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February 13, 2012

Who Killed TANSTAAFL?

Grim examines the assumptions underlying the entitlement mentality:

Rather, the Hot Air tag to the article suddenly made me realize how odd it is to expect to receive something expensive for free. It's not usually the case that you obtain expensive things for free.

The argument seems to be that it's important for women, so therefore it should be free to women. There are lots of things that are at least as important, though, that we certainly don't expect to be free: food, for example, or sufficient clothing for the winter. The argument seems to be that birth control ought to be free (and indeed it is, in the form of abstinence, a form of birth control that Catholics consider it a virtue to materially assist: but I digress). It ought to be free, and any employer ought to be sure that any of their employees receives it as free.

This is really an astonishing demand. I could understand demanding it at cost: we could structure an argument whereby insurance companies are understood to receive a reasonable profit, and as part of the price of approving the practice of the business in the state, we mandate that they arrange to provide certain critical medications to their consumers at cost. We might ask, even then, why birth control or abortifacients would be the medicine we chose to occupy this position of special importance -- surely life-saving drugs would be a more worthy choice? Still, at least at cost could conceivably be a reasonable demand.

Free, though? Nothing is free. Everyone knows this.

But do they? The underlying premise of the Occupy Movement is encompassed by the plaintive cri de coeur of a group of men and women who have enough money and food to spend their days camping out in a public park at taxpayer expense rather than earning their bread and shelter.

The underlying premise of the debate over rising income inequality is that people who make less rewarding choices when it comes to occupation, education, training, marriage and hours worked have a right to the same income as those who make wiser choices.

To paraphrase Grim, whence comes this expectation? At the heart of it lies the notion that there is (or ought to be) such a thing as a free lunch: the dubious "right" to pass the cost of bad decisions to those who can (generally through having made better decisions) better afford to pay them.

Update: More grist for the mill.

Exhibit A:

Many young adults have felt the impact of the recession and sluggish recovery in tangible ways. Fully half (49%) of those ages 18 to 34 say that because of economic conditions over the past few years, they have taken a job they didn’t really want just to pay the bills.

The heart bleeds... but wait! There's more pathos ahead:

... I am struck by how wealthy our society is when I look at this chart. Look at answers two and three. In both cases, people are saying that in tough times, they chose to forego income and build their skills, even perhaps paying for the privilege. What other time in history would people have this luxury? How many countries today would have so many people with this luxury in hard times? Even in the Great Depression in this country I don’t think we saw the same phenomenon. Obviously the economy sucks and it would be great for everyone for it to improve, but in most other times and even in many other countries in the world today, a significant bar in bad times would have been “I starved to death.”

Posted by Cassandra at February 13, 2012 07:05 AM

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Comments

The underlying premise of the debate over rising income inequality is that people who make less rewarding choices when it comes to occupation, education, training, marriage and hours worked have a right to the same income as those who make wiser choices.

I think the problem is that the Occupiers do not believe the rich have made wiser choices. They take it as axiomatic that they make their income through fraud, exploitation, and otherwise immoral means. Furthermore, they believe that this fraud is not only legal, but is in fact, written into the rules of the game.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 13, 2012 11:56 AM

I mean, would our old pal, the Vietnamese Hairy Fruit, ever admit that the rich were honest above-board people?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 13, 2012 12:07 PM

OK ladies, today only, you get to choose one item from the racks that you shall recieve for free. Remember now, only one item. Ready? Set? Choose!

I wonder about women who think that of all the things they might need health insurance for, that's the one thing they would pick.

Posted by: Allen at February 13, 2012 01:30 PM

I think the problem is that the Occupiers do not believe the rich have made wiser choices. They take it as axiomatic that they make their income through fraud, exploitation, and otherwise immoral means.

I think this is an accurate description. What does it mean? It sounds to me like the Occupiers are just clamoring for their share of the ill-gotten gains. What does that say about their moral precepts?

And clamoring for their share without having partaken in the ill-getting. What does that say...?

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at February 13, 2012 02:18 PM

I think they would tell you that they did earn it, but those crooks at the top defrauded it out of them. Those bonuses, "Golden Parachutes", and "Obscene" compensation packages were paid out at the expense of the money "rightly belonging to the employees".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 13, 2012 02:45 PM

I'd pick free cable.

Posted by: spd rdr - free to good home at February 13, 2012 03:26 PM

The guy who is the CEO of my company started working at 19, dropping out of college. He worked ALL THE TIME for years to build up the company he joined, traveling constantly to sell, then led a multi-million dollar buy-out to take it over before he was 30 years old.

He works ALL THE TIME. He is traveling around the world overlooking his factories, his sales staff (epsecially) and working out deals to benefit his company. He has built up a +$150 MM dollar company because he is smart and works hard, but mostly because he works hard.

He has a tremendous sense of humor, and is quite a charming guy when he wants to be (although his first marriage went into the toilet because he worked too hard). For the first time in years I actually feel as if my work is going to have some meaning, instead of being pissed away by the incompetence of the previous managers of my company.

This whole notion of entitlement is based on ignorance of how the real world works. People have had it too easy for too long and believe they are ENTITLED to it. The coming economic hard times will disabuse many of the present slackers of just how unpleasant it is to have an empty stomach.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 13, 2012 09:11 PM

I think they would tell you that they did earn it, but those crooks at the top defrauded it out of them.

If a vet gave you that answer -- the "crooks on top" being Congress -- it would be correct.

Posted by: BillT at February 13, 2012 10:14 PM

Sadly, no. They would tell you Congress' fault is in allowing the 1%'s fraud to be legal.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 14, 2012 08:46 AM

Sadly, no. They would tell you Congress' fault is in allowing the 1%'s fraud to be legal.

Sadly, no. Congress has been reducing (and eliminating) veterans' benefits in order to fund social programs since the Jimmeh Cottuh years. BTW, did you know funding for the Special Olympics is one of the many non-military obligations Congress injected into the *defense* budget?

Posted by: BillT at February 14, 2012 10:49 PM

I meant the Occupy crowd, not the vets.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 15, 2012 08:51 AM

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