Guest Post: Our Many Layers Of Entitlement

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Our Many Layers of Entitlement

The entitlement mindset includes much more than government benefits programs.

The word entitlement commonly refers to government benefits to which we are entitled as taxpayers and/or citizens/residents. But there are layers of entitlement in the American psyche far beyond government benefits programs.

Let's start with the government benefits entitlements. The programs most people refer to as entitlements are Social Security and Medicare, which taxpayers pay for with payroll taxes (even if the money just goes into one giant Federal pot).

Beyond these "I paid into them" entitlements are the "welfare" entitlements of Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, SNAP/food stamps, etc., which are paid out of general tax revenues and which are available to anyone who qualifies, regardless of their status as taxpayers.

Buried within Social Security is another large entitlement program for the disabled and dependents (widows and orphans).

Veterans are entitled to benefits as a result of their military service, as are their families.

Employers pay for other employment-related entitlements: Federal and state unemployment, workers compensation and disability insurance, etc.

The entitlement mindset is thus firmly established in the American psyche. If we experience bad luck and/or the negative consequences of poor choices, we have been trained to expect the government at some level to alleviate our suffering, cut us a check or otherwise address our difficulties.

The poisonous problem with the entitlement mindset is intrinsic to human nature: once we "deserve" something, then our minds fill with resentment and greed, and we focus obsessively on creating multiple rationalizations for why we "deserve our fair share."

Eventually this leads to a government that has been reduced to a competitive stripmining operation in which the spoils are divided up amongst the most politically powerful Elites: in other words, the government we now have.

The entitlement mindset atrophies self-reliance, adaptability and flexibility, all key survival traits. If the government will "fix" our health, we no longer feel responsible in the way one does if there is limited government/employer-provided healthcare. If we expect our Social Security retirement regardless of what other conditions may be affecting the global economy or our nation, then we stop being responsible for managing our financial affairs in the same way as one does when there is no "guaranteed" retirement entitlement.

The question isn't whether entitlements are a "right" or not, the question is their sustainability now that the demographic, financial and energy foundations of those promises has eroded. Clearly, the government has a role in providing for public health and safety, but to claim that entitling every citizen to hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare is "public health" spending is absurd.

Based on projections of high-birthrates/cheap-oil/high-growth in the 1940s - 1960s, entitlement programs were promised basically forever, with no recognition that conditions might change. Now conditions have changed, demographically, financially and in terms of energy input costs.

We might usefully think of the government as a ship in a sea governed by forces too planetary to influence: the tides, currents, winds, etc. Entitlements are essentially a claim that the small ship of government "should" be able to bend the sea to its will, regardless of what tidal forces, winds and currents are at work.

we can claim it's our "right" not to sink, but gravity and the ocean do not respond to our claims of permanent "rights."

But these direct government entitlements only scratch the surface of our sense of entitlement. We don't just expect healthcare and retirement; if we're honest with ourselves, don't we also expect these other entitlements?

1. Cheap and abundant fuels and energy. We can debate whether this constitutes an implicit "right" or an entitlement, but the point is that Americans expect unlimited fuels and energy at low cost, and if cheap, abundant energy vanishes then they will demand "somebody make this right," with the "somebody" presumably in government and certainly not the individual American or his community.

2. Ever-more government services and benefits, i.e. the entitlement mindset knows no bounds.

3. Full employment and bountiful employment opportunities. If we can't find a job or create value that someone is willing to pay/trade for, then the government should create jobs out of thin air.

There are only two ways to fund "make-work" jobs: either take more money from existing wage-earners via taxes and redistribute the funds to potentially unproductive uses, or print/borrow the money into existence. Both have costs in terms of the productivity surplus of the entire nation and in the potential to destabilize the financial foundation of the economy.

4. An education suited to the demands of a global economy, etc., as opposed to providing the basic skills of learning, so the citizens can educate themselves throughout life. This distinction is lost in the endless debates over education, but in fast-changing environments and times, the only real value of any education is to learn how to learn. Though it seems "impossible" to the Status Quo educator, the world we are preparing students for--one dependent on consumer spending, cheap oil, globalization, ever-expanding government and healthcare costs, exponentially increasing debt to pay for everything, etc.--may not exist in 5 or 10 years.

