Published by Templeton Press, the volume’s basic theme is that although the United States has accrued unprecedented wealth, young people are enrolling in higher education at rates higher than ever before, and advancements in technology that are far beyond what many people would have ever thought possible, the state of the American mind—the nation’s intellectual prowess—has deteriorated over the past 3 decades. Benjamin Franklin’s “self-made man” has grown dependent upon the state, independence has morphed into self-absorption, and liberty has been curtailed in the effort to promote multiculturalism.
Eberstadt’s contribution, first appearing in National Affairs under the title “American Exceptionalism and the Entitlement State,” focuses upon all of those “means-tested benefits” that the federal government provides to “needy” people. Today, 33%+ of the nation’s population—that’s 190M people—receive benefits from the federal government. That figure excludes Social Security and Medicare payments.
A couple of factoids:
- In the 3 decades spanning 1983 to 2012, the number of people receiving means-tested benefits increased 200%+.
- For every 100-person increase in national population during those 3 decades, 80 persons were added to the welfare rolls.
- Within the next two years, 50%+ of the population will be on some form of needs-based assistance.
Eberstadt wonders whatever happened to the key virtues—self-reliance, personal initiative, and generosity—that enabled untold numbers of people in the United States during the 20th century to rise from poverty and build the world’s strongest if not greatest economy. Shortly, these virtues will be replaced by the “essentially unconditional and indefinite guarantees of means-tested public largesse,” Eberstadt observes.
Reminds The Motley Monk of the “promise” of European social democracy, except for that “essentially unconditional and indefinite guarantees” part. Just consider the economic state of the PIGS—Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain—today. And, that’s to say nothing about France!
How different that is from the nation’s past. In his money” quote, Eberstadt observes:
Because America had no feudal past and no lingering aristocracy,
poverty was not viewed as the result of an unalterable accident of
birth but instead as a temporary challenge that could be overcome
with determination and character—with enterprise, hard work, and
grit. Rightly or wrongly, Americans viewed themselves as masters
of their own fate, intensely proud because they were self-reliant. (p. 26)
With the United States no longer one of the “Top 10” of the world’s freest economies, the expansion of government, the increasing number of regulations, and slowdown in competitiveness and job creation—in large part due to Obamacare—portends a very different future. The key virtue will be dependence…dependence upon government largesse.
Will that future be one that looks like Greece?
Let the discussion begin…
To read “American Exceptionalism and the Entitlement State,” click on the following link: http://www.nationalaffairs.com/doclib/20141218_Eberstadt.pdf
To purchase “The State of the American Mind,” click on the following link: