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Special Privilege Groups

The granting of special privileges and immunities by government to favored groups harms the public interest. Staff

April 28, 2024

Public Interest, Corruption

In their book Free To Choose, Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman documented from detailed analysis:

  • “A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome— ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality. Though a by-product of freedom, greater equality is not an accident. A free society releases the energies and abilities of people to pursue their own objectives. It prevents some people from arbitrarily suppressing others. It does not prevent some people from achieving positions of privilege, but so long as freedom is maintained, it prevents those positions of privilege from becoming institutionalized; they are subject to continued attack by other able, ambitious people. Freedom means diversity but also mobility. It preserves the opportunity for today's disadvantaged to become tomorrow's privileged and, in the process, enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a fuller and richer life.”[1]

They wrote that rather than achieving “equity” or “equality,” redistribution schemes have created new privileged classes, including bureaucrats, trade unionists, and those who evade regulations or benefit from government largesse:

  • “Since the end of World War II, British domestic policy has been dominated by the search for greater equality of outcome. Measure after measure has been adopted designed to take from the rich and give to the poor. Taxes were raised on income until they reached a top rate of 98 percent on property income and 83 percent on ‘earned’ income, and were supplemented by ever heavier taxes on inheritances. State-provided medical, housing, and other welfare services were greatly expanded, along with payments to the unemployed and the aged. Unfortunately, the results have been very different from those that were intended by the people who were quite properly offended by the class structure that dominated Britain for centuries. There has been a vast redistribution of wealth, but the end result is not an equitable distribution.

  • “Instead, new classes of privileged have been created to replace or supplement the old: the bureaucrats, secure in their jobs, protected against inflation both when they work and when they retire; the trade unions that profess to represent the most downtrodden workers but in fact consist of the highest paid laborers in the land—the aristocrats of the labor movement; and the new millionaires—people who have been cleverest at finding ways around the laws, the rules, the regulations that have poured from Parliament and the bureaucracy, who have found ways to avoid paying taxes on their income and to get their wealth overseas beyond the grasp of the tax collectors. A vast reshuffling of income and wealth, yes; greater equity, hardly.

  • “The drive for equality in Britain failed, not because the wrong measures were adopted—though some no doubt were; not because they were badly administered—though some no doubt were; not because the wrong people administered them—though no doubt some did. The drive for equality failed for a much more fundamental reason. It went against one of the most basic instincts of all human beings. In the words of Adam Smith, ‘The uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition’...” [2]

Several “special privilege groups” were identified by the Friedmans. In demanding special privileges for themselves imposed on others through government force, these groups engage in exploitation and oppression of others. These groups include:

1. Private Trade Unions. The Friedmans observed that unions and trade associations have achieved “special privileges and immunities” granted by government to the detriment of others:

  • “Unions and comparable groups such as the professional associations have not relied on strictly voluntary activities and membership with respect to their major proclaimed objective—improving the wages of their members. They have succeeded in getting government to grant them special privileges and immunities, which have enabled them to benefit some of their members and officials at the expense of other workers and all consumers. In the main, the persons benefited have had decidedly higher incomes than the persons harmed.”[3]

2. Government and Teachers Unions. The problems of coercion and privilege are heightened for government unions, especially teachers unions. In addition to special coercive privileges received by unions generally, teachers unions benefit from special privileges to attempt to control school curricula and policies, to the detriment of students, parents, and society. Teachers unions have at times have attempted to dictate broader matters of public policy through coercive demands, subverting the democratic process.

3. Government bureaucrats. Because government wages are not determined by productivity or value of work product, waste and excess are not merely consequences of poor decisions or the wrong people, but an inevitability of the system. Dr. and Mrs. Friedman wrote:

  • “The Theory of Bureaucratic Displacement that Dr. Max Gammon had developed after studying the British National Health Service: in his words, in ‘a bureaucratic system . . . increase in expenditure will be matched by fall in production. . . . Such systems will act rather like `black holes' in the economic universe, simultaneously sucking in resources, and shrinking in terms of `emitted' production…’"

  • “Dr. Gammon was led by his survey to promulgate what he calls a theory of bureaucratic displacement: the more bureaucratic an organization, the greater the extent to which useless work tends to displace useful work.”[4]

Increasingly, benefits for government bureaucrats in many fields have outstripped pay in the private sector. James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation wrote in 2010:

  • Salaries and benefits—for identical jobs—are 30 percent to 40 percent higher in the federal government than in the private sector. Claims that this dramatic discrepancy in compensation is warranted because of government workers’ high skills are unjustified, as this study shows. Equally unjustified is the fact that federal workers can rarely be fired, no matter how poor their job performance…

  • “The federal pay system gives the average federal employee hourly cash earnings 22 percent above the average private worker’s, controlling for observable skills and characteristics.

