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Friday, July 22, 2016

Must Our Generation Be Narcissists for the Nanny State?

Shouldn't self-esteem translate into self-reliance?

Pretty much everybody accuses Americans, particularly the younger generation, of being narcissists, and for good reason: we are indeed becoming more self-absorbed as a people. Even a cursory view of our culture should reveal that 21st century Americans simply do not value empathy, charity, and humility to the same extent our forebears did.

Millennials feel as though “the System” is rigged against them. And to an extent, they are correct.

It could be, however, that I am simply perpetuating the old and insipid tendency of man to lament the direction of his society while looking to the past with rose-colored glasses. Alas, there is scientific research to back up my assertion that Americans today are indeed more egotistical than in the past.

Self-Absorbed but Not Self-Reliant

Writing at Psychology Today, Dr. Peter Gray notes that according to questionnaires given to college students, “70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago.” Other research seems to corroborate these findings.

But if these findings are correct and millennials are in fact a narcissistic generation, then why are we so intent on expanding government welfare to take care of us? The typical answer is this: narcissists feel that they are entitled to more than they actually are; therefore, they demand more free stuff. It’s a persuasive argument, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. After all, if people have an inflated sense of their own self-worth, would it not also be plausible for them to be more independent? To take fewer hand-outs and trust themselves to make their own way?

If I may make a modest proposal, I believe that while many young people may be narcissists in their personal lives, they play the poor helpless victim when it comes to politics. It is an all-too-common occurrence to see a young college student boast of his or her own intellectual and moral superiority, yet turn right around and decry their inability to carry on their lives without direct government aid. Be it free tuition, health care, or protection from scary ideas they disagree with, there is surprisingly little today’s typical millennial “egotist” can actually do on his or her own. Even the simplest of adult activities like going to a job interview are daunting to some millennials.

Victimology is Debilitating, but Not Baseless

In politics too, millennials are becoming more independent.

I don’t mean to pile on to the already over-criticized millennial generation. I myself am a millennial and I would be remiss if I did not mention that part of my generation’s cultural degradation is partly due to the policies imposed upon us.

More than ever, millennials feel as though “the System” is rigged against them. And to an extent, they are correct. They have been victims of progressive policies, like the minimum wage, which makes it harder for them to find jobs. And they have been victims of a culture which tells them they must go to college if they are to be valuable members of society. But unfortunately, millennials have sought salvation in precisely those who have oppressed them. They flock to support socialists like Bernie Sanders in droves, hoping that he, by the mighty power of federal coercion, will make their problems disappear.

But there are signs of hope. Many millennials are breaking out of their victimized, progressive molds and charting a new course for our generation – and without government mandates and regulations to guide them. A 2014 survey found that an astounding 67% of millennials would like to start their own business. In politics too, millennials are becoming more independent. Though most millennials tend to fall in line with progressive policies, they identify themselves as “moderate” and “independent” more than any other political label.

Perhaps as millennials realize that they don’t need a college degree to be successful, or their parents to pay their bills, they will soon understand that they don’t need a government nanny-state either. If they realize that they are fully capable of steering their own ships, far from being the narcissistic parasites they are believed to be, they will become the harbingers of a glorious revival of liberty.

  • Tyler Curtis works as a lender at a community bank in Missouri. He also holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.