Thought of the Day: “I Pay Your Salary!”

You know the common canard “I pay your salary!” directed against, say, police officers or teachers? Have you ever considered just how absurd that is?

Let’s say that I have a dispute with a certain public school teacher and I play this card. Well, in the first place, I don’t pay his salary: I pay a small percent of a percent of his salary. More to the point, if I were to try to withhold that percent of a percent, I would go to jail. The fact that my taxes are part of the pool of money from which his salary is drawn gives me absolutely zero leverage over him, because I do not exercise any decision making powers over whether that money goes into the pool or how that pool is used (and the amount wouldn’t be enough to matter even if I did: would you be afraid if your boss threatened to dock your pay a tenth-of-a-cent?).

As he is a public servant (theoretically), what I can do is to examine the candidates who are or intend to be running for the position from which they could theoretically exercise some leverage over this particular teacher (though with the unions they probably won’t have much no matter what) and then cast my vote for the candidate who seems closest to my own view of thinking. If I’m really committed, I can give up a generous portion of my time to try to convince as many other people as I can to do the same.

So, what I should really say is “I can cast a ballot that, if accompanied by several thousand others, might eventually put someone over your head who would at least be inclined to punish you for this!”

You’ll note that that is not really a very good threat. Which is why teachers and other ‘public servants’, by and large, don’t care what any parents or other members of the public have to say.

Being accountable to ‘the public’ is not at all the same thing as being accountable to any particular member of the public. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s