Thursday, March 15, 2012


Several years ago I wrote a piece entitled Common Tragedy that described a dilemma known as the "Tragedy of the Commons". Basically this amounts to a situation in which individuals, acting independently and focusing on their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a critical shared resource, even when it is clear that this is not in the best long-term interest of anyone.

Today, my focus is on a similar topic but goes to the notion of entitlement, where multiple individuals have convinced themselves that they deserve special treatment and support from the community resources when they already have sufficient resources to begin with. This type of thinking borders on delusional and can ultimately do great damage to a society faced with many different individuals already clambering for access to the finite available resources.

A case in point, in the news recently, a woman who had won a million dollar lottery yet still felt that she was entitled to receive a monthly support check from the government. When asked if she felt she had a right to collect public assistance money, the lady stated, "I kind of do. I have no income, and I have bills to pay. I have two houses." People seem to slip so easily into denial and rationalization and feelings of entitlement. They have a way of convincing themselves that they are entitled to more than they deserve and more than is fair. They might even rail against someone in the same circumstances as themselves. Yet in their own particular case, they fully believe they are justified and deserving.

Of course, it is easy to point fingers and label others as pariahs and leeches and sponges. Yet a bit of inner reflection will likely show that you and I too have multiple areas in our lives where we feel some level of unmerited entitlement. Oh, but they sure are tough to find on our own.