This is a guest post from authors Steven and Debra Wallace.
Len extended us the great honor of guest hosting at Len Penzo dot com and it is an opportunity that we feel most privileged to accept.
The inspiration for our topic is credited to the very lively and spirited debate that followed a provocative article penned by Len at Len Penzo dot Com titled Its Time Unemployed People Start Working For Free. We are, therefore, very grateful to Len and the readers at Len Penzo dot com who offered their passionate discourse as we drew something of value from each and every response.
When we step back and reflect upon the value of a website such as Lens we can readily see the real value is in the sharing of information and what we are each personally able to take away from the discussion to improve the quality of our lives and the lives of our families.
If we improve our own lives, dont we also, at the same time, improve the lives of others?
If we are more prosperous, healthy, loving, kind, and peaceable, doesnt that make for a better environment for others to achieve the same?
Len provides a model environment for such empowering discussions and his behavior as a website host and gentleman is evidenced consistently in his civil discourse, his tempered approach to criticism, and his respect for the opinions and beliefs of others.
In this post we will explore both the concept of perpetual motion and the concept of entitlement as we believe both concepts to be structured around the same belief. This is a vitally important subject as many social safety nets are craftily, but quite frailly formed around this very common but largely non-verbalized belief.
Sometimes simply verbalizing a thought can serve as an effective eviction notice to such thoughts, in the future, simply because of the absurdity of it on its face. If we are able to successfully defrock the underlying belief supporting both concepts (perpetual motion and entitlements), we should, by logical extension, be able to demonstrate the frailty of both.
The first order of business should probably be to define our terms.
The Perpetual Motion Machine
You dont have to agree with our definitions, but at least you will understand where we are coming from; and isnt the understanding of each others models of how the world works the basis for understanding how we each process and react to those things going on in the world around us? So, although we are not physics majors, or rocket scientists, we will attempt to define what perpetual motion is by breaking the concept down to its lowest common denominator.
We could define perpetual motion as movement without energy loss but that is a rather boring definition.
We would like to engage a more empowering definition that gets in your face a bit. We define perpetual motion asthe concept of getting something for nothing.
Do you see what we mean about verbalizing a goofy sounding thought? The discussion, as it pertains to perpetual motion machines, could feasibly end right here.
Many would-be inventors and engineers have dreamed of creating a perpetual motion machine that would have the capacity to continue movement, in perpetuity, without any external source of energy being applied. Their efforts toward this goal, therefore, have been primarily directed at energy efficiency rather than energy generation. This is done by creating, as much as is humanly possible, a frictionless environment for all moving parts of their respective machines with the understanding friction equates to energy dissipation, or energy loss, and that any energy loss, even in the minutest amount, equates to project failure at some point.
So, the ultimate goal of the inventor of the perpetual motion machine is to create a machine that moves in a totally frictionless environment with zero energy loss or cost. Their quest for a perpetual motion machine is ultimately based upon the belief that it is possible to get something for nothing.
The Entitlement Mentality
Now lets take a look at the entitlement mentality and see if we can come to some sort of agreement on its definition.
In order to do this, we would like to explore the obvious manifestations of the entitlement mentality along with the more obscure ones in seeking to define our terms in the broadest and most inclusive manner possible.
The obvious and more traditional manifestations of the entitlement mentality are, of course, the belief that everyone, regardless of means, ability, or effort has a baseline right to housing, food, health care, education, telecommunications, and transportation.
The less obvious and less traditional manifestations of the entitlement mentality would be represented by those expecting present or future benefits in the form of corporate pensions, pension underwriting by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), corporate health insurance, corporate life insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) payouts, and unemployment benefits. The difference in this latter grouping, of course, is the fact that the benefit plan is designed around contributions either taken directly from our salaries, from our employers, or merchant groups, and is usually described as our total benefits package.
Since this latter group is funded in some manner, as opposed to the lack of funding in the first group, we can obviously understand the outcry over the lumping of the two groups together. We ask that you bear with us as we attempt to show that both groupings may have more in common with each other than is commonly realized.
We would, therefore, like to define the entitlement mentality as… an expectation of a present or future benefit.
Inherent in this definition, as can readily be seen, is no judgment of morality, or of right or wrong, or whether the benefit was earned, stolen, or gifted, either in part or in whole.
We are not seeking to avoid the morality issue because we believe it to be unimportant, but rather we are avoiding it because we want the reader to consider another aspect of the problem that may serve to render the morality issue a considerably lesser expedient going forward in our current economic climate.
We recognize the traditional usage of the phrase “entitlement mentality” has a negative connotation, but we found this term somewhat misleading to those using the phrase and often times offensive to those on the receiving end of it. Furthermore, it is distracting to the main thrust of our message and we appreciate your continued patience in allowing us the liberty to pursue it.
We can make some distinctions between the first entitlement group (those with no personal contributions invested in the benefit) and the second (those with personal contributions invested in the benefit). Both groups obviously feel entitled to something whether or not there is a rational basis for their feelings. Individuals in both groupings feel entitled to a present or future benefit based on either intangible or tangible criteria. Those in the latter group may harbor resentment for those in the first group and those in the first group may be coveting the property and prosperity of those in the latter group.
A Vexing Issue for Entitlement Advocates and Perpetual Motion Machines
Lets set aside the emotions associated with resentment or jealousy and take a look at a more vexing issue common to both of these groups and to those advocating entitlements and perpetual motion machines. What is that vexing issue? The vexing issue common to both entitlement groups and to advocates of entitlements and perpetual motion machines is sustainability.
In order to sustain life we need to expend energy. If we fail to expend energy in sustaining our human lives, the human machine dies. The exception, of course, is when we are placed on life support in either a medical sense or financial sense.
