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A Nation of Takers

America’s Entitlement Epidemic

Nicholas Eberstadt

With William Galston Yuval Levin

In A Nation of TakersAmerica’s Entitlement Epidemic, one of our country’s foremost demographers, Nicholas Eberstadt, details the exponential growth in entitlement spending over the past fifty years.  As he notes, in 1960, entitlement payments accounted for well under a third of the federal government’s total outlays. Today, entitlement spending accounts for a full two-thirds of the federal budget. Drawing on an impressive array of data and employing a range of easy- to- read, four color charts, Eberstadt shows the unchecked spiral of spending on a range of entitlements, everything  from medicare to disability payments.  But Eberstadt does not just chart the astonishing growth of entitlement spending, he also details the enormous economic and cultural costs of this epidemic.   He powerfully argues that while this spending certainly drains our federal coffers, it also has a very real,long-lasting, negative impact on the character of our citizens. 

Also included in the book are responses to Eberstadt’s argument from other leading political theorists, William Galston—who questions Eberstadt’s causal links between government programs and dependence—and Yuval Levin—who suggests that the problems posed by dependence may, in fact, run even deeper than Eberstadt suggests. A final response from Eberstadt puts everything in perspective and invites the rest of us to lend our voices to the conversation.


A Nation of Takers is part of the New Threats to Freedom Series, which you can learn more about at newthreatstofreedom.com.

Acknowledgments / ix
Part I: America’s Growing Dependency on Government Entitlements
The Rise of Entitlements in Modern America, 1960–2010
Nicholas Eberstadt / 3
Part II: Dissenting Points of View
Have We Become a “Nation of Takers”?
William A. Galston / 93
Civil Society and the Entitlement State
Yuval Levin / 115
Epilogue: Response to Galston and Levin / 129
About the Contributors / 133

Nicholas Eberstadt is a brilliant demographer and social scientist. In A Nation of Takers, his argument, though deeply informed by empirical analysis, is fundamentally a moral one. His concern is with personal—and national—character. He pleads with us to notice the ways in which a culture of dependency—and the entitlement mentality it breeds—undermines initiative, self-respect, the sense of personal responsibility, civic-mindedness, and other virtues that are indispensable to the flourishing of a free society.

Robert P. George, Princeton University