Why Are Libertarians Squishy on Social Security?

It has long been an article of faith for some libertarians to be squishy when it comes to Social Security. Contrary to how they view other federal programs, departments, and agencies, they inevitably place Social Security in a sacred category, one in which this particular federal program, they say, needs to be saved, reformed, fixed, improved, or gradually phased out over the next 50 years.

Consider, for example, the Federal Reserve. Many years ago, Ron Paul struck a surprising chord within a large segment of the populace by calling for an end to this federal agency. Paul’s  mantra “End the Fed” became extremely popular all across the political spectrum and with people from all walks of life, including libertarians.  

Consequently, “End the Fed” has become a popular — almost trite — mantra for most libertarians. It is difficult to find libertarians who say that the Fed instead should be reformed, fixed, improved, or gradually phased out over the next 50 years. Almost every libertarian answers “End the Fed” when asked for his position on monetary policy.

It’s pretty much the same with respect to the war on drugs. While some libertarians call for drug legalization for only marijuana, I think it’s safe to say that most libertarians favor drug legalization for all drugs. One will not find many libertarians saying that drug laws should be phased out over the next 50 years. The position of most libertarians is abolish drug laws immediately.

Or consider the federal Department of Education. I think it’s safe to say that most libertarians would say: Abolish it now. 

Yet, not so with Social Security. Why the difference?

I think there are two major reasons: 

First, there is a common perception that people have put their money into the system and, therefore, have a right to get it back. 

But that is clearly not the case. Social Security has never been a program in which people have had their money taken from them and placed in a retirement account. Social Security has always been a plain welfare program, no different from food stamps, public housing, and welfare. People are taxed to fund welfare-state programs but their tax money is not saved for them until retirement. It is spent as soon as the government receives it. 

Thus, seniors today were taxed to fund Social Security payments to their parents and grandparents. Today, the government taxes young people and uses the money to send Social Security checks to their parents, grandparents, and other seniors.

Second, there is a common perception that people are dependent on their Social Security money and would die in the streets without it. 

But that only goes to show that many people, including some libertarians, have lost faith in freedom. They have let the state convince them that Social Security is necessary for people’s survival.

That’s just nonsense. Freedom works. So does voluntary charity. We no more need Social Security than we need a hole in the head.

Many seniors are sufficiently wealthy. They don’t need the money. 

Others would need to adjust their spending. They might even have to return to work. There is nothing wrong with that. There are lots of seniors in the workplace. Oftentimes, it keeps them young. 

And then there are the truly needy. That’s where children and grandchildren or other family members come into play. It’s this part of life where all too many libertarians and others have unfortunately lost faith. But the fact is that most children and grandchildren and other family members would come to the assistance of their parents and grandparents (or brothers, sisters, etc) when the need arises, especially given that they would no longer be having to pay 15 percent of their income to the government in the form of FICA taxes. 

Moreover, there are charitable groups, including grant-making foundations, church groups, and neighborhood groups whose mission is to help others. I can easily imagine people forming The Foundation for Former Social Security Recipients to help those who are truly in need.

And that’s where genuine care and compassion come from — from the willing heart of individuals, not from the coercive and bureaucratic apparatus of the IRS, income tax, and Social Security Administration. People need to recapture their faith in freedom, themselves, others, and God and abandon their faith in Caesar and his apparatus of coercion. 

Socialism, which is what Social Security is, has proven to be the bane of mankind. Not only has it has inculcated a mindset of hopeless dependency among recipients, it also is a major factor in the out-of-control federal spending, debt, and inflation that are taking our country down from within. Perhaps worst of all, socialism has severely damaged people’s faith in freedom.

It is impossible for people to be considered genuinely free when they are living under socialist programs. Thus, a necessary prerequisite for achieving the free society is the abolition, not the reform, of Social Security and all other socialist programs, departments, and agencies. 

Thus, everyone is faced with a choice: Freedom or socialism? I say: Let us libertarians choose freedom and lead America out of its socialist morass now, not 50 years from now.

Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.