Discriminatory public awards
Automatic entitlement to public honours
Many countries have systems for recognizing the achievements of citizens and making some form of public award or bestowing an honour. These systems can be highly discriminatory, awarding only those in favour with the government or the establishment. They can also be automatic when they are an expected reward to public servants for years of unquestioning service. The latter practice discourages civil servants from challenging dubious policies.
In the UK, for example, honours (including knighthoods) are automatically bestowed according to rank rather than merit, especially in the political honours system. Members of the UK cabinet tend to be awarded a peerage when they retire. In 1993 it was reported that industrialists were 10 times more likely to obtain a peerage or a knighthood if their company had given money to the Conservative Party in the previous decade. Although this conclusion was denied, the chances of it being a pure coincidence that 6.2% of companies receive 50.25% of honours was calculated to exceed one in a billion.
One person's honour is another person's missed honour and a third person's power of patronage. As long as such seamless, seductive progressions in status are embedded in political life, no politician who tinkers with political reform can be taken seriously.
Public honours give considerable pleasure at the local level when community service is recognized.