It is wholly unfortunate that most individuals that are part of my generation today believe that they are entitled to things they have not worked for. They truly believe that they are entitled to gratuitous money, and services without a single minute of work. The truth is, the axiom of life, outside the unstable despondency of the “welfare state” as it has come to be known is that you are entitled to nothing. Nobody owes you anything. The only person that does is yourself.
The best way to put it is the way Milton Friedman did: “There is no such thing as a free lunch” meaning that if some get entitlements, others have to pay the price. If someone lives off welfare, who pays for those entitlements? Why is it that people believe that they must live off the work of others, and seemingly truly hold the conviction that it is their god-given right? The truth is that the only right bestowed on them is the right of freedom, freedom from coercion, and freedom to pursue one’s happiness.
Recently the idea of the fact that no one is entitled to anything came up in the famous show House of Cards, when the protagonist-antagonist, and anti-hero, Frank Underwood made his famous speech in regards to the fact that the American dream is not about entitlements, rather about giving people the opportunity to work and earn their own way through their own sweat. This is to show that this age-old idea, has been recycled by popular culture but ‘dumbed’ down in order to make the masses more weary of what it might mean.
Yet, let us look beyond simple fiction and go to Ayn Rand’s philosophical rhetoric, especially in her non-fiction work, on the idea that man is only entitled to the fruit of his own work, and not to live on the backs of others. If we look at history we can see that any system and society that was based on the idea of welfare, namely Socialism and Communism, only led to the suffering and death of millions, whereas Capitalism, freedom, and laissez-faire trade have yielded prosperity, democracy, and sustained growth. Where would you rather live, China or the United States?
Still despite the complexity of human association and politics, the one truth remains that no one owes anyone else anything, and the only feasible way of conducting one’s life is through the mutual free trade of goods and services. What will yield a greater deal of dignity and pride? Having worked for one’s living as a column of personal responsibility, or living off the work of others? That is the question that every single one of us must ask ourselves everyday.
Milad Doroudian is a writer, historian, and the editor of The Art of Polemics.