Revisiting the Culture of Entitlement

Thoughts on the culture of entitlement are noted by Glenn Reynolds:

Americans now feel entitled to spend nearly a third of their adult lives in retirement. Their jobs are less physically demanding than their parents' were, but they're retiring younger and typically start collecting Social Security by age 62. Most could keep working - fewer than 10 percent of people 65 to 75 are in poor health - but, like Bartleby the Scrivener, they prefer not to.

I've discussed this issue in the past and noted that the real problem is not that people feel entitled, but that our vast, crooked, centralized government can be manipulated to enable those who feel entitled to steal resources from the rest of us.

A culture of entitlement is damaging for everyone, at every age: we are all, ultimately, responsible for our own lives, health, wealth and happiness. If ever-larger capable, healthy, active portions of the populace continue to engineer our society to obtain resources for themselves at the expense of others, the system will collapse.

This all ties back into the giant Ponzi scheme that is social security - essentially a way for people who are, on average, wealthier to vote themselves resources from people who are not. The problem is not that people are going to be people, but that centralized, massive government enables the worse aspects of human nature to cause so much economic harm.

A related area of entitlement - accompanied by political debate, puffery and grave misunderstandings over the way the world actually works - is medical provision and insurance. Ronald Bailey takes a look and nails the real costs:

Which suggests the following thought experiment - what if the United States had nationalized its health care system in 1960? That would be the moral equivalent of freezing (or at least drastically slowing) medical innovation at 1960 levels. The private sector and governments would not now be spending so much more money on health care. There might well have been no organ transplants, no MRIs, no laparoscopic surgery, no cholesterol lowering drugs, hepatitis C vaccine, no in vitro fertilization, no HIV treatments and so forth. Even Canadians and Britons would not be satisfied with receiving the same quality of medical care that they got 45 years ago.

Everybody pays more to obtain improved pharmaceuticals, imaging technologies, cancer therapies, and surgical techniques. The happy result is that average life expectancy has increased by about eight years since 1960.

The encroachment of socialism in medicine in the US should be of grave concern to those interested in longer, healthier lives and a future of better medical technology. Without a dynamic free market, the pace of medical progress grinds to a halt - regulation could literally cost us our lives. As Bill Walker noted:

If telomerase inhibitors were a new kind of computer chip, they would have been on every Wal-Mart pharmacy shelf and selling for ten dollars a bottle by now.

And there would be twenty competing review organizations providing responsible, comprehensive risk-evaluations for another few dollars. This sentiment is true of every aspect of medical research, every new potential therapy that could help with age-related disease or aging itself. The present system of centralized review gives us the worse of all worlds - it greatly slows research while still being largely ineffective at its stated goals.


I disagree with just about everything you said. Socialized medical care actually increases profits for the health industry in that more consumers exist to sell your products to. Innovation can take place worldwide, you ignored that fact that globalization speeds innovation even if the USA were completely socialist, another country would be less socialist and innovation would still take place.

Our lives are not at risk, perhaps money is at stake for people who own stock in American drug companies, but what stops you from buying stock somewhere else and profiting elsewhere if Americas drug industry became less profitable?

Having a private market is important, I just don't see how creating more consumers through universal healthcare would decrease profits when theres more people to sell to.

Posted by: Wick at July 12th, 2005 10:48 PM

Well, all I can say is that it's just as well that not everyone thinks your way, Wick - although far too many do for the good of our future health.

Posted by: Reason at July 12th, 2005 11:39 PM
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