Once upon a time there were two brothers. The older would, by birthright, inherit all that his father owned. A day came when the older wanted something to eat. He had been outside all day, and was hungry. The younger had a meal already prepared. The older asked the younger to give him the dinner. The younger agreed, on the condition that the older would give up his birthright in return for the free meal. The older took the deal, gave up his birthright, and ate.
Most of us recognize the story. And we scratch our heads at a person who would give away an entire birthright for one meal.
We shouldn’t. We are just like him.
America was founded on the recognition that each of us has a birthright of endowed and unalienable rights. Like all birthrights, it brings the promise of opportunity and blessing, provided that we honor the responsibility of protecting and cherishing it. Our birthright cannot legitimately be taken from any of us, but each of us can choose to give it away. If enough of us make that choice, the birthright’s promise will be lost to all of us.
Sadly, many Americans are making that choice. They are selling their birthright of endowed rights for the free meal of government entitlements. And like the older brother in the story, they are convincing themselves that their immediate needs are so important that meeting them is worth what they are losing.
They may not even realize that they are selling one thing to get another. But they are.
It is not a coincidence that as the number of government entitlements increases, there is an equal increase in government’s assault on our endowed rights. The government is slowly changing its own job description from "protector of endowed rights" to "grantor of entitlements". If it completes the transition, it will also have changed its status from "servant to" to "master of" America’s citizens.
Let’s look at just one example. The government is marketing an entitlement to health care. Accepting it means allowing the government "entitler" to determine who may receive what treatment at what cost under what conditions, effectively selling the endowed right of life. And, since the law creating the entitlement says the government’s power to make those treatment determinations is not limited to the individuals who have accepted the entitlement, the loss of the endowed right is more universal than the entitlement it has been traded for. Every American will be affected by the fact that some Americans have decided to sell their birthright.
The younger brother understood the value of the birthright, and he was willing to give something to get it. He understood that the meal would quickly end, while the birthright would last forever. His elder freely chose immediate satisfaction over long-term blessing.
Today’s government also understands the value of our birthright. To get us to trade it away, that government has created a whole system of enticements, hoping that we will act like the older brother -focus only on the meal and forget what we are selling. So far, the tactic is proving to be successful.
The reality is, we can either be endowed, or we can be entitled. An America where endowed rights are cherished will be free and prosperous forever, while an America full of entitlements will last about as long as the older brother’s meal. We all know what we think about that older brother. The question is, what do we want our children to think when they remember us?
P.S. You can help up to re-focus America on its endowment of freedom with your gift of $10 for Liberty. Join our Hamilton Project today.