An 18th-century Scottish-born British lawyer and writer forewarned the disease eventually would strike. More than two centuries ago, he even explained the sequence by which it would occur. While his warning wasn't specific to the United States, today we see signs it is spreading quickly within the Western world.
Like cancer, this disease comes in different stages. Stage 1 is curable; Stage 2 isn't. Recently, one patient's Stage 2 self-diagnosis made headlines.
Former District of Columbia Council member Harry Thomas Jr. stood before U.S. District Judge John Bates earlier this month. Thomas was found guilty of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a fund intended for youth programs. He explained he suffered from "a sense of entitlement" causing him to lose sight of his moral compass. A 38-month prison sentence was imposed to help him regain his bearings.
By his criminal act, Thomas' disease -- i.e., a "sense of entitlement" -- had spread beyond the boundaries of legality, causing him to violate the public trust. He was in Stage 2 of the disease -- a sense of "illegal" entitlement.
While few Americans suffer from Stage 2, it is Stage 1 -- a sense of "legal" entitlement -- that is endemic to the population. What was initially intended by politicians as a genuine effort to financially assist those truly in need of various forms of government financial support has exploded into a stream of assistance programs that effectively desensitize the population to the work ethic upon which this great nation was built.
And the disease continues to drain our public treasury as our politicians today fail to make the tough decisions needed -- to curtail or even eliminate such programs -- for fear of offending those afflicted by Stage 1. Therefore, those afflicted continue to vote these politicians into office.
Selfishness is a sense of entitlement to something earned by the work of others. As more people embrace the entitlement and less do the work, it starts democracy on a downslide back to bondage. The transition through complacency, apathy and dependency so consumes the former, they may not even consciously recognize what is happening as it occurs.
It isn't unlike what Britons experienced a century ago. From the sun never setting on their empire, through Pax Britannia and into its wake, they eventually found themselves in decline as a great power. It was only after this realization Britons came to wonder how and when it happened.
It appears, how went Britain, now goes America.
The "Three Little Pigs" fairy tale was told in early America -- its moral now well enshrined in Western culture: A strong work ethic earns security; a weak one does not.