I've recently become familiar with a few of the most consistently shared moral tenets of conservatism. From the Heritage Foundation: "Consider why shrinking government is moral. The more the federal government provides for people, the more it deprives them not only of their dignity, but of one of the most sacred rights, penned by Thomas Jefferson: the right to pursue happiness. Why? Because fulfilling happiness comes from earned success, not from unearned handouts."
True enough — aside from the notion of "dignity" being an acutely absurd one in light of the fact that the ability to alleviate one's basic needs for themselves and their dependents is at the mercy of completely artificial, nontransparent systems that have destroyed and supplanted our natural culture of survival that had to do with communally learned techniques. I can't argue with happiness coming from earned success, but not even necessarily in a financial sense, like they're obviously implying. But while this is specifically targeting the poor and working class, wouldn't this idea apply much more universally to the rich?
They're all over it: "Think about the person we all knew growing up whose parents spoiled him or her. Even if that person wasn't unhappy at the time (though chances are he or she was unhappy), it teaches that individual to expect handouts, which will likely result in an unhappy adulthood. Sewing the seeds of entitlement is a recipe for misery."
This obviously applies to the rich, although they're applying it universally. "Sewing the seeds of entitlement..." Sure, but with America being as unequal as it is, with a shrinking generational income growth among the "lower" 90% of population — when money for a family equals (good) food, shelter, and quality of life (education etc.) that flawlessly translates into real economic growth, should these really be seen as mere entitlements? If people have a right to life after birth as well as before it — shouldn't people and families affected by an economic environment not-even-a-little-bit caused by unfettered capitalism (e.g. the self-inflicted bank crisis) be proudly entitled to basic needs, especially when one already pays taxes, even if just in the form of sales taxes?
The rest of the Heritage Foundation's argument goes on to bemoan the shrinkage of charity spending allegedly correlated with New Deal legislation from the 1930s. Apparently, private, religious charities, and not the government, are more fit to selectively decide who needs actual charity and who needs to "repair spiritual commitment." Sounds more like some compulsion to judge the less fortunate, which I find sickening.
Finally, imagine the simple scene of a proud small-business owner standing outside the sign for his lumber and hardware emporium, with a banner that says, "I built this business without government help. Obama can kiss my ass." Imagine what simple things one can find in the background that might suggest otherwise. His business has a trademarked name (government). He enjoys reliable electricity lighting his sign and store, regulated by the FairElectric Rates determined by the Public Utilities Commission (government). His store is linked to a taxpayer funded road (government) with safe driving standards (government), postal service (government), telephone networks (government), and proper drainage (government). The phone on his belt enjoys Internet access (government funded research), his watch from standard dates and times (yes, government). A taxpayer-funded and -founded Fire Service, which he doesn't have to worry about anyway because wood isn't flammable. Ports for the import of goods like his sign from China (government). And finally, perhaps the standard currency for the transaction of goods that he may enjoy. Whoever thinks shared reinforcement and protection from risk in the form of tax-based services is somehow a bad thing has been so lulled into security by their dependence on them that the term "entitlement" doesn't even begin to describe.
— Wiley Robinson is a senior in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.