Posts Tagged ‘Privilege’

Timothy Geithner has taken heat this week over his suggestion that tax policy toward upper income Americans reflect the “privilege” of being an American–namely, that these people pay a greater percentage of their income in federal taxes.  While the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal is best left undisturbed for fear of some frightening monster baring its gruesome fangs, Lawrence Lindsey’s piece appearing today, “Geithner and the ‘Privilege’ of Being American,” begs to be swatted out of the park.

The roots of the word privilege extend very deep, but in modern times its definition intersects very squarely with that of “right.”  In fact a privilege is synonymous with a right except that a privilege often goes:

beyond the usual rights or advantages of others; spec.  (a) an exemption from a normal duty, liability, etc.;  (b) enjoyment of some benefit (as wealth, education, standard of living, etc.) above the average or that deemed usual or necessary for a particular group [OED]


For those who may need more explanation of the validity and “constitutionality” of Geithner’s use of the term (I have Mr. Lindsey in mind), it is entirely self-evident that to be American is an immense advantage compared with being a citizen of any other nation on Earth.  I would assume Mr. Lindsey would not disagree with this.  To pull back the last curtain on his sophistry, I draw the reader’s attention to the fact that the definition of privilege is not concerned with the granting authority of the privilege, or that there even be a granting authority.  In conclusion: to be an American at the present is the very definition of privilege.  For those stuck on the idea of there being an entity to bequeath a privilege, I suggest that this is accomplished by the American people in concert with its government.

Under this system of a government by and for the people, being an American is the ultimate privilege.  Take it or leave it, Mr. Lindsey.


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