Americans love their titles

For a country formed as a rejection of monarchy and supposedly with an aversion to titles, Americans are far more title-obsessed than Australians. We know our former prime ministers as Mr Hawke, Mr Howard, Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott. In the US they ponce around as President Jimmy Carter, President George HW Bush, President Bill Clinton, President George W Bush and President Obama. That’s so inappropriate – there is only one President of the United States and that happens to be Donald Trump.

That disgraced Senate candidate and sore loser Roy Moore calls himself Judge Roy Moore even though his term on the Alabama Supreme Court ended in April 2017.

And we have various former Secretaries of departments and ambassadors continuing to style themselves as ‘Secretary X’ or ‘Ambassador Y’. So tacky – if you need to parade your former status you have none and certainly no class.

This seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, at least since Harry Truman retired and was referred as Mr Truman. He, by the way, showed great integrity out of office never once using his former office for personal gain. Historian David McCullough recorded

he [Truman] had no income or support of any kind from the federal government other than his Army pension of $112.56 a month. He was provided with no government funds for secretarial help or office space, not a penny of expense money.

Truman himself wrote

I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency.

Not so many of his successors, especially Bill Clinton.

When John Adams and Thomas Jefferson wrote to each other in retirement, it was simply as “Mr Jefferson” and “Mr Adams”.

One of the founding fathers, Thomas Paine, wrote

Dignities and high sounding names have different effects on different beholders. The lustre of the Star and the title of My Lord, over-awe the superstitious vulgar, and forbid them to inquire into the character of the possessor: Nay more, they are, as it were, bewitched to admire in the great, the vices they would honestly condemn in themselves. This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon

Benjamin Franklin wrote on titles that they were

groundless and absurd, but often hurtful to that Posterity, since it is apt to make them proud, disdaining to be employ’d in useful Arts, and thence falling into Poverty, and all the Meannesses, Servility, and Wretchedness attending it; which is the present case with much of what is called the Noblesse in Europe.

During its first session, the US Senate discussed the manner in which first President George Washington should be addressed. One suggestion was His Highness, the President of the United States, and Protector of their Liberties. Others favoured His Elective Majesty or His Excellency.

James Maddison strongly argued against such titles, with Washington himself insisting on the simple Mr President while in office and Mr Washington when retired.

A love of titles is a sign of decline. If Trump genuinely wants America to be great again, he needs to push for a return to earlier values of dignity, stoicism and modesty.

PS: there are some Australians, such as that disgraced former DFAT official, Richard Butler, who have a love of titles Ambassador Butler is his preferred form of address even though Butler hasn’t been an ambassador since the 1980s. Butler embarrassed the Tasmanian Government so much with his drunken antics and shenanigans as Governor of Tasmania that he was sacked. On one occasion he insisted on being upgraded on a Singapore Air flight where he had purchased an economy class ticket for himself and his wife with that pathetic statement

don’t you know who I am?

Don’t get me onto people who like styling themselves as ‘former diplomat’ or ‘career diplomat’. No, no, a thousand times no. They are former public servants or current public servants. One is only a diplomat when actually on a posting, and all Australians – Joe Hockey and other former politicians included – employed at our missions overseas are employed under the Public Service Act 1999. They are thus public servants.

The use of titles is a form of logical fallacy – argumentum ad verecundiam.

About Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

I'm a retired general who occasionally gets called back to save the republic before returning to my plough.
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46 Responses to Americans love their titles

  1. Defender of the faith

    If Trump genuinely wants America to be great again, he needs to push for a return to earlier values of dignity, stoicism and modesty.“ which will be around the time that Steve Kates realised that he lives in Australia.

  2. stackja

    Recurrent cries of “Long Live George Washington” confirmed what his former aide James McHenry had already told him before he left Mount Vernon: “You are now a king under a different name.”
    Read more:

  3. Up The Workers!

    Spot on!

    “One of the founding fathers, Thomas Paine wrote: “…they are, as it were, bewitched to admire in the great, the vices they would honestly condemn in themselves…”

    We can see precisely this phenomenon where the Australian Liars’ Party which convened the disgraceful “Get Pell, Royal Commission”, is Federally led by a cowardly accused child-molesting rapist and aspiring future Prime Minister who only cheated Justice with the corrupt collusion of the “little maaates” brigade.

    The same phenomenon has seen many other indictable offences overlooked or ignored when committed by corrupt members of the Australian Liars’ Party, such as: rorting of Parliamentary allowances; recidivist hoon-driving in the Prime Ministerial vehicle; arson; insurance fraud; procuring prostitutes; procuring drugs; thieving $20 MILLION in Union funds and then being allowed to keep it – tax free; recidivist bribe-taking by Union bosses to “go easy” in EBA negotiations; defrauding Union delegate safety exams; etc., etc.

