NOTE: I will be giving a talk at a breakfast meeting of the Tidewater (Virginia) Libertarian Party this Saturday, August 18, at 8:15 a.m. The event is open to the public. Place: Providence Square Grill, 941 Providence Square Shopping Center, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Title: “Advancing Liberty by Adhering to Principle.”
For the life of me, I cannot understand why some libertarians support Social Security. Why do they call for fixing and reforming it instead of abolishing it?
What gives with that? Don’t libertarians oppose socialism?
Libertarians certainly are not hesitating to criticize the Democrat Party’s new congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for being a “democratic socialist.” The same goes for her political mentor U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who has long labeled himself a socialist.
Indeed, libertarians have recently been pointing out and criticizing the destructive consequences of socialism in countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua, not to mention Cuba and North Korea.
Why then defend Social Security and come up with ways to fix or reform it? Isn’t holding contradictory positions what the term “cognitive dissonance” is all about?
Libertarians understand that Social Security is a socialist program. It uses the force of the state to take money from one person to whom it belongs and transfer it to a person to whom it does not belong. That’s classic socialism. It’s a perfect embodiment of the Marxian principle, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
Libertarians also know that the idea of Social Security originated among socialists in Germany around the turn of the 20th century. It was never part of America’s founding political-economic system. It was adopted in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s economic revolution, which transformed the federal government into a paternalistic welfare state.
Many Social Security recipients have convinced themselves that they are simply “getting their money back” from Social Security. But libertarians know that that isn’t true. From the very beginning, Social Security was set up as a welfare program for the elderly, no different from food stamps or any other welfare program.
In fact, speaking of food stamps, my hunch is that most, if not all, libertarians would not hesitate to call for the abolition of that particular welfare-state program, just as they wouldn’t hesitate to call for the repeal of the drug war or minimum wage.
Why the different treatment for Social Security? Why not call for the abolition of food stamps and Social Security and, for that matter, all other welfare-state programs?
Some libertarians want to reform Social Security by having the state force people to put their money into government-approved retirement accounts that invest in the stock market. They point to former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, who, along with the CIA, destroyed Chile’s democratic political system in 1973, as their model for such a plan.
But isn’t that just economic fascism, a type of system that ostensibly respects the institution of private property but, at the same time, places it under government control and regulation? It certainly shouldn’t surprise anyone that Pinochet supported a system based on economic fascism. One of the people he deeply admired was the fascist dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco, who himself deeply admired the economic system of Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler.
In fact, although Hitler called his system “national socialism,” it was actually a hybrid of socialism and economic fascism. Given that the idea of Social Security originated among socialists in Germany, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Hitler’s economic system included Social Security. But his system was also based on leaving resources and businesses under private ownership but under governmental control and regulation.
Is economic fascism better than socialism? Socialists say no. They ask, “What would happen if the stock market crashes, like it did in 1929? What then?” In fact, many Chilean socialists want to abolish Chile’s fascist Social Security system and restore the old socialist one, the one that was like America’s current Social Security system.
But why should libertarians engage in such a debate? Who cares whether socialism is better than economic fascism or vice versa? Aren’t libertarians about economic liberty? How can economic liberty be reconciled with either socialism or economic fascism?
Economic liberty entails the right to keep everything you earn and decide for yourself what to do with it. Whether you wish to spend, save, invest, or donate your money, it’s your right to make that decision. Being forced to share it with others through socialism or being forced to save or invest it through economic fascism is contrary to the principles of libertarianism.
Why not leave the defense of socialism and economic fascism to progressives and conservatives? Libertarians should be leading the way to freedom. That means the repeal, not reform, of the crown jewel of the welfare state, Social Security.