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February 15, 2013

Lady Pelosi: Cutting Congressional Pay Would Reduce the "Dignity" of the House of Lords, I Mean, Citizen Legislators

I wrote yesterday about the transfer of power between Lautenberg and Booker, cracking that a smooth transfer of noble power had been executed, with the Signet Ring and Senatorial Scepter to be formally transferred at St. John's sometime round next Hallows.

Nancy Pelosi helps make this point.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she opposes a cut in congressional pay because it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers' jobs.

"I don't think we should do it; I think we should respect the work we do," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "I think it's necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded."

Several points on the words used:

"Respect." She insists, straight off, on respect. Respect is, in a democratic, egalitarian system, not demanded and not owed due to status, but rather freely conferred due to achievement. Lady Pelosi demands "respect" not for Congress' performance -- the threat of a pay cut arises entirely due to its failure to perform -- but simply because the Status of Congressmen grants it.

It doesn't. Not in America.

"We." "I think we should respect the work we do." I can't help but note that this first "we" in this sentence, first person plural, is being used in a rather odd sense, second personal plural, you. That's not the same use as the Royal We, but we have seen these games with pronouns before, and We Are Not Amused.

"It's necessary." Aristocrats are fond of conceiving of their unearned and unwarranted privilege as being "necessary" for the smooth functioning of society; when their privileges are questioned, they don't say "But I like my unearned privileges," they instead claim that their privileges somehow better the lives of the peons. You see, they're not being selfish; they're thinking of the soft-brained illiterates on whose behalf they labor so heroically.

The lower lot, you see, need the structure of a society with firm strata so they can know their place. And thus they need those in the upper strata to have these privileges. It's necessary. She's just thinking about the common man, you know. That's all Lady Nancy ever thinks about.

"Dignity." Dignity is related to dignified, which expressly once meant-- and still does mean -- "having the air of a dignity," that is, of a worthy person whose worthiness is conferred by official position within a society.

And "dignity" itself comes from the feudal system:

early 13c., from Old French dignite "dignity, privilege, honor," from Latin dignitatem (nom. dignitas) "worthiness," from dignus "worth (n.), worthy, proper, fitting"

And while I can't prove the etymology, I'd posit dignity is related to the word "distinction" -- as in a badge of honor (as given on the battlefield) or, in the case of the nobility, the social investiture of superiority in a class.

"Rewarded." But you haven't been "rewarded" a perpetual gift; you've instead been hired for a job, a job in which the employers may see fit to increase and -- note this well -- decrease your compensation, depending on your performance. Lady Nancy, however, sees it as the former.

It should be noted that in previous centuries offices were purchased and carried with them benefits. For example, a rich-but-untitled nobleman in France could purchase some office -- say, Postal Inspector General -- and that office carried with it certain privileges otherwise restricted to the nobility.

This idea of perpetual gifts -- once Knighted, you cannot be unknighted, short of treason -- is entirely anti-American. We do not "reward" our civil servants, as Louis Capet did, with permanent social position and "dignities." We give them jobs -- at which they serve at our pleasure -- with the terms of employment changeable by the employer.

This is exactly what distinguishes a class position from a job -- you can lose your job, you can have your pay cut. You are not entitled to the job; you haven't been rewarded it, you've been hired for a hitch.

It is necessary for social fluidity that not only can people advance in status, but that they can also decline in status. If a status, once attained, cannot be lost -- even for nonperformance of the job that brought it -- then it's not a job, it's a 17th-century royal office sold on the open market to the second sons of noblemen, like a colonelcy.

Back in the day, the military office of colonel was in fact freely sold. One bought a "colonelcy." The aristocrat just had to pay the crown and pay to equip the troops under his command, and bang, with no actual military background or ability to lead men into battle, he became a colonel. With all the "dignities" that office came with.

Conservatives are the retrograde ones? And Lady Pelosi, pronouncing upon her dignities, rewards, and Right to Rule, is the progressive?

Pull the other one.

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posted by Ace at 01:27 PM

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