Responsibility in the Entitlement Age

Today’s editorial in the Chronicle bemoans potential cuts to (or even the dismantling of) Medicare and Medicaid. The paper writes that if the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, has his way

America’s middle-class should be prepared to pay not only for their own health-care needs in old age, but also for the long-term care of grandma and grandpa, elderly mom and dad; for disabled children, brothers, sisters.

The Chronicle doesn’t explain why the middle-class is responsible for the long-care needs of grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, and siblings. Instead, it offers some statistics that are intended to demonstrate that the middle-class can’t afford to pay for the health care for four generations. The paper wants us to believe that without the federal government paying, nobody will be be able to afford health care.

Certainly, the costs for long-term care can be staggering. But the paper implies that nobody is capable of planning for such possibilities. The paper implies that individuals are incapable of being responsible for themselves. Instead, individuals are to be responsible for everyone else.

Federal funds for health care don’t magically appear. That money is taken from individuals and businesses in the form of taxes; that money is taken from future generations in the form of deficit spending.

If individuals were not forced to fund socialistic medical schemes, they would have more money to pay for their own health-care needs. They would have greater means to be self-responsible. But self-responsibility is a slap in the face to those who embrace the entitlement mentality and the morality upon which it rests–altruism. Altruism holds that individuals have a moral duty to sacrifice for others, that the needs and interests of others should take precedence over one’s own needs and interests.

The entitlement mentality holds that individuals have a right to certain things, such as education, housing, and health care, and others have a moral obligation to provide them. Altruism elevates need to a claim on the property and lives of others.

Altruism permeates our culture, and Houston is no exception. Altruism underlies the preservation ordinance–individuals are forced to sacrifice their own interests to those of their neighbors. Altruism underlies the city’s smoking ordinance–business owners are forced to sacrifice their judgment to that of City Council. Altruism underlies the city’s attempt to remove all billboards–business owners are being forced to sacrifice their livelihood.

Many Houstonians decry the decline in self-responsibility, but they do not question the morality that has caused that decline. If we want to encourage more self-responsibility, then we must begin by rejecting altruism.

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