  4. Zatara

    Americans are far more title-obsessed than Australians.

    Really? You mean not like we Australians who are so shy about such things:

    Field Marshal Sir Thomas Albert Blamey, GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO, ED
    Major General Sir William John Victor Windeyer KBE, CB, DSO & Bar, KC
    Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison AO
    General Sir John Monash, GCMG, KCB, VD
    The Honourable [Charles] Leycester Devenish Meares AC CMG QC
    Sir Percy Claude Spender, KCVO, KBE, QC

    Poster Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, Moron 3rd Class.

  5. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    Rt Hon Zatara AC VC

  6. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    Actually Zatara you’re confusing titles with postnominals. It’s true in Australia that many former military officers maintain a Gen (Ret’d) style but not so for any other public office. We do not see Prime Minister Hawke, or Chief Justice Robert French etc. I do agree that people do like awards and titles including ‘Hon’, although it is notable that Australia (for a brief exception during Tony Abbott) does not have knighthoods or ‘Rt Hon’ title which is standard in our small cousin New Zealand. The current Prime Minister of New Zealand is the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern. In Australia the only two living former politicians with ‘Right Honourable’ are Ian Sinclair and Doug Anthony.

  7. Tom

    More bog-standard anti-Americanism from the NeverTrump left. LQC, perhaps you could post it at a campus newspaper in America — they love stuff from virtue-signalling applause junkies.

  8. Viva

    Even Gough was impressed by the fact that Queensland had a position called Co-ordinator General saying he wanted one as well. And he really needed one!

  9. Chris M

    Yes, like referring to yourself as some historical figure or a retired general. Pompous and delusional.

  10. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    Tom – you really a drawing a long bow to think this article is about Donald Trump. I think you are delusional.

  11. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    Chris M. my name has no titles. If it did it would be His Imperial Highness, Twice Dictator of the Roman Republic. This is simply a name, no titles.

    Could I suggest you argue or support the content of the blog rather than engage in ad hominem attacks. That’s is similar to Tom who chooses to attack me rather than engage with the content.

    If you don’t like it, don’t read it. If you don’t agree with the content just make your argument. But please do not bluster and blather.

  12. Mr Black

    I’m sorry, but how exactly is Roy Moore “disgraced”? Some old ladies with an axe to grind made some ridiculous claims about what may or may not have happened 40 years ago. Can we not just assume claims made by leftist hacks are automatically true?

  13. That disgraced Senate candidate and sore loser Roy Moore

    Oh please do keep up with the news. There have been numerous cases of voter fraud found in the Bammy election. They are now asking the election commission to open a full blown audit. Suits have been filed to preserve votes and electronic machines etc.
    Typical of a leftard, you confuse ACCUSED with disgraced. If that was true, just about every politician is “disgraced”.

    No problem with the gist of your opinions about titles. It has long bemused me that, e.g. The Kenyan is still referred to as Mr President, the Mafia hag is still referred to as Madame Secretary etc.

  14. Pete of Perth

    …. titties. Need new glasses.

  15. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    Moore is disgraced in many ways. But one in particular – he won’t accept the voters’ verdict. He is a nutter who deserves to be put out to pasture. As for him and his wife, Kayla Moore, they are gross hypocrites. Their Foundation for Moral Law espouses strict adherence to the 10 commandments and God’s law. Yet Kayla divorced her first husband. She is committing adultery – the 7th commandment.

  16. Another old bloke

    A few points.

    “Rt Hon” indicates a member of the Privy Council. Since Australians no longer become members of the PC, it’s no surprise that Anthony and Sinclair are the only two survivors.

    In his defence, Whitlam insisted on being addressed as “Mr Whitlam” while he was Australia’s Ambassador to UNESCO whenever he was not on post in Paris. On post he was addressed as “Your Excellency”.

    Finally, LQC, “Rt Hon Zatara, AC, VC” is incorrect. “VC” takes precedence over all other post nominals, as it should.

  17. Baa Humbug
    #2595860, posted on December 29, 2017 at 11:08 am

    That disgraced Senate candidate and sore loser Roy Moore

    Oh please do keep up with the news.

    I should take my own advice. Just today….
    Doug Jones officially declared the winner. Moore still refusing to concede which does make him a sore loser.
    Mea culpa and apologies to LQC

  18. Marcus

    I was struck by Mark Steyn pointing out that it costs less to sustain the British Royal Family for a full year than it took to send the Obamas on vacation, what with all the Secret Service agents, hangers-on and other special requirements that form part of any presidential travel.