5. An upper-middle class lifestyle for everyone who does what the Status Quo expects: get a graduate-level university degree, sacrifice for the corporation, remain politically silent/passive, etc. The idea that toeing the line will not result in a big-bucks secure profession/career is somehow a violation of the social/financial contract of Corporate America--once again, a right or an entitlement that is implicit in the American psyche.

6. Cheap and plentiful food. Once again, if food costs actually rose to "percentage of income spent on food" levels found in developing-world nations, Americans would undoubtedly demand that the "government do something." Once again, this is like demanding the ship's crew change the winds and tides. As oil prices rise, food costs will rise. There is no way out of this, as the primary input of agricultural costs is oil and petroleum-based fertilizers, chemicals, transport, etc. extremes of weather can ruin crops regardless of policy.

7. That the U.S. should be able to influence other nations to act in what we perceive as our best interests. The idea that we cannot persuade/force others to do what benefits us is anathema to the general entitlement mindset, e.g. "what's our oil doing under their sand?"

There are undoubtedly many more layers of implicit entitlements, and the analogy that comes to mind is a worm-riddled, leaky wooden-hulled sailing ship approaching a coral reef. The only way into the relative calm of the lagoon beyond is to lighten the ship enough to pass over the reef, or the sand bar on the other side of the lagoon.

If the ship sails on fully loaded with the heavy baggage of the entitlement mindset, the reef will either rip out its bottom or the ship will be wedged on the sand bar, where the waves will break it apart.

In other words, the destruction of the ship is guaranteed in either scenario. The only possible way to save the ship and its passengers/crew is to throw most of the inessential baggage overboard. Everything that the passengers "can't live without" will doom them if it isn't jettisoned, and soon. Once the hull has been shredded by the coral reef, or the hull is stuck on the sand bar, it will be too late: jettisoning all the financial "rights," entitlements and "essentials" will not save the ship or its crew/passengers.

The entitlement mindset is heavy baggage indeed, and the emotional content of the baggage-- resentment, anger, and a debilitating focus on "what I deserve"--is toxic to the traits we will need in abundance to weather the decade ahead: flexibility, adaptability, open-mindedness, experimentation, community and self-reliance.

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Pladizow's picture

The words American and Entitled are synonymous!

AnAnonymous's picture

The words American and Entitled are synonymous!


Everyone knows it but US citizens prefer to deny as it was party like 1776.

It is now 200 years later and the nature of US citizens is well known.

Either they come with much better propaganda or they shut up.

anynonmous's picture

nice name

FYI on Boomberg TV at noon Laks from ECRI will be on with Tom Keene


(not sure who or why you guys are being junked entitlement duhhh  just ask any soccer mom waiting to collect her brood at the end of every school day as she sips here Starbuck$ whilst texting one of her very best friends )

trav7777's picture

Nonsensical bullshit.

There IS NO LAGOON on the other side of the reef.

The Peak Oil reality is that the reef gets sharper and sharper and shallower and shallower.  The wind is onshore and the currents are strongly onshore.

To muster the effort to row against this to deep water to at least look for another landfall has probably passed.  If it hasn't, it is imperative that we reverse course now, not start throwing shit overboard in a FUTILE attempt to find paradise.

AldousHuxley's picture

Rich takes wall st. bailout as "entitlement" then wants the middle class to pay for them by cutting middle class "entitlement" such as social security and medicare that they paid for while working for 30+ years. Poor always leaching off of rich and/or middle class but nobody wants to be poor.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

So completely wrong about SS.  Completely bankrupt intellectually and morally.  I'm tired of arguing with you clowns here.  I invite you to leave this dusty little corner and bring this out on to the street.  You will get the kind of welcome reserved for holocaust deniers and pedophiles.

It is exactly what you deserve and exactly what you'll get.

SoNH80's picture

We have squabbled in the past, but I agree on SS BR.  I stand with Eisenhower on this.  SS = basic income support for seniors of modest means.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Thanks for your support.

