Entitlement is a disease, much like cancer. I fought and won my personal war against cancer, but have thankfully never suffered from entitlement. If there is indeed a divide in our country, as liberals in both political parties are all too willing to espouse and exploit, it may very well be between those Americans who feel entitled to guarantees of health care, retirement income and protections of their self-defined class, and the rest of us who have read the Constitution.
Our nation was founded upon the notion that government should protect individual rights while individual citizens pursued their own version of happiness. The founding fathers acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence the self-evident truth that our Creator endowed upon us the right to pursue happiness. The right afforded Americans is the pursuit, not the outcome. Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution guarantees happiness as an outcome.
Nearly 200 years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for the same principle. His pursuit was not economic entitlement for racial minorities who felt the cruel sting of discrimination at the ballot box and an unequal access to economic freedom, but for the equal opportunities afforded all citizens as envisioned by our founders.
Too many Americans and too many political leaders currently ignore the founders’ and King’s shared vision. Instead of recognizing the awesome potential within individuals to achieve their dreams and support themselves and their families, power-loving politicians are spreading entitlement like a plague.
The problems inherent in our health care system provide an instructive example. Health care costs of all types are high because individual Americans do not pay enough for their own care.
The costs are subsidized by the government and employers, which causes gross distortions in the health care market. Government created this mess by enacting tax laws that actually penalize individual purchasers of health insurance, and by enacting programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to finance health care for those deemed by government as too poor to pay for it themselves.
The disastrous result is not only the fiscal cost to taxpayers, but that entire generations of Americans have been socialized into believing they are entitled to health care coverage.
Herman Cain is the National Chairman of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. He is the former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Inc., and currently is CEO and president of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., a business and leadership consulting company.
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