After the publication of my article “Why Do Some Libertarians Support Social Security?” I received several emails from older libertarians criticizing me for calling for the immediate repeal of this socialist program. Their critiques can be summarized in the following three ways:
- “For the last several decades, I put into the system and, therefore, I have the right to get my money back.”
- “For the past several decades, the state took massive amounts of my income, which has left me with little savings. Therefore, since the state has left me in a position of needing the money, I have the right to Social Security.”
- For the past several decades, in return for my payment of taxes, the state promised me that I would receive Social Security payments in my senior years. The state should be required to comply with its promise.”
Libertarianism is a radical philosophy, one whose principles are internally consistent. Libertarianism cannot be modified or altered to suit changing circumstances or changing needs of people in society.
The core principle of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle. It holds that it is morally wrong and illegitimate to initiate force against another person. It holds that a person has the right to live his life any way he wants, so long as his conduct is peaceful and non-fraudulent.
Social Security involves the forcible taking of money from a person to whom it belongs and giving it to a person to whom it does not belong. That constitutes a grave violation of libertarian principles. Under libertarianism, every person has the right to keep everything he earns and decide for himself what to do with his own money.
Suppose the state has taxed me 70 percent of my income over my lifetime and has left me penniless at age 65. To enable me to retire, I decide to hold up a person at gunpoint. I force him to go to his ATM, withdraw $100,000, and give it to me.
My actions would violate libertarian principles, no matter how much I need the money and even if my victim is a billionaire. I would be committing robbery. I would be initiating force against another person, a violation of the core non-aggression principle of libertarianism. The fact that I instead run to the state and successfully get Congress to do the dirty deed for me, through the IRS and the Social Security Administration, does not alter the illegitimate nature of my act.
You have the right to your own money. And you have the right to decide what do to with it. I have the right to ask you for help. I do not have the right to force you to help me. Thus, libertarianism necessarily stands in opposition to stated-mandated charity, which is what Social Security and every other welfare-state program is based on.
Many people have convinced themselves that Social Security is a retirement program, one by which people send their money to the federal government, which then supposedly places it into a “trust fund” or retirement account, where it supposedly sits and earns interest until the person retires.
That is all self-deception. From the very beginning, Social Security was established as nothing more than a welfare program, no different from food stamps, farms subsidies, aid to the arts, and every other welfare program. One can scour the Social Security law for days and will search in vain for any provision that promises a person a Social Security check for the rest of his life in return for the taxes he pays to the IRS.
No one has the right to the continued existence of any welfare program, even if he was plundered by previous generations who used the state to improve their financial condition in their senior years. Everyone knows or should know that Congress can repeal any law at any time, including Social Security, food stamps, farm subsidies, aid to the arts, and every other welfare program.
What would happen if Social Security were abolished today? Human beings are resilient creatures. Everyone would successfully adjust. No one would starve to death. Freedom works. After all, let’s not forget: Our American ancestors lived without income taxation, IRS, Social Security and other socialist programs for more than a hundred years and they brought into existence the most prosperous and charitable nation in history. Of course, they rejected the socialist idea of mandatory charity and embraced the freedom idea of private charity.
There is no way to reconcile Social Security with libertarianism. Every libertarian (and every American) must ask himself the critical question: Which do you choose: Security or liberty? If you choose security, you reject liberty because socialism and liberty are opposites.