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Entitlements

We speak of someone’s “deserving” something and of his being “entitled” to something. Both are useful expressions, but there is an important distinction between them, not too easy to bring out. In particular, “desert” is not specifically a rule-governed idea, whereas “entitlement” is.

Desert and Entitlement

Someone is entitled to something if a relevant institution, or background understanding among the relevant people, has rules assigning that kind of thing to someone in the position of that person, the one who is claimed to be entitled to that thing, given his or her position. The word entitlement can then refer either to the thing to which he or she is entitled, or to the fact of that person being entitled to it. The notion of entitlement, then, ...

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