Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Never Looked At It Quite This Way

I'm not a hardcore, abolish-most-of-the-government libertarian, largely because there is little point in supporting an idea that doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting implemented, but also because, as a friend of mine has succinctly put it, "Original Sin has to be paid for somewhere." A bit of a welfare state is probably the price you have to pay to maintain social concord, even if it is in some sense, "unjust" from a libertarian point of view. If all men were angels, libertarianism would work, but it just so happens that they aren't. The job is to make sure there is a safety net for those who genuinely need it, while minimizing the number of hangers-on both inside and outside of government. And hopefully somehow instilling an "attitude of gratitude" that fellow citizens are willing to sacrifice to help the down and out, rather than an attitude that living off of others is a sacred right. Also, empowering private charity and making sure that you don't destroy people's dignity and incentive by being overly or impersonally generous or not holding folks to some kind of standard to get their lives in order. Well, maybe "welfare state" isn't really the right word for such a system, but it seems to me that we've probably got to have something that's going to keep libertarians complaining.

Anyway, Star Parker has an article about Social Security that makes this interesting point:
In my view, there is only one honest approach to Social Security: fulfill obligations to pay benefits to those who have already paid in and allow the rest of us as quick and expeditious an exit out as possible. Then shut the doors forever.

If this seems radical, I'll ask one question. If Social Security did not exist, and we attempted to enact today a system like we currently have, would it pass? The answer is unquestionably no. There is no way that any working American would agree to turn over to the government 12.4 percent of his or her paycheck in exchange for a benefit that has no guarantee, on which ownership has been relinquished and that is less than what could be obtained by buying risk-free government bonds. No way. Zero chance.

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