In either case, however, such life support is a form of energy being expended on our behalf and if the funds representing that conversion of energy didnt come from our own labor, it is, by necessity, coming from the labor (energy) of others. There can be no sustenance of life without the expenditure of energy, whether the source of energy comes from our own resources or the resources of others.
Perpetual motion of the human or physical machine, as defined earlier, doesnt have a basis in reality. If the idea of perpetual motion is not based in reality for us, as individuals, by what miracle is this flawed concept transformed into something workable when multiplied and applied to social safety net schemes?
Lets be honest. How many of us really want to expend any more energy than is absolutely necessary in acquiring the things we feel we need and/or desire?
Dont we all possibly – even if just a little bit – identify with the mad scientist attempting to invent a perpetual motion machine that proves once and for all we can get something for nothing?
Arent we just a little bit lazy and tend to procrastinate on those tasks that we really arent all that passionate about?
Arent we all desirous of finding ways to reduce the friction in our lives and jobs and dont we naturally gravitate toward those efficiencies that make our lives easier?
What would be more efficient than getting something for nothing? Isnt that about as efficient as it gets?
Even when we understand the folly of perpetual motion schemes, or schemes that promote the idea that we can acquire something for nothing, it still doesnt prevent would-be scientists or would-be social engineers and central planners from teasing us with their perpetual motion or government mandated social safety net schemes.
The Long-term Consequences of Expecting Something for Nothing
There are 40 states that will run out of unemployment compensation funds within the next two years. The pressing issue now is rapidly becoming one of sustainability. It simply cant go on.
Taxpayers were amazed and perplexed at the super-sized CEO bonuses, among those banks receiving TARP funds, as it defied all logic. It was no mystery to those CEOs on the dispensing or receiving end of those huge bonuses. Theyve all understood, for a time, what is now becoming clearer to the rest of us. This is the last dip at the well. The well is going dry for them and it may also be going dry for those expecting future payouts (entitlements) of all kinds.
If you are receiving unemployment insurance payouts, Social Security benefits, Medicare/Medicaid benefits, and corporate or government pensions, manage those funds well because they wont likely be around indefinitely. If these entitlements do last, they certainly wont be maintaining enough future purchasing power to sustain existing living standards. In essence, there will be a default in one form or another.
If, on the other hand, one believes in perpetual motion and the concept of getting something for nothing, one might as well continue partying on the deck of the Titanic for as long as it continues to float. For the rest of us, we will probably be quietly edging our way over to the life rafts.
We know that some of you are still stewing over the fact weve lumped both entitlement groups together in the same pot. We can understand your frustration.
If youve paid into something over a period of time you expect something in return, and you resent those in the other group who have an expectation of a benefit without making any contributions toward it.
The problem is, however, that many of the entitlement programs such as Social Security, for example, have had their trust funds robbed by politicians who routinely use the money to buy votes.
A few years ago we heard of voters who were attempting to sell their votes to politicians running for office and we believe some of them got on the wrong side of the law in the process. This is somewhat perplexing to us because if politicians can use other peoples money (trust funds) to buy votes, why cant individual voters advertise and sell their vote to the highest political bidder? Dont individuals own their vote? Weve digressed.
The Jig is Up
Voters repeatedly cast their vote for politicians who promise them something for nothing. The voters are promised better education, highways, jobs, police and fire protection, and social programs without a corresponding increase in taxes.
How is this possible?
Trust funds are often robbed to pay for these political promises. The trust funds have to be back-filled by those still contributing into the system for the benefit of those receiving benefits currently.
The problem is, however, that there are more baby boomers making ready to receive benefits than there are new contributors to support them. Voters and their partners in crime (politicians) have used the Social Security trust fund as an ATM machine just like many homeowners used their homes as ATM machines and withdrew most of their equity. Many homeowners who irresponsibly tapped their home equity line of credit are now losing their homes, and their entitlements are also at risk for similar reasons, just at the very time when they will need them the most.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by dictatorship. The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations has been 200 years. Alexis de Tocqueville
The FDIC is charged with keeping the banks solvent. The FDIC is broke.
If there is a systemic banking failure (we believe we are experiencing that at this very moment), the FDIC will either default on reimbursing depositors or they will destroy the value of the dollar to such an extent, by printing or digitizing them out of thin air, the original insured amount will not purchase much of anything.
Corporations trimmed back the full funding of pensions during the boom times and let inflated stock valuations substitute for contributions. The stock downturn, since the year 2000, has left corporate pension plans bankrupt. The PBGC doesnt have enough reserves to backstop them.
Businesses and corporations are failing at an ever alarming rate and are no longer contributing to the unemployment insurance fund while more and more ex-employees are lining up to receive benefits. Unemployment compensation is not sustainable under these conditions.
It will end and end very badly because the same laws that bear down on the concept of perpetual motion machines are now bearing down on the concept of entitlements. Perpetual motion machines and entitlements (as commonly instituted and prostituted) are based on the flawed belief that we can have something for nothing. The jig is up.
What to do?
(1) We certainly need to collect what we are entitled to, but we shouldnt become dependent upon entitlement payments of any kind, even the supposedly righteous ones, as theyve been prostituted and pillaged through the political process.
(2) We should avoid working for companies whose benefit package is heavily weighted towards future benefits (they may not be around to deliver on their promises) and seek work with companies where we get as much money as possible on the front end, in the form of higher wages or salaries, and provide for our own future health and retirement benefits.
(3) We should remove as many intermediaries (public or private) as possible between ourselves and the things we deem critical for our survival and accept personal responsibility for our own outcomes.
About the Authors
Steven and Debra blog at theendtimeshoax.blogspot.com and are co-authors of a book titled The END TIMES Hoax and the Hijacking of Our Liberty which is scheduled for release in March of 2010.