I’ve been thinking a lot about just deserts and merit and a whole lot of things that revolve around awards, entitlements and the like.

What I mean by that is how much time do we spend attempting to punish those in our society who get something they don’t deserve. I participated, however briefly, in a conversation yesterday about combat awards and I made the comment that if I’d received a CAB (combat action badge) for actually engaging the enemy, I’d be pretty pissed if someone was running around with the same CAB for simply being on a base when a bomb blew up nowhere in the vicinity of risk of actual harm.

Why should I care if someone else is sporting the same award or not? Does it somehow cheapen the award I received (I don’t have a CAB, FYI). Does it really matter? I’m not sure.

Let me take it further. We spend an inordinate amount of time talking about poor people in this country and those who “don’t deserve” the benefits they receive, whether its welfare or WIC or some other public assistance. Does it really impact your life directly if someone who doesn’t deserve something gets it? Sure you can make the argument that you’re paying taxes and that’s not fair but how do we qualify someone as being deserving or not?

And what about veterans? I read a piece in Time Battleland today talking about homelessness among veterans. Does a veteran who never deployed “deserve” the same care and treatment as someone who did deploy? Or do we say thank you for serving to all veterans? What about those who did not serve with honor?

Here’s what I’m getting at: why are we all wrapped around the axel about people getting what they don’t deserve? Attempting to weed those people out usually results in a policy that hurts the people who do truly need “it” whatever “it” is.

What would happen if we stopped worrying so much about people who got what they didn’t deserve and instead focused on getting people who have earned benefits, awards, or privileges the things they do deserve? The difference is small but I’d be willing to bet the impact would be significant. Or would it? What would happen if we were really able to keep people from getting something they don’t deserve?