Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Culture of Entitlement

I am not entitled to your labor or your property because I am limited by your rights to both. Likewise, you are not entitled to my labor or property because I have rights to both. My rights limit your claim on my life, liberty and property. I may propose an exchange between my property and property of yours which I desire, or I may ask for you to give me your property. In either case, you have every right to refuse.

A proper government enforces rights, not morality. Just because you have the right to refuse does not mean it is moral to do so. These are two separate issues. If I were able to give water and food to someone who does not have property that I desire and who will die without water and food, would it be immoral to refuse? If I were starving and others had plenty of food and water, but I had nothing of value to offer in exchange, would it be moral for me to claim their food and water? I have no rights to their food and water unless they decide to transfer those rights to me. Is it ever moral to violate their rights in order to increase my chances of survival?

Government is not intended to conduct charity, even in the form of disaster relief. Equipped with tax dollars, government has assumed this responsibility, even though it does a poor job of delivering results. People whose earnings have been taken every year for government to provide charity to others understandably criticize government for not providing charity to them after natural disasters, e.g. "They're just not doing enough." Using this reasoning, it is easy to lay claim to other people's property. It breeds a culture that does not accept charity thankfully, but believes it is entitled to charity. The crisis in New Orleans is a clear representation of this. As presented on the evening news, only a few people were asking for help; instead, people demanded help.

When the concept of rights become so distorted as to denote morality and entitlements rather than limitations on actions, people believe that they are entitled to property regardless of whether it belongs to them. People believe that their "right to life" trumps another's right to property and rationalize stealing. In confusing rights and morality, people believe that their inability to provide for themselves constitutes an obligation for others to provide for them. This "culture of entitlement" is self-destructive. By placing the burden on others, it absolves people of any responsibility to care for themselves.

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