  • “Including non-cash benefits adds to this disparity. The average private-sector employer pays $9,882 per employee in annual benefits, while the federal government pays an average of $32,115 per employee.

  • “Overall, controlling for other factors, federal employees earn approximately 30 percent to 40 percent more in total compensation (wages and benefits) than comparable private-sector workers. Federal employees enjoy job security irrespective of the state of the economy…
    “In the private sector, it is productivity that determines workers’ pay…In lieu of paying on the basis of productivity, the federal government determines pay through wage formulas set by Congress…In practice, government wages frequently bear little resemblance to market pay.”[5]

The public not only receives reduced productivity from government bureaucracies below the level of comparable private-sector workers, but it pays a premium above private sector rates.

Whereas private employers have overwhelmingly shifted to 401k or other retirement plans in which benefit growth depends on market conditions, government employees typically receive defined benefit retirement plans guaranteeing a percentage of their highest annual wages for life. In the private sector, these plans are typically available only for the rich or for special privilege groups. These promises to government employees are not funded by wise saving and investment of tax funds, but represent underfunded or unfunded mandates posing burdens to future taxpayers.

In public discourse, one side often frames government workers as selfless public servants seeking the general welfare, whereas the other frames them as hostile to the public. Neither of these is correct. Dr. Thomas Sowell observed that while many actions of government agencies and officials make little sense when viewed through the lens of public good, they are more readily understood as acts of self-interest responding to the system’s incentives. Government workers, like other individuals and groups, respond to incentives and are primarily motivated by their own interest. There is no evidence that government employees are more beneficent or less self private sector employees. Of the two, government poses far greater dangers of abuse because of its ability to use coercive force to achieve its ends.

4. Media. American press comprise a special interest group receiving special government privileges and immunities. The 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan provides media outlets with legal immunity from accountability for false and libelous claims against public officials, however false and misleading, unless they can be shown to have acted with “actual malice.” Instead of the prior standard requiring straightforward documentation of factual inaccuracies which caused harm, NYT vs. Sullivan requires evidence of intent and deliberative process which is rarely if ever available to prove “actual malice” with “convincing clarity.” The result has been virtual impunity of media to push falsehoods and disinformation against unfavored political figures and programs, degrading public discourse and adversely affecting the democratic process.

Dr. Thomas Sowell observed that media disinformation degrades election integrity and experiences littlel accountability. It is only this near-blanket immunity of news sources which prevents actionable challenges to pervasive political disinformation. The $787-million Dominion Voting Systems vs Fox News Network was possible only because Dominion was not a government official or agency. Such disinformation is rife from news sources across the political spectrum. In 1986, distinguished professor Richard Epstein wrote for the University of Chicago Law Review that “in its institutional sense, New York Times v. Sullivan was wrongly decided.”[6]

Media power has been concentrated in a relatively few organizations nationwide with vast discretion to spread politically motivated disinformation with accountability to facts or fairness. One analysis found that by 2012, six corporations controlled over 90% of American media, down from 50 companies in 1983.[7]Most of these outlets parrot a common narrative in service of a partisan agenda. The New York Times v. Sullivan decision incentivizes takeover of media outlets as mouthpieces of partisan propaganda by partisan propaganda by overriding prior common law with special immunity privileges for news organizations.

5. Big Tech. Major technology companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook, and others have received special government immunities under Section 230. While representing prominent news sources for many and acting functionally as de facto public utilities with dominant market share, these companies have vast ability to censor and control internet traffic to posts and websites. Nonetheless, they have experienced little if any accountability for exercising and often allegedly arbitrary discretion. Critics have alleged that Section 230 allows Big Tech immunity to act like a publisher in determining which content to allow and promote and which to censor or throttle, while avoiding any of the accountability that other publishers face. In 2023, the Supreme Court made a limited ruling leaving Section 230 intact regarding a specific question but retained the opportunity for further litigation. Bipartisan US Senators have observed that the immunities granted to Big Tech by Section 230 are excessively broad and need legislative reform.[8] New York Post contributor Miranda Devine wrote:

In the report “41 Times Google Has Interfered in US Elections Since 2008,” Media Research Center analysts Gabriela Pariseau and Dan Schneider documented numerous examples arising from extensive research. They observed:

  • “For 16 years, Google has utilized its power to help push to electoral victory the most liberal candidates, regardless of party, while targeting their opponents for censorship…

