Imagine you’re on the Titanic and the ship captain says, “If everyone throws his luggage overboard, the ship will be saved” and everyone responds, “No way. I’ve got a right to my luggage. Everyone else can throw his luggage overboard if he wants, but not me.”
That pretty much describes the situation in Greece. The government is bankrupt and the private sector is unable to sustain the tax burden to fund the government’s pension system and other expenses. Yet, everyone on the dole refuses to even consider a repeal of the dole system. “We have a right to our dole,” people exclaim. “We have worked all our lives for it. We are now entitled to our dole.” When told that the dole system is taking the country down the road to ruin, the dole recipients respond, “That’s not our problem. Just get the money somehow and somewhere. We don’t care. Just keep sending us our dole.”
Of course, what the dole recipients don’t realize is that the government cannot squeeze blood out of a turnip. The only way for a government to fund the dole is by first taking the money from people in the private sector through taxation. The problem in Greece is that there is not enough wealth and income to tax to pay the dole, the government bureaucrats, the government’s expenses, and the government’s mountain of debt.
As we see in Greece, a government dole system is one of the most insidious things that a nation can ever adopt. It not only can bankrupt a nation, it also makes the dole recipient a dependent, frightened ward of the state. And it corrodes and ultimately destroys people’s sense of independence and self-worth.
Of course, it’s no different here in the United States, especially when we consider the crown jewel of America’s dole system, Social Security.
Whatever else might be said about President Franklin Roosevelt, he was one brilliant political strategist. FDR knew that once he got people on the dole, he had them. That’s because the dole is like a narcotic. Once a person is hooked, he can’t get off it. He becomes convinced that he could never survive without it.
Consider the fact that federal spending here in the United States far exceeds federal tax revenues, just like what happened in Greece. America is headed in the same direction as Greece — national bankruptcy.
Yet, if you did a survey of Social Security recipients and people approaching the age entitling them to receive Social Security and asked them if they’d be willing to support an immediate repeal of Social Security, my hunch is that 99 percent of them would say no. “Yes, the government is spending too much money,” they would acknowledge, “but don’t even think of taking our dole away from us. We are entitled to our dole. We put it in and we have a right to get it back.”
The mindset of Social Security recipients perfectly demonstrates how the dole corrupts people’s thinking and damages their sense of conscience and moral values.
The fact is that no one has put anything into Social Security. It’s just a welfare program, plain and simple. It’s no different from food stamps, farm subsidies, or foreign aid to dictators. That’s the way it’s been from the beginning. That’s how the law is written. That’s what the Supreme Court has held. Congress can repeal Social Security, just as it can repeal any welfare-state program, and no one can recover money damages in a lawsuit against the U.S. government.
People are taxed. When you’re taxed, it doesn’t mean that you’re putting your money into a fund. It simply means that the government is taking your money and spending it on whatever it wants to spend it on — invasions, torturers, warships, welfare, drug war, regulation enforcement, foreign aid, or whatever.
It doesn’t make any difference how they raise their taxes — through a FICA tax, a Social Security tax, a Medicare tax, an income tax, a sales tax, a flat tax, a property tax, or an income tax. The fact that people are taxed doesn’t give them the right to a dole.
There is no Social Security fund any more than there is a farm subsidy fund or a dictator fund. There never has been a Social Security fund. No one has ever paid into anything. Everyone has simply been taxed, and the money has been spent a long time ago.
So, where does the money come from that Social Security recipients receive? It comes from people who are working — i.e., young people and middle-aged people. The government taxes that group of people and gives the money to seniors.
Thus, the dole system is really nothing more than a system based on legalized stealing. The government uses its tax power to take money from those to whom it belongs and gives it to people to whom it does not belong.
Boiled down to its essence, the argument of seniors is, “People who are now dead did it to us and so we now have the right to do it to young people.”
Suppose I were to accost you in a dark alley and rob you of $1,000, which I give to an 80-year-old person. Would you consider me a good person? I don’t think so. I think you would consider me a thief. You’d probably report me to the cops and support my criminal prosecution.
