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Thursday, May 19, 2011
Mark Steyn has a good piece on the problem this country faces with entitlements... particularly a "sense of entitlement."
I like to think that upon arrival in this great republic I assimilated pretty quickly. Within four or five months, I was saying “zee” and driving on the right more often than not. But it took me longer to get the hang of the word “entitlement.” You don’t hear it in political discussions in most of the rest of the West, even in Canada. There’s talk of “social programs” and “benefits” and “welfare,” but not of “entitlements.” I knew the term only in its psychological use — “sense of entitlement” — in discussions of narcissistic personality disorder and whatnot.I see a lot of charities doing many good things in our inner cities, from urban housing development to cheap groceries. But until this country tackles the sense of entitlement that has crept into our hearts and eliminates the destructive entitlement policies that have helped that mentality to take root while also destroying our economy, those charities will continue to merely spoon water out of the Titanic's hold. Unless those moral and political leaks are repaired, we will continue to sink. It starts with repentance... unfortunately, our socio-political landscape is lacking prophets.
Once I’d been apprised of its political definition, I liked it even less. “Entitlements” are unrepublican: They are contemptuous of the most basic principle of responsible government — that a parliament cannot bind its successor. Which is what entitlements do, to catastrophic effect.
“Entitlement commitments are not debts,” wrote John Hinderaker of the blog Powerline. “Congress can wipe them out simply by repealing Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”
That’s technically true in the same sense that it’s technically true Congress can wipe out a lot of our debts — or at any rate our debtors — by nuking Beijing. But is either likely to happen under any scenario this side of total societal meltdown? Indeed, I find it easier to imagine economic collapse, secession, civil war, Mad Max on I-95, cannibal gangs of the undocumented preying on gated communities of upscale gays, etc., than any combination of House, Senate, and president “repealing Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”
Which is where we came in. Whether or not government “entitlements” are debts, they very quickly become a psychological disorder — and a “sense of entitlement” is harder to dislodge than almost anything else. Government entitlement breeds psychological entitlement breeds a utopia of myopia. I don’t mean merely in the sense that polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans still feel entitled to their entitlements, but in a more profound way.
John Hinderaker is right. We can, in theory, repeal the entitlements. Repealing the sense of entitlement is the tricky part.