The Road to Hell is Paved With Entitlement

A nice, enterprising man I know operates a produce stand. The other day, a woman asked him if he had any local fruit. He told the woman the fruit he sells grows on a farm just 25 minutes away. “25 minutes away!” she exclaimed. “Don’t you have anything closer?”

It’s the entitlement mentality at work. Sure, customers feel entitled to get what they pay for. They’re entitled not to be lied to, and not to be given a bad product. That’s legitimate entitlement, properly respected under the law.

But this example got me thinking: The irrational entitlement mentality means a couple of things. One, it means that you’re entitled to something you did not earn and have no reason to expect. Unless this man has a sign saying, “Fruit from my garden just around the corner”, there’s no entitlement to anything other than locally grown fruit, and 25 minutes away certainly qualifies as local.

But entitlement also rests on a dangerous and flawed naiveté. Entitled people think that they CAN and therefore SHOULD have things which aren’t reasonable (or even necessary) to have.

Entitlement, the philosophical and psychological cancer plaguing our floundering society, rests on an obnoxious but also dangerously inaccurate assumption. The assumption is that somebody, somewhere and somehow can and therefore should provide you with the impossible.

The most entitled people are generally the ones most indifferent to, or most fervently against, things like capitalism, profit and business. And therein lies the huge irony. This woman who considers local fruit to be grown across the street, rather than a few miles away, probably thinks that there’s “Someone” or “Something Somewhere Who” will make this ridiculous proposition so. In most cases, it’s the government fantasized to magically provide the impossible, but it’s the absurd thinking that makes the untenable political positions possible in the first place.

Capitalism, material technology, for-profit self-interest and the other things most of us are trained to frown upon are the only things, ironically, that have made this entitlement mentality possible. If the marvelous and unique situation that is today’s world had not come into being thanks to strong elements of capitalism and economic freedom, this woman would not have become spoiled enough to demand the ridiculous. Yet I’d bet money she doesn’t have a clue about any of this!

Ignorance of this sort is not the stuff that enables individuals or civilizations to survive, not forever. We’d better find ways to challenge our erroneous thinking. Otherwise, many of us will wake up one day and be in for a very unpleasant surprise when a real crisis hits and we’re not equipped to get through it.

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