  • “Data scientist and research psychologist Dr. Epstein reviewed his findings during a 2019 congressional hearing. ‘In 2016 Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that shifted at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton, whom I supported,’ he said…

  • “For 16 years Google has done its part to interfere in elections, helping push its favored radical Democrat candidates while attempting to discredit those who are in the way…

  • “In many of the cases listed above, Google either admitted that it had made errors or attempted to downplay studies and reports critical of its actions. But neither defense explains why Google’s election interference always seems to go in one direction: favoring the radical left at the expense of the right. When so-called mistakes and allegedly flawed methodologies consistently point to the same radical political preferences, Google makes it easy for Americans to conclude that the tech giant has rigged its policies, and as a result the American political system. ”[10]

Google, Facebook, and Apple are all headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most politically radical leftist areas in the United Statesand far out of touch with mainstream America.

6. Non-governmental Organizations. Various special interest groups have received special privileges to influence policy through “seats at the table” with elected officials and government agencies, despite that these organizations are unelected and have no accountability to the public. Some have been alleged to be beholden to partisan agendas rather than public interest and to spread hate instead of countering it.[11]

Hussain Abdul-Hussain of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote that “the Biden administration was consulting with violent antisemites on the best ways to counter antisemitism.”[12] Only after Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) director Nihad Awad praised Hamas’ October 7, 2023 terrorist attacks on Israel[13] did the Biden administration discontinue partnership with the organization.

CAIR was previously named as an unindicted co-conspirator in terrorism by the US Justice Department and its origin as a “product of a Hamas support network in the United States.”[14] The Anti-Defamation League notes that CAIR and its leaders have long records of antisemitic hate.[15] CAIR and Hamas both originated as arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, a designated terrorist organization in Egypt and various other countries.

The New York Times documented in 2007 that CAIR was not a grassroots community organization, but received funding and direction from “donors closely identified with wealthy Persian Gulf governments.”[16] The Times documents that CAIR was invited to conduct forums in the Pelosi-lead US House of Representatives, over the objections of House members who described CAIR representatives as “terrorist apologists.” CAIR has been described as acting as the propaganda arm of Hamas and has pushed the narrative of “Islamophobia,” even while refusing to condemn Islamic terrorism. Yet this organization had a prominent seat at the table in the Obama and Biden administration, influencing various policies.

Other NGOs with troubled records of partisan extremism, opaque structure, “dark money” and foreign funding, among other issues, have received privileged influence as “community partners” on government policies with no accountability to the electorate.


[1] Friedman, Milton and Rose. Free To Choose. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. Pp. 148-149.

[2] Friedman, Milton and Rose. Free To Choose. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980, 144.

[3] Friedman, Milton and Rose. Free To Choose. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980, 242-243.

[4] Friedman, Milton and Rose. Free To Choose. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. pp. 114, 155. Referencing Max Gammon, Health and Security: Report on Public Provision for

Medical Care in Great Britain (London: St. Michael's Organization,

December 1976), 27.

[5] Sherk, James. "Inflated Federal Pay: How Americans Are Overtaxed to Overpay the Civil Service." Heritage Foundation, July 7, 2010.

[6] Richard A. Epstein, "Was New York Times v. Sullivan Wrong?," 53. University of Chicago Law Review 782 (1986).

[7] Lutz, Ashley. These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America.” Business Insider, June 14, 2012.

[8] Fung, Brian. “Senators warn Big Tech on Section 230: ‘Reform is coming.’” CNN, March 8, 2023.

[9] Devine, Miranda. "Pro-Joe Biden bias is algorithm-deep: Google’s search-&-destroy agenda." New York Post, September 27, 2023.

[10] Pariseau, Gabriela and Dan Schneider. “41 Times Google Has Interfered in US Elections Since 2008.” Media Research Center, 2024.

[11] "Grassley & Lankford Demand FBI Stop Using Biased Nonprofit As Source For Investigations." October 12, 2023.

[12] Abdul-Hussain, Hussain. "The White House partnered with CAIR to fight antisemitism — despite its antisemitism." Foundation for Defense of Democracies, December 8, 2023.

[13] Deutch, Gabby. "CAIR executive director ‘happy to see’ Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack." Jewish Insider, December 7, 2023.

[14] "DOJ: CAIR's Unindicted Co-Conspirator Status Legit." Investigative Project on Terrorism, March 12, 2010.

[15] “The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)." Anti-Defamation League, Published August 21, 2015, updated July 18, 2023.

[16] MacFarquhar, Neil. "Scrutiny Increases for a Group Advocating for Muslims in U.S." New York Times, March 14, 2007.

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