the line “Beam me up, Scotty – there is no intelligent life
here!” was actually uttered in any old Star Trek episode, I don’t
know. Former Congressman James Traficant contributed to its ubiquity
by using the phrase “in colorful one-minute speeches” on the floor
of the House (before he was expelled for ethics violations in 2002)
in railing against outrageous over-reaching government programs
and taxes. After reading Sebastian Mallaby’s “Trouble
With Choices” (12/20 – Washington Post), I’m heading
for the nearest teleporter location.
thrust (pun intended) of Mallaby’s article regarding the “personal
account ownership” portion of the Social Security reform debate
is: Americans really don’t want or need the “stress” of ownership,
the choices and responsibility that come with it.
an ‘ownership society’ preferable to a ‘big government’ one?”
goes onto provide some sterling examples of conveniently supportive
opinions and “studies” which always manage to absolutely support
whatever elitist notion is being advanced. And, of course, these
objections are consistently based on Feelings rather than Freedom.
first reason to wonder whether ‘ownership’ is always good is that
up to you to choose how to invest your pension account, agonizing
stocks vs. Asian bonds may not be such a privilege.”
certain measure of choice can be liberating but…too much is
a treadmill – sometimes even triggering depression."
(“The Paradox of Choice” psychologist Barry
Schwartz, Swarthmore College.)
ya back to thinking the Social Security Ponzi scheme is actually
a good thing?
goes on to tell us that Rich People “actually pay to avoid choices”!
Bet you didn’t know there are over 10,000 Wedding Planners in America
today (and here I thought it was just a boring chick flick). No,
this new growth is fueled by Rich People. “already maxed out” with
making other life choices, desperately needing someone else to answer
the burning question: roses or lilies? If you’re feeling entrepreneurial,
you might hire yourself out as a Grocery Planner, charging bewildered
shoppers to decide: “Paper or Plastic?” If you call yourself an
Interior Decorator, thank the Rich People’s avoidance issues with
Free Wallpaper Choice for making your career. Why be forced “to
stare glassily at 200 kinds of curtain rail” when that burden is
happily alleviated by career consultants getting rich off the rich?
Mallaby’s Conclusion: “If the rich are deliberately avoiding choice,
why are we so sure that the majority want more of it”? In other
words, if THEY can’t stand the privilege, what makes you think you
the lofty writer throws us some bones: Choice is good. Freedom is
good. Just not too much of it. Because Choice is also risky and
too much Freedom is stressful. (It has also been shown to cause
dandruff in Canadian lab rats.) The subtle inference is that Rich
People, while using their wealth to avoid choices, are the privileged
few who can actually – albeit reluctantly-handle it. A dramatic
increase in your personal financial independence, especially when
it does not come from brilliant Government programs and largess,
is bad, bad, bad. (If you don’t believe that, take a closer look
at our “progressive” income tax code, bearing in mind that “progressive”
means anything that stifles personal initiative and independence.)
Since you are not among The Rich, actually becoming rich would be
counter-productive. We should be thankful Mr. Mallaby’s beneficent
government is actually protecting us from ourselves by providing
“[T]he current system, featuring a government program that guarantees
a pension equal to about a third of the average worker’s salary,
plus a variety of tax-favored opportunities to save individually…"
How thoughtful. Unconstitutional – but certainly thoughtful.
not addressing the sorry if not terminal state of “Social Security”
or its pathetic return on our extorted FICA “investment," neither
does our hero offer any suggestions beyond the status quo. Consider:
where is the government’s authority to tell you how much money you
can set aside for your retirement? Can you find the authorization
for the government to provide any “retirement” program – especially
one funded by your fellow citizens? If I choose to invest my retirement
dollars in tweezer-headed snolligaster bellies and lose it all on
my 65th birthday, what business is that of government? Who owns
your life and what you produce during your lifetime? You or your
This will definitely be on your Final.)
Mallaby concludes: ."..a reform that adds to the stresses of the
modern world must hold out the compensating hope of more prosperity.”
So even though economists of all political stripes are screaming
“The End Is Near!” for Social Security, unless there is “hope of
more prosperity” (see “guarantee” – New Elitist Dictionary),
your freedom to chose where and how to provide for your retirement
shall remain limited to the limited choices currently available.
The last thing the government wants is for you to become so financially
independent as to not be dependent on government.
me up, Scotty, there is no intelligent life here in Washington –
or at the Washington Post.
than a teleporter.
Wilson [send him mail] is
a talk show host, author and speaker. He’s heard on better talk
radio stations across the country through his Vacation Relief Service
and most recently vented his libertarian views on KSFO/San Francisco.