Entitlement and Irresponsibility

March 22, 2016

Have you met a four-year-old who already labors under the life burden of feeling entitled? How about a 70-year-old with a similar life mission? I have.

Entitlement Attitudes Stink

There is something just broken enough in the human heart, that we easily come to believe we deserve things that have been given to us. We love to think and say, “I’m entitled”.

Because of the sinful flaw in the human heart, benefits that are regularly received gradually switch in our minds from benefits to obligations on the part of others to make sure we get what we deserve.

The examples in our society are voluminous. In Alaska we have something called the Permanent Fund Dividend. It is a benefit paid to the citizens by the state. Years ago the state established a Permanent Fund. The purpose was to save for a rainy day, when the flow of oil would inevitably become a dribble. (Permanent Fund and Permanent Fund Dividend are two different subjects, but you wouldn’t know that by listening to current discussions.)

Alaska has been highly dependent for many years on the oil business and federal largess. Years ago forward thinking individuals said, “The oil won’t last forever. We need to make plans for how to fund state services when it begins to decline.”

Just a few years after the fund was established, someone else had an idea to take a small fraction of the rolling average earnings of that fund over the previous five years, and send it annually to every qualified citizen in the state. The idea was the resources belong to the people, so they should have a share. Fair enough.

Over the decades this is changed in the minds of the people from a benefit to an obligation. A phrase commonly spoken and put in print is this: “Don’t touch my dividend”. Although it’s said more like this: “DON’T TOUCH MY @#!#% DIVIDEND!!

Do you see the subtle shift?

It is not a benefit. It is now “mine”. Persons other than myself are obligated to make sure I always get it.

Here’s what I don’t get about this: The state of Alaska started a savings account to pay for state services when the oil started running low. We have billions in savings. Yes, billions.

The oil is running low. We are now loathe to touch our savings for the very purpose for which they were established, because a portion of those savings – a small portion – is”ours” – meaning each individual in the state.

In our household we have for years practiced setting aside a car payment, to ourselves, so we have cash for the next car, avoiding debt. Suppose my wife’s car becomes highly unreliable, abandoning her every other day on some random street. (Anchorage has a generous supply of random streets.) Suppose both doors fall off. In this Arctic climate, that could be a problem.

But, I tell her to keep soldiering on with that car, because “don’t touch my interest” on that savings account. Or, “I want to buy a year’s supply of Twinkies”.

So the money sits there, unable to be used for the purpose for which it was set aside. What would you think of me?

From its earliest days Social Security was a wealth transfer program. It did not used to be openly referred to as an entitlement, but now people are honest enough to use that term. People feel entitled to have other people send them a portion of their salary or wages. Social Security is officially now called an entitlement program.

You can look around our society and see damage in people’s thinking and life practices that flow from federal largess, state largess, and possibly well-meaning attempts to “help”.

We create dependencies. We diminish incentive and motivation.

(Check out Hillsdale College, which stands as a stellar example of thoroughly avoiding going down the dead end entitlement boulevard. They have never accepted a single copper coin of Federal interference aid.)

We are created for many things, primarily to worship Almighty God. But we are also created to work and be fruitful. We are called to be generous and share with one another.

Entitlements reduce or at least cloud the motivation to do those things.

1) The more the “benevolent state” becomes our provider, the more we look to that provider and expect to receive things from that provider. There’s a tendency for the state to become a god.

2) The more benefits we get on a regular basis the less need we see to be responsible and work hard to provide for our needs and those of the people in our family.

3) The more entitlements are embedded in our way of life, the less motivation there is to express tangible compassion and giving toward others. “We have agencies for that.”

Sometimes people can speak with soaring lofty compassionate platitudes, but if you were to check into their personal involvement in sacrificial living and giving, it would likely be lacking. I believe part of the reason is that we are creating a dependency on the state to do that for us.

We like the idea of subcontracting our compassion.

There’s less personal pain that way.

I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that an entitlement culture is a culture of increasing personal irresponsibility. And in the wider picture, this relates to our view of who or what is the ultimate authority.


One thought on “Entitlement and Irresponsibility

  1. Pingback: An Addiction Nearly Impossible to Overcome | MATTERS of WORLDVIEW

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