“If you’re going to try to make me feel bad, you aren’t going to do it.”

Why are they called entitlements?

Because people feel entitled to them whether they need them or not.

But no, the welfare state has no deleterious effects on character.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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8 Responses to “If you’re going to try to make me feel bad, you aren’t going to do it.”

  1. Nick, Angels' Defense Attorney says:

    Well, most millionaires feel entitled to tax breaks. They bang the drum for the end of the welfare state, but when they hit 65, I don’t hear them saying: “you know what, keep that social security check for the less fortunate.” The welfare state does not breed a sense of entitlement on its own, capitalist self-interest helps quite a bit too, and not just among the redneck nouveau-riche in my home state.

    • profmondo says:

      Of course, SS is another bit of the welfare state (even though the millionaire might have a case to make about how much s/he has put into the system over the years). My complaint isn’t class-oriented; it’s that people expect to be paid for existing, rather like the stereotypical teen yelling, “I didn’t ask to be born!” The welfare state promotes such attitudes. If anything, your example supports my point.

    • profmondo says:

      By the way, isn’t equating food stamps (taking someone else’s money through the governmental middleman) to tax breaks (keeping more of what you’ve earned for yourself) a category error? You’re proceeding from the assumption that it’s the government’s money that they graciously allow us to take. I disagree.

      • Nick, Angels' Defense Attorney says:

        I agree that tax breaks and food stamps are not the same issue. My comment was aimed more at your insinuation that the welfare state is responsible for the sense of entitlement. One could also argue that your description of what food stamps constitute is equally erroneous. Food stamps are provided from public funds that we, including the poor, support by paying taxes. They are no more a “handout” than a public health care option. Of course, I agree that this lottery winner in Michigan is a prick and exploiting the system, but that is a question of poor oversight, not an argument against social welfare to protect and support those in need (which is to say, a situation in which any of us who fall on hard times may find ourselves). Social security and programs like food stamps were instituted for that purpose. I do not see how abolishing them, or putting them in the hands of private industry would solve the problem of oversight. As a citizen, and especially, as part of a community of citizens I can hold elected officials responsible and demand better oversight; but with a atrophied government and all welfare in the hands of a de-regulated private sector, my franchise is effectively nullified. The problem is not “government” as if this is some monolith. The problem is a government driven by the interests of the very few, who then use isolated stories like this asshole from Michigan to condemn what is left of the welfare state–to respond by promoting this fantasy of a atomized society of individuals who somehow create the public good by following their private interests is the same naive delusion of the 18th century that interests can regulate passions. A perfectly rational idea, with only one problem: it was bollocks. The alchemy doesn’t work; one arrives at this society of ours where 1% of the population controls 95% of the wealth and the other 99% are fighting over the scraps. We get no where, but it does give the wildly rich something to cluck their tongues at while we point the fingers at one another, blame our damned sense of entitlement, and help dismantle the only institutions with the potential to _manifest the collective interest of many individuals_ and countervail the “interests” of the very, very rich few. And it isn’t a “conspiracy” of the wildly wealthy, but they certainly have nothing to complain about, as we sell away our rights for a few illusory scraps (high interest loans, mortgages, profit “sharing,” medicare vouchers, part-time jobs with no benefits for the elderly bagging groceries, etc.)

  2. J. Otto Pohl says:

    The problem with libertarianism is that people live in collectivities not as unconnected individuals whose only transactions are economic. It might be possible to live in a society where all health care, education and other social infrastructure was provided by commerical or at least non-governmental bodies. But, I have not seen such a society that works as well as places where the government does play a large role. The fact is that even in the US much health care and most education including higher education is provided by some level of government rather than by for profit enterprises. In other developed countries such as the UK there is more government involvement and I would argue overall much better provision of quality health care and higher education. The fact is that the government can generally do a few things on a large scale better than the private market. Among these things are health care and most Americans seem to think education. There is no move to privatize all elementary schools and state universities. I am not sure why it is so different regarding health care. The socialized medicine here in Ghana is quite good and much better than being uninsured in the US. So why is elementary education provided by the government a right and health care provided by the government an entitlement in the US? I think a good argument could be made that health care is more fundamental than primary school.

    • There’s a problem with that, though. When the government is put in the position of providing something, over time the tendency is for the government to take action to increase its role, which means making people weaker, less self-sufficient, more dependent.

      In the societies you mention where the individual plays a larger role and it’s “every man for himself,” the tendency is for the government to intrude. People get it in their heads, with very little reason, that an individualist/free-market model is some kind of an extremist model, even though all free markets are actually self-regulating. And so the political forces demand a hybrid hodge-podge between a free and a statist market; they get their way; disaster then ensues, which is then blamed on the free-market components in the hodge-podge, then the call goes forward for more statism.

      Milton Friedman was rather emphatic that the United States economy is not, in fact, a capitalist or free market. Our tendency is to let the government into the free market, screw it all up, and then blame the bad consequences on the “greed” that has something to do with capitalism. Gasoline and oil. Telephones. Schools. Now, health care. We just keep doing it over and over again. The centralized planning is never extreme, and it is never the problem…and “greed” must be wanting to hang on to your stuff that you own, we can never use that word to describe wanting to grab someone else’s stuff. Even though that would make much more sense.

  3. profmondo says:

    Just because the government can do something doesn’t mean it should. And even when it does do something, I tend toward a principle of subsidiarity — that is, that things should be handled on the lowest possible governmental level. The higher a level of government at which something is done, the less impact an individual has on his or her outcome, and the less responsibility individuals feel for their own fates. I don’t see those as good things.

  4. Is your point that capitalism breeds a sense of entitlement equal to or greater than what the welfare state fosters…or, are you challenging the notion that the welfare state is conducive to it?

    If it’s the former, I’ll come out and admit that when I participate in the capitalist system and earn something, I feel entitled to it. But I’m not entirely sure what that is supposed to mean, if anything. It’s my property. I should have a sense of entitlement about what belongs to me, shouldn’t I, especially if it becomes my property through my satisfaction of terms that were spelled out in an agreement somewhere. It seems, to me, like criticizing a wheel for being round; It’s doing what it is supposed to do.

    If what you’re trying to say is more fairly summarized by the latter, this seems far-fetched because what you’re doing then is denying this “gave at the office” feeling that falls on people when they’re forced to “donate” to a “charitable” cause in an entirely involuntary way, through their taxes just as an example. There is no discernible pump-priming — people don’t say “now that the tax man has forced me to start donating, let’s see if I can follow that up with a portion of what he’s allowed me to take home.” They say screw it. I did my bit to keep some state machinery working, so anybody who needs tending must go there.

    Do we really need to start a link war about this? When people live in a place where you’re free to make your own decisions, and profit or suffer however you will, and they run into someone who can’t quite make that work for themselves, they give more. Two boats meet up on the ocean, where if you don’t know what you’re doing you’re completely screwed — each goes the extra mile to make sure the other is doing alright. (They’re required to to some extent, of course, but they tend to go beyond the requirements.) I see this on the weekends, if I stop to rest and take some pictures, the other bicyclists slow down to make sure nothing’s wrong, I’m not in need of a tube patch or a cell phone, even if I don’t signal distress.

    But only in the farmlands, I hasten to add. Not in the urban areas.

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