19th century.
Since the framers of our Constitution had lived under English law and experienced first-hand the consequences of the government’s granting of privileges to nobility, Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution specifically abolishes the establishment, acknowledgement and/or regulation of nobility by the US federal government.
“No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” – Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 9.
Knowing this is in our Constitution, what must we conclude when the US Congress passes legislation that “excludes” certain groups or people from compliance with otherwise-universal legislation? Isn’t this the granting of a special entitlement or immunity to a select “nobility”? Perhaps the privileges of nobility have simply taken another form in our own nation. Consider, for example, the volumes of special “privileges” granted in Obamacare to select people, unions, corporations, etc., exempting them from full compliance with the law. Are the new nobility simply those who have special connections to our elected officials, whether through friendship or campaign contributions?
While nobility may have changed its name, we cannot help but conclude that much of our legislation today contains the privileges and immunities of nobility without the official titles. How can laws be constitutional which establish these kinds of immunities simply by ignoring the official title? Surely we are just obeying the letter, but not the spirit of Article I, Section 9. How much of our current legislation would stand, however, if we stripped it of these special privileges? Too often, sadly, it is exactly these privileges and exemptions that push new legislation through. If all Americans were equally subject to the laws of our land, what a different America this would be.
Jack T. Beavers is an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Consultant with a BS in Chemical Engineering (BSChE), a Professional Engineering (PE) license, a Certification in Business Management (CBM), and a Certification as an Internal Control Specialist (CICS). He has previously held a Certification as an ISO-9000 Internal Auditor – and his work history includes Enterprise Risk Assessment responsibilities as a Manager of Internal Audit. Please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CJS Forum seeks to promote an open exchange of ideas about the relationship between faith, culture, law and public policy. While all the articles are original and written especially for the CJS Forum, they do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for a Just Society.
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