To others I reiterate.  Go ahead and try to form the "March Against SS" and take it public.  Pick a city.  DC, NY, or wherever the f#ck you think you'll be welcome.  It won't be a "million man march" I can assure you.

To get ready for the experience I suggest you view some public KKK marchs on YouTube.  It's only fair for you to see the reaction you'll get.  Don't be surprised if even the klan disowns you.

AldousHuxley's picture

you can't argue with SS when you bailout the banksters in millions of bonuses


Also, people have the right to at least the amount of SS tax they paid into it. You can't let the boomers get away with scheming off the top.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

If you want to cut things there are a million other places to cut before SS.  When you've done that come back.

ElvisDog's picture

I buy coffee beans at Starbucks. Every time I'm in there there are 2-3 "coffee store" guys sitting in the comfy chairs intently typing on their laptops. Often, I'm in there during work hours, so "coffee store guy" apparently doesn't have a job. I'm always tempted to ask one of them "how's your screenplay going?".

AldousHuxley's picture

your problem: "I buy coffee beans at Starbucks"



BigJim's picture

I'm always tempted to ask one of them "how's your screenplay going?"

And David Simon will look up and say, "pretty well, thanks."

AldousHuxley's picture

No money, no love....but how many states are solvent?



DosZap's picture

Lets not MIX the two.....................we have enough class warfare already over the ENTITLED payouts, which are DUE,and are OWED.

Welfare is for people who are getting largess at the cost of the taxpayers, without paying into the system.

Entitled means payed into.

Welfare is FREE OF CHARGE to recipents.

Two MAJOR differences, meanings and words.


 "welfare" entitlements of Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, SNAP/food stamps, etc., which are paid out of general tax revenues and which are available to anyone who qualifies, regardless of their status as taxpayers.

BigJim's picture

Unfortunately, a lot of the 'entitlements' you thought you were paying 'into' were actually transfers. The first generation of people who enjoyed these 'entitlements' - had they been paying 'into' them all their lives? No.

It was a ponzi scheme, pure and simple. If you're lucky the ponzi will hold long enough for you to get some of 'your' money back, but unless your retirement is imminent, I wouldn't bet on it.

AnAnonymous's picture

Human nature, again this crap.

The US has been nothing but a story of entitlement since its inception.

US citizens were entitled to the indian land, they were entitled to the negro labour, they were entitled to a superior status because of their whiteness...

Entitled to this or that because of this or that.

So cheap propaganda to claim that the US culture of entitlement is anything new to them. US citizens had it from the start.

So cheap propaganda.

The US citizen nature is eternal.

Smiddywesson's picture

Sorry AnAnonymous, but in bashing Americans, you just described every empire in the history of the world.  If we lemmings always do this, then it is human nature you are railing against, not anything unique to one people or one culture.


anynonmous's picture

entitlement is not quite as widespread as you might think in for example western Uganda but I agree that it is not unique to Americans though they likely lead the pack

Smiddywesson's picture

Yes, I was talking historically.   Most of the things you pointed out apply equally to the Romans right up to the sun never setting on the British Empire.  I know we are not really lemmings, but are actions are predictable and the story is always the same.

AnAnonymous's picture

you just described every empire in the history of the world. If we lemmings always do this, then it is human nature you are railing against, not anything unique to one people or one culture.

Wrong. US citizens have their specificities.

If indeed, what you wrote is true, please provide an empire that declared that every human being was entitled to freedom and kept slavery.

One specificity of US citizenism is to hijack humanity to further their selfish interests.

Romans did not hide behind humanity. They did what they did because they were Romans.

That crap of human nature and pretending to sum up the whole human kind is something new and that was brought by the US.

But please provide.

ServingMyKing's picture

<<an empire that declared that every human being was entitled to freedom and kept slavery>>

The Declaration and Constitution are clearly anit-slavery documents - go read Frederick Douglas.  "Kept slavery" should be rephrased as "reluctantly tolerated slavery while insuring its demise."  Don't even suggest that the Constituition counting "other persons" as 3/5ths of a person is evidence of it being pro-slavery or you will be wrong.


