What is entitlement? Who is entitled? Why does someone deserve free healthcare after the age of 60 something but someone older than 26 does not? Why is someone born in 1945 entitled to work their way through university with a part time job making minimum wage while someone born in 1993 must go into tens of thousands of dollars in debt to do the same thing? Why is someone that joined the workforce during a boom entitled to continued employment while someone born into a slump forced to underemployment?
It isn’t entitled to suggest that healthcare, housing, transportation and education are increasingly expensive. It isn’t entitled to suggest that we put the millions of unemployed back to work. It isn’t entitled to suggest that letting factories (or offices, or stores, etc.) lay half used is a waste, nor is it entitled to suggest that it isn’t possible to work one’s way through university the way it was in the 60s and 70s. Although the decisions that have led us to the point are choices, the people that have to grapple with them largely do so because of the accident of their births.
The fact that any of us exist at all is a freak of luck. The folks born in the US are luckier than those born in Somalia, and humans born in Somalia are luckier than tigers born in Kenya. Kids that grew up during the great depression werenâ€™t as lucky as those that grew up in the 60s or the 90s.
We are born to people not of our choice, grow up in places not of our choice, go to schools not of our choice and pay for higher education at public universities at levels largely not of our choice. We enter the workforce at times largely not of our choice, inherit economic conditions not of our choice and use infrastructure built without our choice.
We are born in a time of technological progress without our choice, built by generations of scientists and engineers that were funded by many different public and private concerns. Our cultural traditions are built upon the work of previous generations, and they were influenced by many works in the public domain.
Nobody bootstraps themselves. Many people have had to work harder than others to get where they are today, but there is no direct correlation between hard work and success anywhere in the world. Just as you owe your parents an unpayable debt for raising you, so do you have an unpayable debt to all of those that have pushed humanity forward against common sense, religion, taboo, existing scientific thought, all in the search for beauty and truth. We owe just as much to our artists as we do our scientists, as both work towards finding out what can be. And we owe our engineers for making all of their dreams a reality.
Progress is leveraging the work of previous generations into improving things today and for future generations. Doing so requires hard work, but hard work isn’t the goal, progress is.
We have all relied on others to get us to where we are today. It is our responsibility to make the world a better place for those that come after us. Not just for your children, not just for your neighbor’s children, but for children in places that seem alien and backwards to you. The people in the poorest parts of the world have the most to grow, and by growing help the world with their contributions to the world.
People don’t have a right to a job. But when you have millions of people out of work it makes us all poorer. We have roads and bridges that are crumbling, networks that are outdated, slow trains, and not enough affordable rental housing in growing metropolitan areas around the country. We have to start weaning our economy off of oil and coal, and solar and other renewable sources of energy are finally becoming competitive in price with legacy fossil fuels. The economy is growing, but unemployment and underemployment will be high for years to come without action by the public sector to increase aggregate demand.
The demand must come from us. We must demand that we leave the world a better place for those that come after us. That people who are down and out be given a chance to help themselves. That we all grow richer when we help those most unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Demand more from humanity and humanity will rise to the occasion.