Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Guess Who has a sense of entitlement?

Business Times - 27 Apr 2007


A misguided sense of entitlement


When it comes to criticising the 'entitled', American conservatives seemed to have gone out of their way in bashing the 'elites' and 'bureaucrats' who manage supranational institutions

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

A FAVOURITE target for criticism by American conservative intellectuals, both of the neo and paleo persuasion, has been the notion that certain social groups feel that they are 'entitled'.

Among the examples they cite, are African Americans and women who are entitled to special preferences in admission to colleges and government jobs as stipulated by the affirmative-action legislations; members of the non-elected intellectual elites, in particular journalists (the 'media elite') and academics, who are (supposedly) entitled to pass judgment on and influence public policy; or 'do-gooders' on the political left, like environmentalists, feminists and civil rights activists who believe that they are entitled to reshape society based on their specific agendas.

According to such conservatives, the power to make policy decisions, create wealth and influence social morality should remain in the hands of elected representatives of the people, members of the productive business community, and those who occupy traditional centres of political and moral authority, like religious figures, leading educators and 'elder statesmen'.

In particular, when it comes to criticising the 'entitled', American conservatives seemed to have gone out of their way in bashing the 'elites' and 'bureaucrats' who manage supranational institutions - such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the European Union.

Here we have international institutions over which citizens of national communities do not have any effect but that at the same time extract most of their financial resources from the tax-money that these same powerless citizens (especially in the West contribute), the critics argue.

Members of this high-paid and jet-setting cosmopolitan class who are entitled to make decisions and get financially rewarded for these services are elected by no one and are therefore not bound by any commitment to the 'people', as they attempt to promote policies that reflect their own institutional and ideological biases, argue the conservative critics.

Indeed, they have even called for abolishing these institutions or demanded that they be reformed by shifting more power in making policies to the national communities that these entitled 'elites' are supposed to serve.

So after years in which conservative lawmakers and officials, not to mention their counterparts in think tanks and the media, have been granted the influence and some real power to transform legislation and policies made in Washington, including during the last six years of the administration of President George W Bush, one would have assumed that much of that sense of 'entitlement' has ceased to be a prevail in the US capital, that non-elected bureaucrats and intellectuals have become more responsive to the pressures from the 'people', that traditional sense of morality, 'duty' and 'honour' as opposed to 'entitlement' predominates politics and policy here.

More importantly, we must expect no less than that from conservative intellectuals who recognise that they are not 'entitled' to high-paying jobs in government or (god forbid!) in those parasitic supranational institutions, such as the World Bank.

Yeah right! It's not that the Republican Revolution and the conservative campaigns have done little to change the atmosphere in Washington.

In many respects, if there is one common denominator that seems to tie together the politics and the policies of the intellectual and political right it is their sense of entitlement.

The influence of the 'tree huggers' may have diminished in recent years, but at the same time a gigantic alliance of lobbying organisations, interest groups, and political fronts that represent defence contractors, business groups, religious movements, and foreign interests have taken over much of the policy process in Washington.

And they seem confident that they are 'entitled' to more assistance, protection, and money, (a lot of money, that is, from the American taxpayers) either through direct transfers or various tax-loopholes - to win another contract in 'rebuilding' Iraq, to get protection from foreign competition, to receive subsidies for 'faith-based' services, and to fan 'colour' revolutions against the latest foreign bogeyman.

The many corruption cases involving Republican politicians and lobbyists are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the way that conservative critics after coming to power demonstrated their belief that they are entitled to a lot, even if that means violating the law.

In fact, the mansions that have been built in recent years in the suburbs around Washington are a testimony to all the gold mines that the new crop of the 'entitled', led by the government contractors have discovered in the form of the billions of dollars that America has been spending on the war on terror.

And now come the two dramatic and yet pathetic cases of the 'entitled' persons. They are represented, first, by the incompetent Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who despite harsh criticism from his own party over the ineffective and apparently unethical management of the Justice Department refuses to leave behind the power and the money that his job entitles him and to return to work in the more productive private sector.

Then there is Paul Wolfowitz, who has spent much of his professional career, leaping from one government job to another, including his most recent one as deputy to the defence secretary in which he helped draw the United States into a bloody and costly war, and as a reward landed as head of one of those international aid organisations, that conservatives revile.

In the process he apparently lobbied for lucrative jobs and financial rewards for his lover and other political lackeys. And now after caught engaging in unethical conduct, rejects calls for his resignation. Just what you would expect from an 'entitled' person.

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved

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