The ultimate tragedy of the sense of “victimization” and “entitlement” that now permeates the American psyche is the worsening affect it is having on the diminution of the Rule of Law. Think about this – seriously think about this. Where once the public, the business world and the international community understood and trusted the American Rule of Law, they now fear its uncertainty. The potential social and economic consequences of that fear are grave, indeed.
Once a nation of risk takers, fear and suspicion now condition our every action and interaction – in business, healthcare, education, government – on the street, in the workplace, even in church and at home. Fear of liability is stifling America’s ingenuity and resourcefulness. It squashes people’s freedom to act; and it saps the nation’s willingness to take risks. Our once unbounded desire to succeed has been replaced by fear of failure as America’s primary driving force.
For whatever reasons, America has become a nation of self-centered, self-anointed “victims” that readily lay blame for their failures and deficiencies on others. This particularly pernicious trait has been spreading throughout the population like a virulent cancer. Isn’t it curious how Americans began acting as though they were “entitled” to other people’s money about the time the federal government began treating the public to entitlements for which citizens once felt personally responsible.
Those so-called government “entitlements” now account for more than half the federal budget. Then again, maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to think the government would condition Americans to be dependent upon it, much like Pavlov did with dogs. Then again — maybe it’s not that much of a stretch. Today we live in a culture that has almost religiously discarded “assumption of risk” and the principle of personal responsibility in favor of a seemingly universal predisposition for victimization and a growing sense of entitlement to compensation for every wrong that comes our way. Litigation is now the option of first choice whenever something goes awry. The lawsuit has become society’s favorite remedy for a failed life, a job gone wrong, any disagreement, or a marriage that fails. Accidents are no longer “accidents”; they have become green lights for lawsuits.
While the U.S. tort system may not be the cause of society’s growing sense of victimization, it most assuredly validates and exacerbates the public’s growing sense of entitlement to the wealth of others. Fifty years ago, if a youngster stumbled and cut himself on a rusty nail while playing at night in a vacant lot, his parents most likely scolded him for playing where he shouldn’t have been before seeking medical treatment. Today, the same scenario would likely result in a prompt call to a personal injury lawyer probably before seeking medical treatment – and that lawyer would gleefully rattle off the names of a half-dozen or so potential defendants, none the least of which would be the manufacturer of the rusty nail that did the damage.
The metamorphosis in American character occurred not overnight but incrementally – as government and business grew bigger and more dominant in the aftermath of World War II. At the same time, the public sensed a loss of individual power in what was becoming an increasingly over-regulated society. Fear of vulnerability and feelings of victimization followed suit, manifesting itself in the meteoric rise in litigation for every misunderstanding, accident or other misfortune that came along. Whereas Americans once willingly accepted responsibility for their own actions and choices, the public gradually came to believe that every bad thing should be blamed on someone or something. And whoever or whatever contributed in any way to any bad thing must be made to pay. Lawsuits have become the most popular way to get that payment.
With civil justice becoming synonymous with self-interest, judges no longer “judge” the sense of law in their courtrooms. Instead, they have become tort tax assessors, assigning blame based on competing theories of liability, while “facts” are played like pawns in this adversarial game.
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