The Term “Entitlement” is Orwellian Bullshit
I thought Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech was ok. But in reading Ross Douthat’s response to it, I was reminded of something that annoys me to no end. Douthat has been skewered here before, but he’s certainly not the only one guilty of this. The supposedly smart (though not according to Paul Krugman) Paul Ryan also attacked American “entitlement” programs, like Obama’s new Affordable Care Act.
This drives me nuts.
The term “entitlement” in American political discourse is Orwellian bullshit. It has unnecessarily negative connotations. We often talk of people being spoiled, of having a “sense of entitlement” that they don’t deserve. People feel “entitled” to things that they didn’t work for, or pay for, or earn.
But there is nothing undeserving about healthcare. Or social security. Or roads, police forces, fire departments, public schools, and the postal service. These are things the American people pay for through taxes (like people of most other countries). They are not being spoiled. They are getting what they deserve (actually, they’re probably not getting enough of what they justly deserve, but that’s another story).
You go to a store, you pay for a chocolate bar, and you get the chocolate bar. It’s not that you’re “entitled” to it in some spoiled child way. You are not undeserving of that chocolate bar. You paid for it. It belongs to you. Free market capitalists should understand this.
Let’s get rid of “entitlement” and change it to “benefit.” Or something more positive. Because the American people are in fact entitled to more than they are getting.