Entitlement Mentality is a “Sign of Progress”?

So much nonsense, so little time. Soon after publishing yesterday’s article about government creating economic markets, I read a similar one by Jonathan Cohn extolling the virtues of the entitlement mindset prevalent among so many Americans. Mitt Romney has gotten into political hot water over his comments about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, but now Cohn wants to come along and inform us that this statistic is, in fact, a sign of good ole American progress.

If you think I’m taking Cohn’s word out of context or overstating his point, think no more. Here they are in direct quotation:

But the fact that the entitlement state has grown shouldn’t, by itself, alarm us. It’s actually a sign of progress, because it’s a reminder that the government has stepped in to do what the market would not.

Yeah, it’s a reminder all right, but not the kind of reminder that anyone should be celebrating. Cohn never stops to think that the market isn’t providing entitlements, because this isn’t the market’s job. Pointing to a growing entitlement state (not in the least trying to deny the fact, mind you) and calling it a sign of progress should prompt a further question: Progress toward what? The answer should be fairly self-evident: Progress toward a socialistic state, where the receivers outnumber the contributors. This is the ultimate goal of consistent statism: The least amount of work being done for the greatest amount of benefit.

One wonders if Cohn would submit to this type of “progress” if 47% of his staff at The New Republic decided to quit their jobs and let the other 53% write their articles for them? After all, why should 47% of the people have to work every day, when 53% could be made to shoulder the workload. In fact, the closer that The New Republic got to inverting the ratio—where less than 50% would be responsible for doing the work of the 100%—the closer they would be to the ultimate expression of “progress”: where more than half of a population gets supported by the others. Is Cohn willing to put his ideal of “progress” to the test in his workplace? Or is this just something that he likes pontificating about in his shiny white ivory news tower?

This is why I have decided, for lack of anything better to do, that I will use 47% of Cohn’s own words in this article and only 53% of my own. It seems fair; I’m still supplying the majority of the words. Cohn will supply the nonsense, and I will supply the sense; you shouldn’t have any problem determining which is which. (But if you do, his words are italicized and mine are not.)

We saw, in the years before Social Security, what the world looks like when seniors don’t have adequate pensions. Did we? And who gets to define what “retirement” means, or what an “adequate pension” should consist of? Should retirees be guaranteed to live at the same standard of living that they did when they were working?

And we saw, in the years before Medicare and Medicaid and (now) the Affordable Care Act, what the world looks like when people can’t afford to pay their medical bills. It was not pretty. But the price for addressing those failures was the creation of some massive government programs. They cost a lot of money, yes, but we all benefit from them at some point. People couldn’t afford to pay their medical bills because of government intervention. Malpractice, and other legal wrangling, not to mention FDA and Department of Health regulations and standards sent medical costs through the roof. Sending government in to solve the problem they created is like asking the Fire Department to set your house on fire before they douse it with water.

If the polls are right, the voters today are pretty skeptical of government, at least relative to what they were up through the 1960s. I put no trust in polls, but I like this direction. Cohn should read the Declaration of Independence sometime; those guys were also were also pretty skeptical of government.

But the voters also believe government should make sure the elderly and poor have health care. They believe government should provide pensions through Social Security. They even believe government should guarantee that everybody has food and shelter…  people [need] to think about these contradictions—and to realize that they like government a lot more than they seem to realize. In other words, they need to realize what they don’t realize—brilliant. However, Cohn is actually correct here. Americans, even professed conservatives, do look to the government in many instances for which the Constitution makes no provision: take education, for example, or unemployment, or defining marriage, or selling alcohol on Sundays, etc, etc. What used to be primarily the domain of families and local churches has been (willingly) turned over to the government. The elderly, the widow, and the poor used to be provided with food and shelter by individuals in a local community through the ministry of the church—the spiritual family—and through the love and care of relatives—the blood family. Jesus assured that need and dependency would always be with us (Matthew 26:11), but He never once gave the responsibility to the civil government. Cohn is looking for answers in all the wrong places. We can’t afford much more of his “progress.”