Should Libertarians Accept Social Security?
by Laurence M. Vance: The
Natural Right To Be Free
In his recent
appearance on MSNBCís "Morning
Joe," Representative Ron Paul was asked by Sam Stein of
the Huffington Post whether he was going to set a good example
for younger Americans and opt out of Social Security.
As a libertarian
and a constitutionalist, Congressman Paul recognizes that Social
Security is an insolvent, unsustainable, unconstitutional welfare
scheme. Although he wants younger workers to be given the opportunity
to opt out of the system as we make a humanitarian transition away
from the dependency of Social Security, when asked by Stein if he
was on Social Security, Paul acknowledged that he was and saw no
inconsistency in receiving benefits.
is properly a federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance
(OASDI) program. It provides benefits for retirement, disability,
survivorship, and death to about 55 million Americans at a price
to approximately 157 million taxpayers of more than $800 billion
a year. It is "funded" by payroll tax deductions from
both employers (6.2%) and employees (4.2%) on a taxable wage base
of $110,100. One must pay Social Security taxes for a minimum of
forty quarters to be eligible for benefits, which are figured based
on the average of a workerís thirty-five highest years of earnings
(up to particular yearís wage base), adjusted for inflation.
is the most expensive item in the federal budget. For years it generated
more in tax revenue than it spent on benefits. However, since 2010,
the system has run a deficit that is projected to increase every
year as more and more baby-boomers retire.
The truth about
Social Security is no secret. It is a relic from the New Deal. It
is the cornerstone of the welfare state. There is no trust fund.
There is no retirement account in the name of each taxpayer. Social
Security is an intergenerational wealth-transfer program.
But does this
mean that libertarians should not accept Social Security?
run into, or read something written by, libertarians who say that
to be a pure or consistent libertarian, one should not accept Social
Security. To do so would be to sacrifice oneís principles.
these same libertarians mail letters at the government post office,
drive on government roads, and conduct business with government
money. But, they might reply, I am forced to do these things. The
government has a monopoly on mail delivery, the vast majority of
roads are owned by the government, and few businesses accept anything
other than government money as a means of payment. Social Security,
on the other hand, is voluntary. One can choose not to receive it.
I donít disparage
those libertarians who refuse to accept Social Security because
they want to have as little interaction with the state as possible.
But I donít think that they are purer or more consistent than those
libertarians who say: "Sign me up."
Letís say you
are a libertarian who has reached retirement age (67 if born in
1960 or later). The federal government has been confiscating a portion
of your income for fifty years via, not just Social Security taxes,
but income tax, Medicare tax, taxes on airline tickets, excise taxes,
and indirect taxes on imports (tariffs) that result in you paying
higher prices for imported goods. This is all in addition to state
and local taxes.
And what has
the federal government spent your money on? Various forms of welfare,
maintaining an empire of troops and bases around the world, fighting
senseless foreign wars, corporate welfare, agricultural subsidies,
funding Planned Parenthood, public broadcasting, enforcing ridiculous
regulations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and whole departments
it has no business having like the Department of Education.
I think it
is safe to say that at least 95 percent of what the federal government
spends money on is unconstitutional.
should see Social Security as a way to get some of their money back
that was wasted on unconstitutional spending. Itís as if the government
said: "Would you like a refund of some of the tax money youíve
paid in over the past fifty years? Okay, sign here and we will make
a deposit in your bank account every month until you die."
Now, is that any different than signing a form that says: "Your
monthly Social Security benefit amount is _____? Does the difference
in wording on a government form really make any difference?
And donít worry
about getting back more than you paid in Social Security taxes.
The Social Security Trust Fund is an accounting fiction. There is
no individual retirement account with your name on it. Just figure
the total amount youíve paid in federal taxes and collect your "Social
Security" (or your "tax refund" if you want to be
a more pure libertarian) until that amount is reached. Donít bother
only taking 95 percent of the total because you are entitled to
interest on your money.
If it be argued
that the tax money you paid in over your lifetime has been spent
and therefore you would have to be paid with borrowed money, I would
say in reply that the tax money you are paying in this year is immediately
spent as well. The refund next year of your excess withholding taxes
from this year will likewise be paid in borrowed money. Are you
going to refuse your tax refund next year? I didnít think so.
look at it, the taxpayers deserve a refund.
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking
the Good War. His latest book is The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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