But when the government does the same thing that the private thief does, the government is viewed as a compassionate, caring entity. It’s a classic demonstration of the corrupting and corrosive effect that the dole system has on people’s sense of moral values.
Look at what Social Security does to people’s mindsets. Recipients are convinced that they would never survive without their dole, ignoring the fact that the American people lived without this socialistic program for more than a century. In fact, have you ever wondered how it is that an economic emergency that was sure to be temporary in nature (i.e., the Great Depression), gave rise to a socialistic program that became a permanent part of America’s governmental structure? And where in the Constitution did it authorize the federal government to establish such a program?
Moreover, rarely do you see seniors taking a pubic, vocal stand against the U.S. government’s invasions, wars of aggression, torture programs, assassination programs, and surveillance programs. That’s because they fear that if they were to do that, the government might cut off their dole. They are like little children who know that their survival depends on their parents. Oh sure, seniors will throw tantrums, much like children do, and rail against bureaucracies or “waste, fraud, and abuse” in government programs or the need to elect a “better” president or “better” congressmen, but they’ll never publicly challenge the state at a fundamental level. They’re just too scared to do that. Their daddy might cut them off. Social Security converts people into submissive and deferential wards of the state.
The dole system doesn’t adversely affect only the dole recipient. Its destructive and corrosive power works its way throughout society. For example, many people honestly believe that they are good people for living under a governmental system that forces people to be good.
There is also the life of the lie involved in all this. Americans pride themselves on being a “free people” and living in a “free country,” unlike, say, people in Cuba and North Korea. There is one big problem, however, one that goes the heart of the life of the lie: Social Security is one of the core governmental programs in Cuba and North Korea.
The corrupting and corrosive effects of the dole system have also, unfortunately, affected the libertarian movement. Every libertarian knows that freedom necessarily entails people keeping everything they earn and deciding for themselves what to do with their own money. That means a separation of charity and the state and economy and the state. The government has no more business providing a dole to seniors than it does providing a dole to churches. Charity is not a legitimate function of government and it’s just not moral for government to take money from people to whom it belongs in order to give it to people to whom it does not belong. Every libertarian understands and agrees with these principles.
Yet, some libertarians simply cannot bring themselves to call for the immediate repeal of Social Security? Why not? After all, they have no reservations about calling for the immediate repeal of farm subsidies, or subsidies to the arts, or foreign aid. Why not Social Security too?
Oftentimes, the answer lies with fear. Libertarians who won’t come out in favor of the immediate repeal of Social Security fear how they would be perceived by seniors and the mainstream press if they were to do so. Thus, instead of calling for the repeal of Social Security, as they do with farm subsidies, aid to the arts, or foreign aid, they come up with all sorts of Rube Goldberg schemes that are nothing more than a strange combination of socialism and economic fascism. Even worse, such schemes are sometimes billed as a “free-market-oriented” way to “advance freedom” by “fixing” Social Security, providing more evidence of the power of the dole system to corrupt sound thinking.
Actually, such Rube Goldberg schemes more deeply embed the state into the economic lives of the citizenry, either through economic fascism or a combination of socialism and economic fascism. In the process, the wrong message is conveyed to non-libertarians: that the federal government really does have a legitimate role to play in people’s retirement — or that Americans can’t trust freedom by simply repealing Social Security because seniors might really die in the streets if this socialist program were to be repealed — or even that it would be unfair to stop seniors from continuing to plunder the young and productive given that they’ve been taxed all their lives.
Freedom entails a dismantling, not a reform, of the governmental structures that infringe on freedom. That necessarily means a repeal of Social Security, not some convoluted reform plan to save or fix it. Moreover, freedom in fact does work. No one would be dying in the streets if Social Security were repealed today.
The question naturally arises: If libertarians won’t call for dismantling governmental structures that obstruct freedom and instead settle for reforming them, then how can we ever expect to achieve the free society? Or to put it another way, why would we expect non-libertarians to favor a free society if libertarians themselves won’t call for a free society?