Social Security has never been ‘secure’

By Tibor Machan: Syndicated Columnist

Over the past several years the idea of including private accounts within the Social Security system has gained some ground in the political arena. Not that it’s been a piece of cake. For one, most people are as used to this government confiscatory program as they are to government schooling or the minimum-wage law. The governmental habit is rife throughout the world, including in America.

There is also the way promoters of the government’s confiscatory Social Security program distort what privatization comes to. Even this tiny bit of option — no one actually would need to go private with the 4 percent that could be put into personal accounts, it’s just an option — is mischaracterized as uniquely risky. And that assumes there is no risk with the government’s coercive system.

Why do folks accept this canard? Why do they buy into the story as told by Paul Krugman & Co.? Surely governments have defaulted on many of their promises and have left people without support as they have played political football with various projects.

Indeed, the entire Social Security program is in a way a hoax — no one can really obtain bona fide security in old age from what this program provides. Even if you have worked like a dog all your life and the government has extorted portions of your earnings for your own good, getting back roughly $1,500 a month when you reach age 65 is hardly going to make you secure economically, socially or any other way. The money confiscated from you by the feds is barely enough to feed your pets.

So where do the champions of this utterly failed program come off with their ruse about how the minuscule privatized portion will be oh-so-risky, while the government’s scam is brimming with certainty?

The idea, I think, stems from the belief that coercive force is something that can always be relied upon. And there is something to this, but only a little bit.

Whenever people reach a point of exasperation, they are tempted to deploy force — against their children, spouses, even friends, not to mention strangers who aren’t in a position to strike back (as it happens with all the redistribution of wealth legislation and public service conscription). If you cannot get anywhere with them by reasoning, by trying to persuade them or by imploring them to do what you want, at last resort smack them around a bit, just as those loan sharks do with their clients who will not pay up.

Yet, a policy of deploying coercive force against recalcitrants is at most a short-term, temporary solution to solving any kind of problem. This is true, of course, with Social Security as well. The collection of this part of what the government extorts from us falls way short indeed from solving the problem of old-age economic insecurity. It’s a pittance. Without personal savings or some other support system to supplement it, Social Security will get you virtually nothing. So, clearly, it is no solution to the problem it is supposedly designed to solve.

And that is just what the fate of all coercive measures tends to be. Force against other people only works well as a policy of self-defense or retaliation. But never as the first step. The horrendous risk of deploying coercive force is to create a citizenry that’s complacent about its security and misguidedly relies on the government to take care of it in old age. That is a far greater and more destructive risk than anything one may face with the stock market or other investment options where the money is left in one’s own hands to manage for one’s own good.

If people realized there is no mythical risk-free government Social Security, that it is indeed the ruse the critics must always have known it is, most of them would likely start thinking early in their lives about their old-age security, get competent advice about it, and reap the fruit of this policy of prudence so they really do have something to fall back upon when the need arises late in their lives.

There is no bona fide guarantee with government’s coercive policies, only the illusion of it, as with all reliance on a policy of coercive force in human relationships.

Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at: machan@chapman.edu