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Entitlement Society

GB Geo-Blog

Entitlement Society

We deserve everything; we deserve the best; and we do not want to pay!

Everyone wants something for nothing, and as the current federal election in Canada shows, politicians are only too eager to accommodate these demands, even as they know it is impossible to do so. Either people do not want to hear the truth, or politicians are afraid to tell the truth, or both.

Parents do not want to hear that their children are gifted. People do not want to hear that the rich and/or well connected get preferential treatment in our healthcare system. People want to continue the myths that all lives are equally precious and so of equal value. And of course, everyone wants to be at the front of the line.

Several years ago when I persuaded the senior management of Air Canada to introduce a la carte pricing, many believed I was just a simpleton academic who was to lunch. For a few years after Air Canada did start charging for amenities that previously were available free of charge, many in the industry believed the experiment was doomed to failure. Passengers, especially those traveling on the lowest fares, expected meals, pillows, blankets, movies, unlimited baggage allowances, etc. without having to pay for any of them. Air travel had become a right, an entitlement. Nowadays, most every airline has followed in the footsteps of Air Canada.

The traveling public has grudgingly accepted the new pricing reality, although many still complain to their local politicians hoping to pressure them to force airlines to re-instate their rights to freebies, freebies not available with most all other consumer products.

More and more, my undergrad students expect high grades without having to put in much effort. They are paying for their education, and because they show up to class once in a while, although they generally are distracted by their cell phones, they believe they are automatically entitled to good grades and great jobs upon graduation.

While I believe that everyone who has the aptitude and work ethic should be given the opportunity to enroll in some post-secondary institution, unfortunately there are too many who lack both, and those who are admitted should not be automatically entitled to good grades. They need to put in the effort to earn their grades, although nowadays it is a simple matter to get a degree once a student is admitted – just show up occasionally and do most of the work, even if it is done poorly.

Politicians, catering to the youth vote, want to spend someone’s money to make sure that more young people, regardless of their abilities and motivation, enroll in a post-secondary institution and get a degree. This is not what universities or the country need – more subpar students who will gripe about everything including their jobs at Tim Horton’s upon graduation.

Then there is our healthcare system. We are all entitled to every service under the sun, regardless of the costs, and exactly when we demand the services. Further, no one should jump the queue for we are all equal. Of course, someone else should pay for our healthcare.

Our healthcare system should ensure that every child has adequate and timely access, and that money does not limit such access. The system also should ensure that Canadians unfortunate to contract some type of catastrophic (both financially and medically) illness have adequate and timely access. They should be subsidized so that they are not driven into bankruptcy and poverty. As well, our system should promote portability so that people’s mobility from job to job and region to region is not impeded.

But there is no reason why user fees cannot be imposed. There is no reason why we should subsidize bad behavior, including excessive risk-taking. There is no reason why individuals should not have the ability to jump the queue if they are prepared to cover the full costs. This happens now. And it does not make sense to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers’ money on a procedure that may, at best, marginally improve an individual’s quality of life, or extend his/her life by a few months. What is wrong with “death panels”? They already exist informally in most hospitals.

Yes, we may be entitled to certain services and subsidies in our healthcare system. But we need an intelligent discussion on the limits of our entitlements.

I could go on. However, what we need are politicians honest enough to start a debate on all supposed entitlements, including provincial and linguistic entitlements; a debate that focuses on the the minimal set of entitlements and realistically considers how they will be paid for.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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