Originally posted at AEIdeas. Our Academic Programs team recently asked Nick Eberstadt, author of “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” questions on entitlement spending related to Millennials. Below is part three of our three-part series with Nick. Part one is available here. Part two is available here. If the Millennial generation will receive little, if any, benefit from the entitlement programs, is it worth our effort to try and reform them? Is there a different policy we should pursue?
I don’t think there will be any choice but to reform the entitlement programs. Otherwise they will be the social welfare revolution that eats its children, starting with Gen. Y. So I don’t think there’s any feasible alternative. I do believe that if we ignore the entitlements program, it’s not going to come crashing down all of a sudden. My fear is actually worse. My fear is that the entitlement phenomenon can continue on its course for a long time because we are such an affluent society. And that if unattended the entitlement problem will ultimately reach its limits after entitlements have debased our dollar, crowed out mortgages, corporate finance, defense, and the things that make private standards of living so enviable in the United States today. I fear we could go on for a very long time on the current path. You would have a very unhappy ending, but I fear it is sustainable for much longer than we may imagine right now, so that’s why I think it’s going to be incumbent upon Gen. Y Americans, along with older Americans, to talk honestly and look clearly at the situation. I don’t offer any particular program, any 12-step program or 10-point solution, because I don’t have one. Whatever the solution to this problem turns out to be, it has to be one that’s possible to build a consensus around. It may take a long time, or an unpleasant discussion and a fairly long time to reach this consensus. It may involve something like a modern day version of a kulturkampf to achieve. Kulturkampfs, historically speaking, are not very pleasant to behold and are not a lot of fun to live through, but the alternatives, I think, are even less pleasant.Nobody ever gets something for nothing, but there is something to the notion that at different times, we help each other when we are in need. Not dependency, but reciprocity. Is there a way to maintain a co-dependence on each other that strengthens communities instead of an every-man-for-himself mentality?
That’s a terribly important question. If one just reflects on the whole life course, it’s biologically natural for human beings to be dependent on others for a fair portion of their life. When they’re babies, infants and youngsters, they can’t fend for themselves, and they have to be taken care of. At the other end of the lifecycle, in very old age, people can’t take care of themselves the way they’d like to. The provision of a decent society is to look after its vulnerable elements. Not just chronologically vulnerable but socially vulnerable.Read the rest of the post here.