Are you kidding's picture

But you assume that negros ARE men...  At that time they were not.  The 3/5ths rule was for voting.  The south had a LOT of slaves that WOULD vote the way their master wanted them to vote.  The North put that in!

Smiddywesson's picture

If indeed, what you wrote is true, please provide an empire that declared that every human being was entitled to freedom and kept slavery.

One specificity of US citizenism is to hijack humanity to further their selfish interests.

It all depends upon how you define freedom and slavery.  Using your definition, there has never been a free country or empire, and yet the citizens of those nations always believed they were free too.  What has changed today is the physical chains have come off, but the non physical chains have been slapped on everyone.  No offense, but you seen to think times are great for all of us shameless exploiters in the USA.

A discussion of the history of propaganda is beyond me, and certainly too detailed for this thread, but it was hardly invented by the USA.  If you are saying the US is worse because we are hypocrits, I would counter that the Romans believed they were doing the right thing in bringing the Pax Romanus to the people "invited" to join their empire. 

People always see the world from their own viewpoint.  You see the world being ruined by the Americans, I see it being ruined (again) by human nature.

AnAnonymous's picture

Still no one to take up the gauntlet? I know honour and respecting one's word is not in the US citizen nature but please help that US citizen and produce cheap propaganda in a follish attempt to claim that the US citizen nature is human nature.

Schmuck Raker's picture

I'm not here to pick up a gauntlet, just...

It's entirely possible nobody is interested in engaging with you in conversation. How many of your posts don't mention propagand? In my experience it is often the person complaining loudest that is most suspect as a perpetrator.

Try changing your tune a bit, rather than your handle...AnAnonymous/ anynonmous?

Just sayin'.

Smiddywesson's picture

You're just angry that the USA is debasing its currency, which is just another way of saying its debasing your currency reserves, the reserves for which you slaved away at $0.25 per hour.

Now I'd love to discuss these matters like rational adults, but I know you have to get back to making those sneakers and I have to trade in the SUV, the ashtray is full. 

Schmuck Raker's picture

" in the SUV, the ashtray is full. "


lasvegaspersona's picture


I have read enough of your comments to believe that you are too full of hate to be worth engaging. You will continue to bleed anti white, anti American and anti success drivel but you are not here to have a dialogue, you are just here to complain. Sorry but that is I how I have come to see you.

BigJim's picture

What gauntlet? Every Empire in history has oppressed its subjects. That's definitional. Whenever they attempted to justify what they did, they'd spout some sanctimonious horseshit about bringing civilization, culture, pax, you name it. Or that they were 'historically' entitled to the land (China/Tibet, Zionists/Palestine).

Either that or they just denied their human commonality with the people they were robbing/enslaving/killing.

Americans are just the most recent/successful bunch of exploiters. They were no different from the Romans in this respect; the Americans said it was ok to enslave blacks because they weren't really human, the Romans said exactly the same thing (they just pronounced 'human' as 'Roman')

The only thing new is we're doing it through the petrodollar. Now THAT is an innovation in the sad history of enslavement.

BigJim's picture

And I notice you never tell us what nationality/ethnicity YOU are, AnAnnonymous. Anyone might think maybe 'your' people haven't been angels throughout recorded history, either.

Cynical Sidney's picture

cultural relativism of the weak and unproductive? maybe you forgot to mention that this country was founded on christian values, cause last i checked no 'indian' or 'negro' culture became world super powers.


as far as this relativism BS goes, here's some food for thought:

lazy parasites produces nothing of value living off the biggest social safety net created in the history of mankind, vs

immoral financial criminals who produces nothing of value syphoning public funds defrauding the people;

that's how they killed the middle class.



AnAnonymous's picture

cause last i checked no 'indian' or 'negro' culture became world super powers.

And that plays to their favour.

These people have never enjoyed the level of power US citizens have enjoyed so it is impossible to draw any inferement on their deep nature.

But US citizens, it is another story. Who prevents US citizens? Nobody. They are what they are.

And the picture is amazing: duplicitous, deceitful, propagandist, bully, unable to bear any kind of responsibility, robber, unjust etc...

Have US citizen any human quality that would redeem them? Please name one.

