This is Freedom Friday. Are you wearing blue today? I've been thinking a lot lately about entitlement and have come to the following conclusion: entitlement mentality encourages dependence on others and thus diminishes freedom and initiative. To be truly free, one must stand independent and have the full opportunity to exercise agency.
I believe that our personal freedom is defined by the degree to which we are dependent of others. I also believe that government entitlement programs are enslaving Americans. When one relies on someone else to provide one's wants and needs, one loses the ability and willingness to do for one's self.
I read an interesting book a couple of years ago that was very interesting to me. One chapter in the book still haunts me and definitely affects many of my decisions. The book is entitled The Millionaire Next Door. It was written by Thomas J. Stanley, PhD and William D. Danko, PhD. The chapter that I remember best was about the ways that well-meaning parents use "entitlement programs" with their children. The authors used many different examples to demonstrate their theory that parents can cause their children to become less productive. I don't have the book so I can't use any of their actual examples, but I will try to provide one from memory.
A couple had two daughters. One of the daughters did well in school and carved out for herself a well-paying career. She became a very successful businesswoman. The other daughter married and had several children. The husband was unable to provide the level of living that this couple desired or that her parents thought they should have. Her parents "felt sorry" for them and decided to "help" them by giving them money to meet their "needs." The other sister didn't "need" any help so they didn't give any to her. In spite of help from the parents, the gap between the two sisters continued to grow. The "have" sister continued to build her wealth while the "have not" sister grew more and more needy and dependent on the parents.
The authors also gave many examples of how parents who distributed money evenly among their children also enslaved their children. For example, the parents decided to "spend down their wealth" by giving each of their children $10,000 every year. After a year or more of receiving this extra money, the children began to add this amount to their budgets and to plan on receiving the money. This raised their standard of living beyond what they could actually afford. This dependence on money from the parents enslaved the children.
Another problem arose from the parents distributing their wealth: Some parents thought they should have some control over the financial decisions made by their children simply because they were providing money to them.
Through reading this book, I discovered that there is a very fine line between giving children assistance so they can become stronger and more capable and enslaving their children. I am still working on the answer to this question: How can responsible parents help their children without also hurting them?
This brings us back to government entitlement programs. How can the government help their truly needy citizens without enslaving millions of people? How many millions of people failed to save for retirement simply because they thought the government was saving for them through the Social Security program? How many people live from paycheck to paycheck instead of developing an emergency fund because they plan to use unemployment insurance to meet financial needs in case they lose their jobs? How many millions of people want the government to provide health insurance for them so they don't have to spend their own money buying insurance?
I remember being shocked at a news item that came out in the media during the Katrina disaster. Many of the residents of New Orleans stayed in the city because they were waiting for their government checks to arrive in the mail in order to have enough money to leave town. They could have lost their lives because they were so dependent on someone else! An "entitlement mentality" leads to dependence on others and enslavement. This condition makes it easier to just go along with the program rather than to fight the establishment.
We might be helped by remembering the following statement that is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: "That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved." Government handouts kill the initiative to work in order to provide for one's needs; dependence on others also kills the desire to be independent.
Socialist programs turn productive citizens into lazy slobs: The people who are willing to work aren't motivated to work just to give their money to other people, and the people who won't work realize that they aren't required to work in order to have their needs met. This fact alone means that everyone becomes poor simply because no one is working.
Those who expect the government to take care of them should understand that the government doesn't have any money except what it collects from its citizens in taxes. If no one is working, there are no taxes being collected. Thus the government doesn't have any money to give away. Our nation will be in really big trouble when the government doesn't have any money to pay the $12 trillion national debt.
We can do our part to help the nation by being independent and having our own financial freedom. That should be the personal goal of every American. Independence means learning to work hard, living conservatively, and being self-reliant. This means living within one's means, avoiding debt, and establishing our own emergency fund. On this Freedom Friday, I encourage all of you to discover if you have an "entitlement mentality." If you do, you must understand that this type of thinking will drag you down rather than raise you up. Please, please, please - choose to be independent!