Favoritism in public arenas, to include “private” sectors, has as many pitfalls as there are minds which embrace it. While favoritism in one’s private life is a preference that one may embrace as a choice (often involving one’s family and friends), favoritism in public arenas is perilous for it embraces policies and decisions based not on facts but on judgments influenced by money, power, or politics.
Favoritism negates layers of reality, substituting for it preferential treatment. Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush have stated that our closest and most important ally is a small and faraway country in the Middle East. This is a view fully supported by Congress, which funnels massive amounts of military and economic aid to this country. According to our own government, countries geographically closer to us, notably Canada and Mexico, are far less important. More importantly, the United States has focused its resources and legislation on countries in the Middle East at the expense of much closer neighbors and a truly global and balanced vision of the world.
George Washington’s Farewell Address (excerpted below) has clearly been forgotten by generations of elected officials who believe its tenets are no longer viable today – a conclusion that recent events, notably America’s costly wars, have proven demonstrably wrong.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
Favoritism is not limited to foreign policy – it lurks everywhere. It seeks that which is comfortable, pleasing, ingratiating to one’s own partiality. In hiring it may equate to offering a job to someone who looks like oneself or who holds similar political views. In such an environment, hard qualifications are often ignored. Favoritism in law enforcement may mean the difference between being arrested or given a warning. Or, more drastically, the difference between being shot or not.
Favoritism is a personal indulgence that extends to public arenas. It is warm and fuzzy. It nuzzles up to one. It feels good. It blots out reality. Favoritism romps across the room energized by its own self-fulfilling needs. And when the established press reports on favoritism, it does so as cheerleader and as practitioner, endorsing it while bobbing for paychecks and rubbing shoulders with power.
When a country embraces favoritism in foreign policy it develops an Achilles’ heel, causing it to stumble into one quagmire after another. Favoritism for oil companies benefits major corporations while endangering the health and welfare of the people. Favoritism extended to the Military-Industrial Complex provides it with immense resources, creating a kind of modern royal guard that seeks to perpetuate its own existence by exaggerating threats. This royal guard may then be used to preserve the lucrative status quo at all cost.
Favoritism is everywhere. The U.S. government favored the automobile and used public funds for highways instead of diversifying into other modes of transportation, such as high speed rail across the country. Health care is linked to employment, incentivizing corporations to manufacture overseas, breaking the back of unionized labor in America. Some may get cheaper products, but at the expense of America’s working classes.
Favoritism in public arenas has produced so many failures that are ignored by mainstream news, which has a vested interest in the status quo that provides them with legislation that licenses their profit and power and privilege.
To paraphrase Shakespeare in King Lear, Status quo adherents trumpet daily: I grow, I prosper; now gods, stand up for us favorites and favoritism!
Henry Pelifian has worked in both public and private sectors with years in Thailand, Malaysia and Iran. He served in the U.S. Army in South Vietnam and he is a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. He has written two books and a play, THOREAU.
2 thoughts on “Favoritism in Public Arenas Invites Failure”
This analysis demonstrates that, as President Washington observed, favoritism directly produces negative outcomes, many predictable and others unexpected. Favoritism clearly may result in policy disease. It quite closely resembles the faith virus in this respect.
I won’t argue with the general thrust here. However, surely the UK and former enemy Germany are considered more important “allies” than a small (strangely unnamed here) nation in the Middle East. Indeed, if not for the “small” descriptor I would think The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the “ally” being referred to! It was claimed recently they still have 50-100 years’ worth of crude oil under those sands, though I highly doubt it myself. US foreign policy is determined by what benefits the Ruling Class. That makes us “allies” with some genuinely hideous regimes overseas. The favored nations will continue to be those providing the most profitable return on US investments. As has been wisely observed: “The United States has no permanent friends, just permanent interests.”