While serving as President, Harry Truman became known for the sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here.” Truman’s sign was the ultimate expression of personal responsibility. It told the world that he took responsibility for the actions of the United States government regardless of whether these actions had the desired effect or failed miserably. But Harry Truman is no longer president and America is no longer the country it was when he served. Instead, America has devolved into a nation of finger pointers and blame givers, a country in which people no longer expect to be held accountable for their actions. Worse yet, we have become a nation of entitled Americans, people who, rather than taking personal responsibility for their lives, expect the government to take care of them.
In his book Liberty and Tyranny, Mark Levin says this about government entitlements: “If the Statist were to devise a scheme whereby a grandparent would be stealing future earnings from his own grandchild, would the grandparent consent to such immoral behavior? Yet entitlement programs tend to be intergenerational swindles that threaten the well-being of future generations with massive financial obligations incurred from benefits received by today’s generation.”
Levin has put his finger on the real problem with government bailouts, handouts, and entitlements. It is not just that they are crippling the American economy—which they are—but that they are crippling individual Americans by robbing them of any sense of self-reliance and personal responsibility—two key ingredients in the traditional American work ethic. People who come to depend on government entitlements are saying that it is acceptable to expect someone else to pay for their needs rather than taking personal responsibility for them. This is nothing more than legalized theft, and the government is the thief.
What follows are some facts recommended by Jake Lawson at livestrong.com that conservatives can use to articulate the case for personal responsibility.
Entitled people tend to:
1) View the world as inherently unfair and see themselves as victims. Over time they respond to the perceived unfairness and their corresponding victimhood by becoming chronically angry. When this happens, they often act out their hostility in counterproductive ways (think of the Occupy Movement).
2) Develop a fear for taking risks of the kind that are an essential part of success in a competitive society. When this fear sets in, they opt for the security of nanny government.
3) Tend to fail at any enterprise they undertake—including personal relationships—because they have developed a negative attitude that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They expect to fail, and so they do. Eventually they come to accept failure as a normal way of life instead of an anomaly to be overcome by working hard and working smart and learning from one’s mistakes.
4) Tend to become addicted to counterproductive behaviors and substances. Their rationale is typically something like this: Since the world is unfair and the deck is stacked against me, and since I cannot help myself, I will seek comfort in drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other counterproductive behaviors.
Eventually see themselves as permanent victims who deserve to be taken care of by others in the form of government entitlements for which they are neither appreciative nor thankful.
With the space available in this column, I have barely scratched the surface of this topic. For a more comprehensive treatment, refer to our book, Rules for Conservative Radicals available at www.patriotdepot.com.