Prisoners_dilemna's picture

We're not mooooslem.

We've produce the finest artists, ie. Katy Perry.

Our prisoners dont eat cockroaches to survive.

Jesus loves us!

Twinkies and hohos.

Uhmurika fuck yeah!


Moe Howard's picture

you forgot guns baby guns. 


Funny how the weak hate America. Eat our shit, shithead third worlder! Hahhahha.

Quit crying.

lasvegaspersona's picture

I'll name a few dad and his generation gave up their lives to fight the Nazis...I was long ago and it wasn't those of us alive today but THAT kind of sacrifice is the way most Americans view themselves as being willing to make. Yes along the way we trusted leaders who promised to continue our tradition of altruistic world leadership. We have been betrayed. It still does not change what is in the heart of the average American. Sure there are plenty of jerks and loafers but when I look back on a life in America the good far outnumber. If this country were governed by the average man rather than the sick psychos who desire and gain power perhaps you'd have a better opinion...

MiddleMeThis's picture

Well, it's certainly not for lack of trying!  Native American special interest groups (i.e. the elite) donate HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars to political candidates while their "people" live in squalor.  Apparently the "deep nature" of the ELITE Native Americans is to rise to power and leave the common man living in filth.  Extensive money and power corrupts, plain and simple; regardless of race, religion, sex, etc., etc.

And frankly, someone like you, who viciously spews hate and has a general disregard for ALL americans, is not qualified to be the moral police.

tmosley's picture

Point of information, Indians didn't own land, as they refused to recognize property rights, either among members of their own tribes, nor between their tribes, and certainly not those of the whites.  This is why they were almost totally wiped out.  Go to Latin America, and you find a different story.  There they recognized property rights, and as a result, survived the invasion of Europeans.

US citizens were not entitled to african labor, though they used it because they felt that humans could give up their right to self ownership (foolishly).  Note that whites purchased slaves from BLACKS.  White slavers were exceedingly rare.

Further, whites didn't think they "deserved" superior status, simply for being white.  If that were the case, they neve would have discriminated against Irish and Southern Europeans.  They rightfully ascribed their suberior status to their adherence to free markets, and their freedoms, something generally lacking in those places where the discriminated against hailed from originally.

Why so butthurt?

Jack Burton's picture

The native indians were wiped out by diseases carried by the civilized Europeans. Many of these diseases came from the close cohabitation of farm animal and humans in the European agricultural society.

Most Indians died having never laid eyes on a White Man. The diseases spread that fast. The survivors were no match for the large immigrations that followed.


European American's picture

Humans are the Invasive Species on this planet.

AnAnonymous's picture

Most Indians died having never laid eyes on a White Man. The diseases spread that fast. The survivors were no match for the large immigrations that followed.


Sure, sure. In the US ideology, it would have happened anyway is a classical trick to deny and dilute their own responsibility.

Alas for them, Indians were still even numerous to set their case about their right to the land of their ancestors, have it acknowledged by SC and denied by president Jackson.

US citizens cant put up with their own history. They have to invent a fabled past to make sense of their present propaganda.

ElvisDog's picture

Methinks you are being selective, AnAnonymous. Indians widely practiced slavery amongst themselves long before they had any contact with Europeans. Your whole "noble Indian, evil White Man" riff is either ignorant or disengenious.

Hook Line and Sphincter's picture

Here's a little quote for you... “Kill every buffalo you can, for every buffalo dead is an Indian gone”. Colonel, R. I. Dodge, 1867 But, back to the history, not the fabled past AnAnonymous…the U.S. Government was at war with the Native People, and they were not about to be defeated. Thereby began a deliberate and systematic program of extermination and subjugation that began with the buffalo. Now the systematic slaughter of the buffalo began in early on. By 1864 over 4 million buffalo had been killed, and by 1883 the huge herds first written about by Meriwether Lewis 78 years earlier had disappeared. At the end of the 19th century, after tens of millions had been slaughtered, only 23 wild buffalo had survived. Europeans valued riches and land. Their attitude was to “take everything you can”, even what you don’t need, and thus began the giant “land grab” and the migration westward. The only thing that stood in the way of the settlers were Indians. As we all know, it was all about money and power, and the Indians simply frustrated the early colonists’ desire for a local commodity that the Europeans desperately wanted: land.

