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America’s Critical Choice: Entitlement or Personal Responsibility

Written on Friday, October 5, 2012 by

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In the final analysis, the presidential election in November is less about liberalism versus conservatism than it is about entitlement versus personal responsibility.  Are we going to be a country whose citizens expect the government—meaning other Americans—to take care of them or are we going to be a country whose citizens take responsibility for themselves, their families, and their communities? Said another way, will more Americans choose to ride in the economic wagon or will more choose to help pull it?  If the entitlement mentality wins out in November, so many people will want to ride in America’s economic wagon that there may not be enough productive people left to pull it.

The entitlement mentality is like a disease that undermines the immune system making people more susceptible to the allure of government handouts and, as a result, less willing to take personal responsibility for themselves, their actions, and their decisions. At the same time, the nanny-government approach of liberals reinforces and feeds the entitlement mentality in an unending cycle.  As the entitlement mentality and nanny government mutually nourish each other, personal responsibility is undermined with each repetition of the cycle.  This is why it is so important to break the cycle by replacing the entitlement mentality with an attitude of personal responsibility that encompasses such values as integrity, diligence, self-reliance, self-discipline, and accountability.

Replacing the attitude of victimhood and entitlement with an attitude of personal responsibility will require leadership from people of all political persuasions.  Conservatives cannot fight the battle alone.  The effort to restore an attitude of personal responsibility must begin with a thorough understanding of the causes of the entitlement mentality and its elements: victimhood, class envy, dependency, and finger pointing.  Primary among these causes are the following: 1) overindulgent parents, 2) misguided school systems, and 3) nanny government.

            Overindulgent parents are sometimes referred to as helicopter parents because they hover over their children from the time they are born and into adulthood “protecting” them from the consequences of their actions and giving them everything they could possibly want or need except what they need most: responsibility and accountability.  As a result, the children of helicopter parents become adults who think they are entitled to anything they want just because they want it.  Further, they see nothing wrong with expecting others to provide for them in the same way their parents always did. Consequently, making the transition from taking handouts from their parents to taking handouts from the government is easy for the entitled.

Misguided school systems contribute to the entitlement mentality by emphasizing the development of self-esteem instead of self-discipline and inclusiveness instead of achievement.  Rather than being the exclusive, meritorious enterprise it is supposed to be, public education is now all about inclusiveness.  In the inclusive world of public education, exclusive practices such as publicizing the honor rolls, naming a class valedictorian, and recognizing outstanding student performance are now verboten. They have been replaced with such practices as allowing everyone who signs up to make the team, covering up the score board so that the losing team is not embarrassed, and giving everyone—winners and losers alike—trophies.  These misguided practices encourage young people to think they are entitled to success without having to work for it.  Nanny government with its myriad handouts just reinforces the entitlement mentality that helicopter parents and misguided school systems have already instilled. The deck is stacked against conservatives and others who understand the need to restore personal responsibility as a basic American value, but the fight must be fought nonetheless because the alternative is unthinkable.

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