    I have no idea if Trump’s looking at that aspect of his presidency or not, but it occurred to me recently that America would probably be a much better run country if the British had won all those years ago. For all the pomp that comes with presidents, senators, representatives and governors the Yanks may as well have not given up the Monarchy after all.

  19. Clam Chowdah

    Don’t get me onto people who like styling themselves as ‘former diplomat’ or ‘career diplomat’. No, no, a thousand times no. They are former public servants or current public servants. One is only a diplomat when actually on a posting, and all Australians – Joe Hockey and other former politicians included – employed at our missions overseas are employed under the Public Service Act 1999. They are thus public servants.

    You had me 100% until this paragraph. That’s a bit parochial. Like saying people can’t say they are former soldiers or ex-cops or whatever. If someone has multiple postings in DFAT, they are career diplomats. The business is diplomacy.

    Now as for 3rd party characterisations of their merits as former diplomats (or any other profession), I’m sure you and others are capable of adding the post-nominal, “wanker”, as you see fit.

    Wanker.

  20. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    Clam, I disagree. People who have had multiple postings for DFAT are public servants. They use the title ‘diplomat’ as a claim to superiority and pretension. We need much less of that.

    The business of diplomacy ended with telecommunications. Today Embassies are ciphers and arguably unnecessary. There are substantial savings to be made in cutting our foreign missions (and I say this as a person who has had several postings).

  21. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    And, Clam, as I mentioned all officers posted overseas (except those from the military) are employed under the Public Service Act 1999. AFP officers are employed under the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 and members of the Army, Navy and Air Force under the Defence Act 1903.

    As for heads of mission, I refer you to section 39 of the Public Service Act 1999 which states

    The appointment of a Head of Mission by the Governor‑General cannot take effect unless the person is an APS employee.

    Hence they are public servants too. And just as well, we wouldn’t want HoMs to think too highly of themselves that they are above being a public servant.

    What this means is that someone like Joe Hockey is appointed as a public servant for the duration of his appointment as Ambassador to the United States.

    That amendment to the Public Service Act, by the way, was a reform by the Hawke Government. Previously HoMs were appointed under section 67 of the Australian Constitution. In those circumstances they could claim not to be public servants, but no more.

  22. Boambee John

    Moore is disgraced in many ways. But one in particular – he won’t accept the voters’ verdict.

    Helllooo Shrillary!!

  23. Adam D

    What about Dr’s? I don’t mind being respectful but the wankers who correct you when you call them Mr “Smith” are the worse

  24. C.L.

    Agree 100 percent re Americans’ stupid use of titles. Moore is not a judge. Andrew Napolitano is not a judge. Etc.

  25. Chris M

    Lucius I quite agree with the thrust of your article, just pointing out it may have some application to the writer also.

    That disgraced Senate candidate and sore loser Roy Moore

    This is were your bias becomes apparent again. The second point may well be true if the election process was all above board, the first point remains a personal opinion. If I tell the media you raped me 40 years ago when I was a little kid you will also become the disgraced Lucius QC.

  26. mh

    If I tell the media you raped me 40 years ago when I was a little kid you will also become the disgraced Lucius QC.

    Quinny raped me, too.

  27. bobby b

    You take it too literally. Here in America, once someone has attained something worthy of a title, that title simply becomes part of his public label.

    A friend of mine is routinely addressed as “Mr. Mayor.” He is no longer a mayor, but by attaining that position at one time, he has earned that label. It is only jarring to someone who does not share our everyday use of language and culture.

    Hell, you people call the most godawful sort of activity “football” and we don’t harp on you about it.

  28. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    Bobby, no he hasn’t earned the title. He could use the title when he was Mayor, but not when he isn’t Mayor. It is an outrageous conceit and you should scold your former mayor friend for his overwheening ego. You’re right about football though.

  29. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    mh it is hard to imagine how I could have raped you forty years ago when we haven’t met and I’ve been dead for 2500 years.

  30. a reader

    Speak for yourself. I like recognising distinguished members of society by titles. Someone like Gustav Nosel or Peter Cosgrove deserve that.

  31. bobby b

    “Bobby, no he hasn’t earned the title.”

    But you’re begging the point. Here, in our society, he HAS earned that title. For life. It’s just the way we do things.

    It’s more a sign of respect for the office than it is respect for the individual. If you were meritorious enough to have attained that office even once long ago, some of its magnificence sticks to you forever.

  32. Chris M

    It’s just the way we do things.

    Yes, that and the flag thing seems like one of those little quirks that every nationality / culture (including ours) has. Certain coloured folk just love to wear uniforms for example, boosts the importance factor no end. Especially with a clutch of medals, ribbons and epaulettes.

