Something for nothing: an erosion of character


Something for nothing: the concept often engenders skepticism in the mind of the educated consumer. The saying that, in business, “there is no such thing as a free lunch," has been drilled into most Americans from a young age. The sad irony of our nation’s economic standing, however, is that most Americans (47 percent, in fact) have bought into this foolish mindset of “if it’s free, it’s for me.” Hard work and merit have rapidly been replaced with entitlement and handouts.

The valedictorian of my high school graduating class is gay. Does his sexual orientation relate to or do anything to change the fact that he ended up with the highest GPA? According to the new American philosophy, it should.

We are taught not only to celebrate diversity—which in itself is not a bad thing per se—but to distinguish it. In other words, if we ran our high school graduation like our country’s welfare system, my high school valedictorian would be deemed “the top gay student” in my class of 450. The salutatorian is a girl. Would she, then, be “the top female student” in my class?

“Nothing guarantees more the erosion of character than getting something for nothing,” says conservative apologist, Dennis Prager in a speech called “Ten Ways Liberalism Makes America Worse”.

When people are rewarded for things that have nothing to do with their individual ability and achievement, there is no sense of dignity. In the same speech, Prager discusses the negative effect that the “self-esteem movement” has had on Americans, describing a time when his son’s baseball team was given trophies for participating in a game that they lost. He contrasts this with his own experience of playing sports as a child—he never received trophies because he was, admittedly, “bad.” Prager’s brother, on the other hand, did receive trophies “because he was good!”

A friend of mine who sat at my lunch table senior year came to me with some very exciting news: “The guidance counselor just told me that I am the first Latina girl in our class!” Although I was happy for my friend and all that she had accomplished—juggling AP classes and earning good grades, all while working a part-time job and acting as an interpreter for her parents—I couldn’t get around the fact that it just didn’t seem fair. I knew too many other non-Latino students with even better grades and comparable responsibilities who would not be receiving the slightest recognition.

President Ronald Regan once famously stated, “… government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Prager quotes this in his speech, adding his own syllogism: “The bigger the state, the smaller the citizen.” Contrastingly, in President Obama’s inaugural address, he ignores this factor of controversy by saying, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works…” —a seemingly noble approach, but one that fails to distinguish the government’s place in the lives of its citizens. What does a government that “works” look like, and who exactly does it “work” for? The liberal mindset revolves around one concept: equality. However, as Prager and many other conservatives are always quick to point out, equality trumps other values. Hard work and human dignity are just two examples.

There is no sense of pride or nobility in having others pay for you, yet almost half the nation pays not a cent in federal taxes. What’s worse is that these people decide what the rest of the country pays.

Better to tax the 53 percent of middle-to-upper-class Americans enormously than to demand that the other 47 percent pay their share. Better that everybody make the same amount of money than for those who work hard to make more than those who do not. Better for everyone to have poor healthcare than for some to have better healthcare than others. Better to make up awards for every child on the soccer team than to honor the MVP. Equality is present, but where is the justice?

It comes down to this: for America to flourish, it must revise its definition of “merit” and stop worrying about leaving people out. Reward hard work and tell the truth. Focus not on who is doing the achieving (sexual orientation, race, gender, religion), but what they have achieved. If this can be accomplished, real honor will be restored.

What is worth more? Recognition for something earned, or a handout based on irrelevant factors? I can’t speak for the rest of America, but I’d personally rather receive no trophy than a gold star for participation.