An Aristocracy of Incompetence
Today's liberal leaders have divested themselves of the responsibilities of duty and prudence, resulting in an aristocracy of incompetence. Liberal vanity and fondness for central direction, ends justifying means, unbridled experimentation, tactics and the political warfare of cracking eggs for an omelet have resulted in widespread political irresponsibility. The good concept of a duty owed to the electorate no longer underpins the Democratic Party, apparently unnecessary to its dreamy march toward technocratic monarchy. As with prior aristocratic governance, the governing liberal has quickly ditched responsibilities, the same responsibilities he adamantly requires of his subjects. Consider these double standards.
The Obama SEC plans to pursue fraud charges against Moody's and S&P for apparently incorrect debt ratings and inadequate investment research, while at the same time the President gets away with a joke about wasting billions of our tax dollars on "shovel ready" opportunities that never existed. Like the rating agencies, Mr. Obama was paid and painted a rosy picture, but assuredly did less research.
Likewise, Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes Oxley required ever higher policing of conflicts of interest by corporate directors and advisors, yet Rep. Frank appointed his boyfriend to a position with a company Frank regulated and Rep.Waters allegedly steered federal funds to a bank her husband owned.
Finally, channeling the unthinking relativism of a public school world cultures teacher, feminists broadly supported Anthony Weiner, reasoning that "progressives and women need Rep. Weiner in the House." Surely feminists don't seek, and in their words "need," a man who casts off marital vows and instrumentalizes women as part of a uniquely weird and apparently hairless narcissism (or nair-cissism). Such a "need" suggests feminists have abandoned love and marital self-giving, and embraced self-loathing and even self-destruction. Although facing only a flimsy accusation, Clarence Thomas would have welcomed kamikaze defenders such as these.
How do research mistakes constitute fraud for the rating agencies but a laughable mistake for the President? Why is corporate America subject to the highest conflict of interest scrutiny and Reps. Frank and Waters can violate the lowest standards of integrity? How can a creepy pervert be glossed over as a "need" for women and private matter, when he would rightly be ostracized in any workplace or neighborhood in America?
What's wrong here is not new and should have been taught to President Obama, Barney Frank and Maxine Waters by their parents. A millennium ago St. Thomas Aquinas explained that a bad action cannot be justified by a good intention, that the end does not justify the means. Like the private sector, public actors should answer for their bad actions.
As with all liberal races to the bottom, disorder that that is initially tolerated quickly becomes sought after and common. In an instant, and like junkies in need of a fix, today's liberal aristocracy has embraced intention-cloaked incompetence as a respectable explanation for each failure, avoiding accountability and substantially lowering the bar for quality public service.
Consider Nancy Pelosi's explanation of her failure to connect the dots on waterboarding. Despite other committee members' clear recollections of the disclosure of enhanced interrogation techniques, Ms. Pelosi claims to have heard no such thing at the same meetings. Deaf, daydreaming, dumb, whatever --incompetence-based explanations are apparently acceptable; just don't call her a liar. Pelosi was lying, but banking on incompetence, clearly of the opinion that indefensible lying is a disqualifier but incompetence no problem. Did Pelosi detail her low standards while campaigning?
Unsurprisingly, the Obama Administration sets the pace with its recent suggestion that although the executive branch briefed Congress about Operation Fast and Furious' lethal gun-running, the Attorney General remained unaware. Such an explanation can satisfy if and only if incompetence is deemed acceptable. In full disclosure, candidate Obama should have identified incompetence as a major leg of the hope and change stool. That he did not stinks.
An aristocracy of incompetence exists and has flourished, in which a self-crowned ruling class plays by different rules, rules that reflect their dim view of voters. This system of double standards must attract a very different person, one looking for an angle and a low path. Different because no mature or thoughtful person would be drawn to a scenario in which their standards might be lowered, ethics diluted or personal disorder increased. This aristocratic opportunity then attracts an already irresponsible and vain sort.
How do we raise the bar, insist on responsibility and real effort and upgrade the political talent pool? Back in the day, inbreeding made easy the task of identifying aristocratic boobs. Thankfully inbreeding has waned, but the boobs still find their way into office. Although more difficult, aristocratic weeding out is still critically important, as irresponsibility is no defense for shoddy work or unethical behavior.
Of the Pharisees, the wisest man once cautioned to do as they say, not as they do. Perhaps the right tact is to ignore the aristocratically incompetent completely now, and more importantly in the voting booth. This is an obvious solution and one that is time-bound by election cycles. There may also be available a more immediate answer.
The elected's sworn goal of public service should heighten, not lessen, his responsibility. As a result, there is no reason penalties applicable to private sector conduct should not also apply to public officials. We could apply the prudent man standard and a standard of fiduciary duty to these ne'er-do-wells, both of which standards are used regularly in the private sector.
Prudence and duty require higher minimum standards than just the low bar of crime. If a public sector actor violated these standards, as in the private sector, corrective penalties would apply. These penalties would range from a public censure, to cease and desist orders, temporary or permanent bars from public service (yes, immediately) and even financial penalties in the case of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
It is a revealing sign of the widely disparate treatment currently applied to public and private actors that censure by colleagues is regarded as a strict penalty for a congressman, but is one of the lightest used on stockbrokers. Importantly, applying prudence and duty standards would not penalize bad results resulting from good faith or diligent efforts, but would certainly penalize the "joke" of shovel ready jobs, blatant conflicts of interest and constructive perjury.
Today's liberal aristocrats have divested themselves of the responsibilities of duty and prudence, resulting in an aristocracy of incompetence. We, the electorate, are not obligated to stand idly by. We have our votes, and, more proactively we have at our disposal proven tools from the private sector. We should apply them. We are, after all, Americans and don't have to eat cake.