    Hillary being Madam Secretary grates though, though she does qualify as a crime boss.

  33. bobby b

    “Hillary being Madam Secretary grates though . . . “

    I will accept, of course, that an individual, by her own great dishonor, can forfeit the right to the honorary title that she would otherwise enjoy.

    😉

  34. Empire

    The business of diplomacy ended with telecommunications. Today Embassies are ciphers and arguably unnecessary. There are substantial savings to be made in cutting our foreign missions (and I say this as a person who has had several postings)

    There was a bloke by the name of Samuel J who used to post a lot of stuff here on DFAT and Australia’s diplomatic service. For example:

    http://catallaxyfiles.com/2013/09/23/three-australian-ambassadors-in-paris/
    http://catallaxyfiles.com/2011/11/07/australias-diplomatic-service/

    IIRC Chowdah wasn’t a fan of him either. Whatever happened to poster Samuel J?

  35. stackja

    Empire we were told Sam went because his employer didn’t allow blogging.

  36. Empire

    Empire we were told Sam went because his employer didn’t allow blogging.

    Thanks Stack. Rings a bell.

    Commonwealth public servant snared by Abbott666’s ban on public employees subverting the government?

  37. Clam Chowdah

    LQC, I think you are being unnecessarily petty on this one. Perhaps you are too close to it?

  38. Clam Chowdah

    The appointment of a Head of Mission by the Governor‑General cannot take effect unless the person is an APS employee.

    Yes indeed but to define them solely by the technicality of their appointment as a functionary (rather than their actual role) is a very Bolshevik approach to life. What an unusual taxonomy!

  39. Shan't

    Clam , his choice of an obscure roman republican saviour of the state as his avatar is more reassuring than had he chosen a more confronting vainglorious moniker like Napoleon ,Wellington ,Julius Caesar or even Captain Bligh.
    Normally you can expect that a few years of secondary school Latin will leave the victim with at least a rudimentary sense of ordered thought & analysis , I have tried reading his article & for the life of me I just can’t work out the point he is trying to make unless it is to impress lesser minds by showing the ability to google.
    The US is after all a very different country to Oz with a different evolution in its history, government, economy & politics, so why his diatribe about whether various labels in the US are truly deserved or not by some public individuals?…to me the most relevant & unmentioned point is that the US has snagged our former title of the lucky country, by showing the ability to bring to power an individual like Trump, from outside of the usual closed union shop of professional policians , & whose actions of renewal are much more deserving of the moniker of Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus than the soi-disant version we have here.
    So is our local LQC just an elaborate amusing charade or just clickbait ?

  40. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    My dear Clam, with the greatest of respect I think you are being a little defensive of public servants calling themselves diplomats.

    From your last comment you seem to suggest that every public servant – except so-called diplomats – are functionaries. Yet so are DFAT officers on a posting – they are functionaries.

    As to the artificial distinction – they perform the jobs of diplomats and therefore should be called diplomats: that could apply to any job in the public service.

    So should Treasury officials be called economists rather than public servants?
    Should ATO employees be called tax agents rather than public servants?
    Should Defence public servants be called Defence assets rather than public servants?
    Should PM&C officials be called Cabinet officers rather than public servants?
    Should Human Services officials be called Mental Health and Welfare officers rather than public servants?
    Should Attorney-General’s officials be called legal officers rather than public servants?

    And so forth. You can’t say that there is something fundamentally special about being a DFAT public servant that allows one to bath in the glory of being designated a diplomat without allowing similar pretensions for public servants working at other departments.

    In my view they are all public servants. They are all functionaries.

    One of the reasons that HoMs must be public servants is to get at the previous pretence that they work for the Governor-General not the government of the day. The Public Service Act 1999 makes clear that all public servants – including HoMs and other overseas officials – work for the government of the day.

  41. Another old bloke

    LQC,

    There were diplomats before there were “public servants”, however defined.

  42. Clam Chowdah

    My god, what a petty bastard.

  43. Clam Chowdah

    Passed over for SES?

  44. Boris

    Moore is disgraced in many ways.

    It quite sure he is disgraced but one quote from his wife (quoted by Steyn) decided it for me. Refuting an allegation of bigotry she said that one of their attorney is j&ish.

    Yet part of me regrets that he was not elected because in the senate he could be such an entertiner! Maybe Alabama voters don’t have the same sense of humor.

  45. Boris

    Meant to say I am not sure he is disgraced. Usually we say someone is disgraced when this is a near universal feeling. Yet close to 50% voted for him. He seems to be a moron though. HRC has not challenged the election result. But even if she did, this does not justify similar behavior by anyone else.

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