A philosophy that deeply understands the moral imperatives of fairness, beneficence and compassion must on some level accept the necessity of social entitlement. The question becomes, then, What constitutes an entitlement?
Basic needs would seem to encompass the notion of a social entitlement, but if we end the inquiry with that we will surely have begged the question by merely passing the onus from the term 'entitlement' to 'basic needs'. Indeed, the reason for this demonstrates, I think, that a social entitlement is in almost all usage synonymous with 'basic social needs'. What constitutes a basic social need, i.e. a service or a material need of which is the right of every member of society to be afforded.
Even libertarians recognize certain basic needs. Roads and public works including infrastructure for plumbing, if I am not mistaken, are accepted by most libertarian as necessary provisions that society must to some extent provide or at least facilitate. Also, I believe, they would allow for police and some military capability to be put in place to protect the public against domestic violence or foreign attack. However, where is the line drawn. In the previous blog post I argued that individuals who are members of a democratic political system are entitled to a system that maximizes opportunities for the electorate to choose between a diversity of candidates while also being a afforded an environment most conducive a discussion of the issues that could admirably inform electoral decision. In my view, a democracy free of the disruption and division that is the political party is an entitlement. I realize that this statement goes much further than many may want to go, but it serves as an example of trying to distinguish what is and what is not an entitlement.
I suggest that a social entitlement is a combination of a need or the provision of a service that should be afforded, based upon—as outlined in Ethical Empowerment: Virtue Beyond the Paradigms, principles of fairness, beneficence and compassion. However, this entails the empowerment of both individuals and society. The establishment of a functional and efficient system of roadways will benefit the welfare of both society as a whole as well as the welfare of individuals. This is obvious to most, however, I argue that the same argument supports an end to the needless division of political parties. And it applies to universal healthcare. And the injustice of a "justice" system that allows wealthy defendants the opportunity to purchase justice by buying the best legal defense but which is not available to all. It applies to equal opportunities to receive a quality education, and without the necessity of going broke in the process.
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts," a maxim coined by G.E. Moore, may be clearly seen to support a notion of entitlement that goes beyond the myopic sort of view that only allows for the provision of basic needs in the most dire of situations (e.g. starvation), and entails a deep appreciation of the mutuality of self-regarding and other-regarding interests. And this is the crux of social empowerment.