An entitlement is a guarantee of access to benefits based on established rights or by legislation. A "right" is itself an entitlement associated with a moral or social principle, such that an "entitlement" is a provision made in accordance with legal framework of a society. Typically, entitlements are laws based on concepts of principle ("rights") which are themselves based in concepts of social equality or enfranchisement.
In a casual sense, the term "entitlement" refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit—if given without deeper legal or principled cause, the term is often given with pejorative connotation (e.g. a "sense of entitlement").
In clinical psychology and psychiatry, an unrealistic, exaggerated, or rigidly held sense of entitlement may be considered a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder, seen in those who "because of early frustrations...arrogate to themselves the right to demand lifelong reimbursement from fate."
In the United States, Social Security and Medicare are examples of entitlement programs. Originally the term "entitlement" in the United States was used to identify federal programs that, like Social Security and Medicare, got that name because workers became "entitled" to their benefits by paying into the system, but in recent years the meaning has been used to refer also to benefits, like those of the food stamps program, which people become eligible to receive without paying into a system. Some federal programs are also considered entitlements even though the subscriber's "paying into the system" occurs via a means other than monetary, as in the case of those programs providing for veterans' benefits, and where the individual becomes eligible via service in the U.S. military.
- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 499
- On this, deficit committee members agree: "Time is running out." CNN Wire Staff. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
- What Is Driving Growth in Government Spending? Nate Silver. The New York Times. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Entitlement Programs. City College of San Francisco. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
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