The Entitlement Generation
Sandra “Pay For My Birth Control” Fluke explains why “her generation” supports entitlements:
[B]ecause our vision for the future doesn’t leave our fellow citizens behind. . . . This isn’t about not knowing how to take care of ourselves—it’s about knowing we should take care of each other.
It’s a funny argument if you think about it. If “we” can “take care of ourselves,” then why do we need to “take care of each other”?
What Fluke’s collectivist language is trying to disguise is that some people can and do take care of themselves—and she believes they have an obligation to sacrifice for those who can’t or won’t.
What about those who don’t agree that “we should take care of each other”? What about the young entrepreneur who is building his business and struggling to support his own family, and doesn’t think he should be taxed to pay for other people’s birth control or college degrees? Well, what he thinks is irrelevant. Fluke isn’t asking “her generation” to “take care of each other.” She wants the government to force us to do what she thinks is moral.
Ah, but don’t worry, Fluke says . . . it’s for your own good:
[W]e’re not entirely altruistic either. By fighting to protect our nation’s social safety net, we ensure that all members of society have a chance to contribute, producing a diversity of ideas that benefits society as a whole. We’ve seen that affordable access to contraception allows women to contribute their talents to our companies, and the same is true of the host of economic supports under attack.
Get it? We’re going to make you sacrifice your wealth so we can hand out goodies to other people, but actually you’ll be better off. Why not, then, leave individuals free to pay for others’ contraception voluntarily? Why do you have to force them to do what’s allegedly good for them? Fluke might say it’s because we’re too short sighted to know what’s good for us. I would say it’s because enabling individuals to achieve their self-interest is not really Fluke’s goal.
This, by the way, is a common tactic of collectivists. They don’t just argue that collectivist policies are good for society, but also that they are good for individuals. Indeed, the practicality of collectivist policies seems almost self-evident to collectivists since, in their view, the individual is fundamentally dependent on the group. The worst disaster that could befall someone, they believe, would be to end up “on your own.”
I disagree. As Yaron and I have argued elsewhere, being left “on your own,” i.e., free, is the individual’s basic political need:
The Founding Fathers [declared] that the collective has no claim on you; that the government exists only to protect your right to live your own life, earn your own wealth, and seek your own happiness. Other people’s wants and needs are not your responsibility.
The corollary was that you and you alone were responsible for securing your own wants and needs. You were responsible for developing the knowledge, skills, and traits of character you needed to earn a living. You were responsible for saving to meet life’s unexpected twists and turns. You were responsible for educating your children. You could ask for help from other people—but you could not demand it as a right. You were on your own.
Did people shrink from the twin values of freedom and responsibility? On the contrary, the vast majority of Americans during the 18th and 19th centuries eagerly embraced life’s challenges and flourished under the new system. People didn’t flee from America, they fled to America. They came here poor, but ambitious—ready to carve out a life for themselves in a country that offered them the only thing they asked for: an open road.
The purpose of Fluke’s op-ed was to argue that her generation shouldn’t be called “the entitlement generation.” They aren’t demanding that other people take care of them—they want to take care of others. But that’s precisely what an “entitlement generation” would have to endorse—a society in which everyone is bound to everyone else, in an endless daisy chain of obligation that rewards those who think the world owes them a living, and bleeds those who make living possible. If you stand with the entitlement state, you stand for an entitlement culture.