Entitlement Programs and Aquarium Hobbyists

My girlfriend and I recently purchased a painting at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. The painting was completed by Meerkats walking over canvas while finger-painting with their paws, which my girlfriend thought was adorable. At the checkout we were told that the money would go towards improving the Meerkat exhibit. At first I didn’t think much of it, but later thought that in a way the meerkats were earning money through the market (albeit the meerkats were none the wiser).

This reminded me of a heated debate that several of my co-workers and I got into regarding government entitlement programs. At the climax of the argument, one lady angrily told me that I should make my pet goldfish go out and get a job to earn his keep. While it would seem unlikely that a sensible person would ever tell me that, the remark makes a lot more sense in the context of the argument.

The debate started when two of my co-workers got into an argument as to whether or not elderly people should be allowed to access Nebraska fishing sites free of charge (while the rest of the population had to pay a fee). A college student my age argued that government entitlements should not be given away on the basis of age while an older woman was arguing that old people should get handouts because they have worked all their life and their work should at least entitle them to a free pass to go fishing.

I piped in and said that if Social Security was not adequate an old person could get a part time job if he or she wanted to enjoy additional luxuries (such as fishing). Somehow this turned most people in the office against me, even though I wasn’t argueing against Social Security payments. They made wild claims that my friend and I would send old people to forced labor camps and make them toil away until they died of exhausted. I clarified that someone in old age should have the choice of weighing the pros and cons of the additional benefit of spending money versus the additional disutility of spending time at work. I wasn’t going to force anyone to go to work.

At this point, the older woman in the office pointed out that I spend quite a bit of money on my aquarium hobby, to which I said it was my money and I had every right to spend my money as I see fit. She told me that elderly people had more of a right to spend my money on their entertainment than I had right to spend my money on my goldfish. She was then quick to add that my goldfish should go out and find a job in the workforce if he wanted to live.

What I found astonishing was that most of the office agreed with her. To them, my statement that anyone who wants additional spending money had the option of getting a part time job seemed ridiculous, while the claim that my goldfish should go out and earn money seemed perfectly plausible.

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