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Seeking Security in a Government-Guaranteed World

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Throughout history, people have surrendered their liberties to government in the hope of attaining a sense of security. The American people in this century proved to be no different. Our ancestors had established a way of life in which there was no income taxation, welfare, or economic regulation — a free way of life. Their descendants, however, have abandoned those principles — rejecting freedom for the siren song of the welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life.

Having surrendered their freedom in the pursuit of governmental security, did the American people of our time actually achieve their end? Let us examine a few examples.

First, Social Security: a governmental program which our ancestors rejected but which Americans of our time have wholeheartedly embraced. For the first 150 years of our nation’s history, the American people believed that it was the moral duty of the young to care for the old. But it was always understood that the decision to care for others had to be voluntary — no one in America would be coerced into helping others.

The result was the most charitable nation in history. Did this mean that everyone helped to provide for the elderly? Of course not. But freedom of choice was so important to our ancestors that they were willing to fight for a person’s right to choose — especially when the choice was an unpopular one. They understood that unless people were able to make “wrong” choices, none of them could truly be considered free.

In 1935, the American people abandoned this principle with respect to the elderly. The politicians and bureaucrats proclaimed that no longer would the elderly have to depend on the uncertainties of their children’s hearts. Through Social Security — a program inspired by Bismarck’s Germany — the elderly would now have the security of knowing that they would always be provided for by their governmental officials.

The politicians and bureaucrats induced the American people into believing that Social Security was an insurance or retirement program — that is, that people would deposit their money into a fund during their working years, that it would earn interest, and that it would then be paid out during their old age. It was a fraud from the very beginning — a fraud for which our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents fell — hook, line, and sinker.

The Social Security program was a tax and transfer program — and that’s all it was. There never was a fund. From the very beginning, the scheme was based on stealing from the young — through taxation — to give the money to the old.

Recipients of Social Security today try to rationalize their participation in this thievery by saying, “We put it in, and we’re entitled to get it back.” They ignore several important points: that they — not their children — were the ones who fell for the political fraud, and, therefore, that they should be the ones who bear the responsibility for their folly. Second, they ignore that after a few years, they have received much more money than they paid into the system. Third, and most important, they ignore that they are using the political system to violate one of the most sacred commandments known to man, “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

And has the much-vaunted Social Security program actually provided security for people? The entire system is bankrupt in the very literal sense of the word. Every single dime paid into the system is gone — spent into oblivion by our political and bureaucratic masters. Moreover, the value of the Social Security dollars has steadily declined over the decades as a result of the inflationary binges arising from ever-increasing governmental spending. Most important, the security of Social Security continues to depend entirely on stealing from the younger generations.

How long will this evil and immoral conduct go on? Well, Social Security recipients dig in their heels and insist that they will continue to steal from the young, no matter what. The young take the same position — “The old people stole from us; we’re going to do the same when it’s our turn.” And as long as the will to steal and the power to tax exist, the wrongdoing will continue — that is, until the entire system ultimately collapses in on itself.

A second example: the banking system. Our ancestors believed that banks should be treated like an investment — if a person chose the wrong stock or the wrong bank, he would have to bear the responsibility for his error. Thus, they rejected such alien schemes as governmental deposit insurance.

Twentieth-century Americans, however, have taken the old, European view — surrender liberty for governmental security. Thus, in 1933, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation came into existence to protect depositors who chose the wrong bank in which to deposit their money. The scheme was again based on stealing: if a person’s bank failed, the government would use its taxing powers to steal from others to make up the loss.

Has the FDIC resulted in security for Americans? The FDIC is, for all practical purposes, bankrupt — there are only a few cents on reserve for each $100 on deposit! As long as just a few banks fail, the scheme can go on. But what happens when there is an industry-wide collapse? Everybody is going to be stealing from everybody to recoup his losses! What a wonderful feeling of security!

The American people of today are having to pay the economic and financial price for decades of political wrongdoing. Yet, they cannot bring themselves to face the horrible truth: that the American welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life is the problem. And so what do they seek as the solution to America’s economic woes? A continuation, rather than the elimination, of the problem.

This attitude among the American people is reflected in the positions of the candidates for president of the United States. For example, what is the centerpiece of the Democratic presidential candidates? National health care! Now, let’s disregard the fact that the Cubans, Russians, and Chinese have had national health care for decades. All we have to do is examine the American medical system to see the folly of the Democrats’ national health-care proposals.

For decades, we have been promised by the politicians and bureaucrats that, through licensing, regulation, Medicare, and Medicaid, the government would bring security to the medical arena. So, where’s the much-vaunted security? The results of all of these political deprivations of individual liberty are clear for all to see: incompetent physicians, ever-increasing medical costs, and ever-decreasing avenues of alternative health care, not to mention the tremendous unhappiness of those in the medical profession.

Yet what do the American people now want to do? Dismantle all of this nonsense? Not on your life! They want to permit our public officials to take even more control over this vitally important part of our lives!

And what are the Republican answers to the failure of the American welfare state? First, to bully and beg the Japanese into purchasing American automobiles — more welfare for the automobile industry; and, second, to expand international governmental aid — more welfare for foreigners.

Unfortunately, both the Democrats and the Republicans want to continue America’s abandonment of its heritage — they want to preserve, if not expand, America’s welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life.

The uncomfortable truth is that the American Empire is in decline. It had to happen — as it happened to empires throughout history — the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Empire. The solution to all of this is simply to dismantle, the empire before it is too late — to end the welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life: to repeal income taxation; to prohibit constitutionally any law which takes money from one person and gives it to another; to prohibit government constitutionally from regulating economic activity; to prohibit constitutionally trade and immigration restrictions; and to end constitutionally America’s role as an international welfare-provider. The solution is to choose liberty over governmental “security.”

Unfortunately, however, the American people don’t want to listen to any of this. Like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, they bemoan their woes, but they only want to hear how they can make their wrongdoing work well and efficiently — the thought of ending the wrongdoing is an anathema to them. One can only wonder how long God’s justice on those who have traded liberty for “security” will continue to sleep.

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.