These Native peoples may not have always been on the best terms with their neighbors, but they were always in sync with nature. They didn’t kill off their food source, weren't active ZH posters, didn't contaminate their waters with toxins and radiation, like we find today, nor did they go on campaigns to exterminate adjacent tribes. U. S. officials, intent on moving more and more settlers west, were determined to eliminate the Indians. The indigenous people were seen as “disposable” since they offered no reliable labor force and had no valuable commodities to offer in commerce. Many referred to the Native People as “heathens” and “animals”, dehumanizing them and thereby justifying their annihilation. Government and military leaders knew that without food, even the strongest army can be brought to its’ knees. They also knew that the most effective way of dealing a deadly blow to the Indians was to destroy their food supply, the buffalo.

ElvisDog's picture

These Native peoples may not have always been on the best terms with their neighbors, but they were always in sync with nature

But were the native peoples in sync with nature because of some innate nobility or because they had to be because they lacked the technology to abuse nature? Europeans in the Dark Ages were also in sync with nature because if they weren't they would starve to death. I think the situation was similar for the Indians. It was only when the Europeans developed metalurgy, steam power, and so on that they could generate the surplus food that allows one to abuse nature. If the Indians had similar technology would they have acted differently? Who is to say, but it's a little like the working class guy saying "I would never kill myself by taking too much cocaine and driving my Maserati into a tree". He doesn't have the resources to do it, so who can say if he would or wouldn't if he did?

trav7777's picture

you idiot...the natives were not in sync with nature.

They extincted every large land mammal in this hemisphere.  The injuns used to drive whole heards of buffalo off of cliffs...the animal survived only because the injun lacked the technology to live long and multiply sufficiently to extinct them too!

You're also a moron for believing that every injun was a plains injun feeding on buffalo...ROTFL.  What kind of stereotyping rayciss are you?

Moe Howard's picture

There were huge plagues that swept mesoamerica before Columbus & Cortez, wiping out millions of native americans.

Your so-called knowledge needs to be updated.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Native Americans were largely bred out of existence and assimilated.  I think if you went to a large public gathering and asked for a show of hands to the question "Who here has native American blood?" if people were honest, I think you'd be surprised at the number raising their hands.

The 'red' man is a part  of many 'white' and 'black' Americans.

AnAnonymous's picture

Another brilliant session of innovation by a US citizen. US citizens are such innovators they cant improve of their cheap propaganda.

But it shows that the US citizen nature is eternal.

The way the Indians perceived property is irrelevant.

What mattered is what US citizens stated. And US citizens stated that human beings had a natural right to property. US citizens denied that right to Indians who were human beings.

So US citizens went against a creed they set up for themselves and that was not imposed on them but by themselves.

Telling that Indians did not acknowledge property is also blatantly not historical. If that was the case, they would not have sued to get their property rights acknowledged by the SC and denied by the true friend to the Indians, Andrew Jackson.

Cheap propaganda.

Self ownership in the 1800s? I hope that you are aware that the self ownership concept was an additional propaganda bit to fill the cap in some neocapitalist drivel thesis, that had that everyone could make a capital thrive. So when some objected that every man did not start with a capital, the gap was filled by claiming that a person owned oneself, so everyone had a capital.

Again cheap propaganda.

In the great construction of the white tribes, at start, as it was impossible to deny some blatant facts, there were several groups in the white race, ordered from top to bottom, anglo saxons/aryan topping the hierarchy.

Discrimination against inferior white people was natural and part of the racist system.

But according to the racist creed, even the lower white person deserves freedom and had not to be held as a slave. They were entitled to a superior status because of their whiteness.

US historical revionism is so cheap. Their US propaganda is so cheap.

Hey, here, another entitlement typical to US citizens: the feeling that they deserve more for an equal or lower work output.

Every US citizen in spite of their blatant nullity think they deserve every single cent they make even though they earn most of their wages on the mere fact of being US citizen.

This US citizen and his shining by their worthiness comment are a perfect example.