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Compassion, Morality, and the Repeal of Social Security

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In my last three blog posts ( (here, here, and here), I have shown that Social Security is just another welfare program, no different from all other welfare programs, including food stamps, farm subsidies, aid to the arts, and foreign aid to dictators.

I have also shown the fundamental immorality that Social Security shares with all other socialist programs — it takes money by force from people to whom it belongs and gives it to people to whom it does not belong. When that happens in the private sector, people call it stealing or thievery. When the federal government does the same thing, people call it wonderful and glorious.

The obvious question arises: Given the fundamentally wrongful nature of Social Security, what should be done? I say: When something is wrongful or sinful, the only proper course of action is: End it, immediately.

But supporters of this socialist scheme say that to suddenly terminate Social Security would be unfair and uncaring. After all, they say, “Seniors put it in and therefore they have a right to get it back and many of them have become hopelessly dependent on the money.”

But as I have shown in the last three blog posts, no one has “put anything in.” Everyone has been taxed. No doubt about that. But taxes are not deposits, investments, or insurance premiums. Taxes are monies collected by the government which, upon receipt, are owned by the government. They are also monies that the government spends immediately upon receipt for its wide range of welfare-warfare state programs.

People argue that seniors have less money at their disposal owing to the large amount of taxes that the government took from them during their work lives, including income taxes, FICA taxes, and all the rest.

Granted, but governments have been collecting exorbitant amounts of taxes for centuries from people, leaving many of them impoverished. Does that mean that the people who have been taxed have the right to take away money that rightly belongs to others and appropriate it to their own use?

But many seniors are dependent on their Social Security checks, people say. Wouldn’t it be cruel to suddenly terminate those checks? How would they survive without their dole?

Suppose a company worker has been embezzling funds from his employer for 20 years. During that time, he bought a house on credit. He has grown dependent on the money. If he loses that income stream, he will default on his mortgage and lose his house. He’s 70 years old. He’s finally caught.

Is it fair to terminate his embezzlement? Should it be reduced gradually? Wouldn’t it be compassionate to let him continue receiving at least some of the money so that he doesn’t lose his home?

I think most of us would say: Stop the embezzlement immediately. It’s not his money. It’s his employer’s. If people want to help him out, fine. But he has no right to continue taking what doesn’t belong to him.

Why doesn’t the same principle apply to Social Security? Why should the people from whom the money is being taken be forced to be caring and compassionate? Isn’t it a bit cavalier to say, “We should be caring and compassionate and continue Social Security so long as it’s the young people, many of whom are struggling to get a start in life, who are the ones who are being forced to pay for it”? Isn’t genuine charity supposed to come out of the willing heart of the individual, not at the point of a government gun?

Social Security recipients fall generally into three categories:

  1. Those who are sufficiently wealthy and, therefore, don’t need the money. Terminating Social Security isn’t going to affect them in a substantive way.
  2. Those who might have to go back to work. What’s wrong with that? I see lots of senior citizens working. It keeps them involved in the mainstream of life rather than sitting in some dark corner of their living room watching television and waiting to die.
  3. Those who truly need the money to survive. Why can’t we depend on freedom and voluntary charity to help out this group of people? For one thing, their children and grandchildren will no longer be paying Social Security taxes. That’s a lot of money that is now being left in their paychecks — money that can be used to help out their parents and grandparents. What’s wrong with that? Wouldn’t that type of assistance be much more meaningful than the assistance provided by federal bureaucrats who have stolen the money from young people?

What about people who don’t have children or grandchildren to help them out? That’s where charitable foundations come into play. Undoubtedly, there would be foundations popping up the minute Social Security is abolished that are intended to provide financial assistance to senior citizens who need it. People would donate to those foundations, just as they donate to all sorts of worthy causes today.

Does that take a faith in freedom and free will? Of course it does. And that’s part of the problem we face in this country: The welfare state has caused people to lose their faith in freedom, in themselves, in others, and in God. It has caused them to believe that only Caesar — the organized means of coercion and compulsion — can address the financial concerns of the poor and needy.

That lack of faith in freedom — along with the mindset of dependency that Social Security and other welfare-state programs have inculcated in welfare recipients — is the biggest obstacle we face in ridding our nation of this socialist scourge. That’s what drives liberals to continue embracing Social Security. It’s what drove conservatives to make peace with Social Security and the welfare state. Why, there are even libertarians who are scared to call for the immediate termination of this socialist program and have instead settled for embracing a Social Security system based on the principles of economic fascism.

I personally have absolutely no doubts that if Social Security were repealed today, everything would be fine tomorrow. That’s because I know that freedom works. It really does work. It is socialism, fascism, and interventionism that don’t work.

I like the spirit of one of FFF supporters who wrote me a couple of days ago in response to my series of Social Security articles:

Wonderful column again and even though I have no choice about social security, I have always known what it is.  And if it goes away, my son will take care of me because our family still takes care of each other when it is needed.

If we had that spirit of liberty sweep across America, we could end the welfare state today, and, for that matter, the warfare state as well.

 

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.