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Why Not Simply Repeal Social Security?

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As the November congressional elections approach, Social Security is certain to become a topic of political conversation. With a budget surplus in mind, Republicans are seeking an $80 billion tax cut for the American people. President Clinton is threatening a veto. He says that taxes can’t be cut because the surplus is needed to save Social Security.

For years, we’ve heard one reform after another from both Democrats and Republicans and even some Libertarians for saving Social Security. But why not ask a more fundamental question: Why should Social Security be saved at all? Why not just repeal it?

After all, for almost 150 years – from 1787 to 1935, the American people lived without Social Security. Our ancestors believed that freedom entailed the right to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth and the right to decide what to do with it. Whether to honor thy mother and father or care for those in need was considered an individual choice. Using the political process for the purposes of charity was a foreign concept to our American ancestors.

And let’s not make any bones about it. Social Security is founded on force, not voluntary choice. Present-day Americans are required – on pain of fine and imprisonment – to pay taxes that fund the retirement pay of older Americans. By now, everyone knows that there is no Social Security “fund” and there never has been. The money has been spent as it has been collected. Social Security, like all socialistic welfare programs, relies on the forcible seizure of money from the productive members of society in order to transfer it to the nonproductive.

Let’s also not forget the historical roots of Social Security. President Franklin Roosevelt, who initiated Social Security in America, didn’t get the idea from Madison, Jefferson, Washington, or Adams. He got it from Otto von Bismarck, the “iron chancellor” of Germany, who himself had gotten the idea from German socialists. Social Security, after all, later became an essential part of German National Socialism in the 1930s.

“But contracts should be honored,” say the opponents of repeal. But where’s the contract? I’ve certainly never signed anything. And if we examine the Social Security law itself, we find that it’s simply a tax-and-welfare program, just like any other tax-and-welfare program. Have we also contracted to deliver food stamps, public housing, and foreign aid into perpetuity?

Even if there were an enforceable political contract, an implicit condition of it is that every generation has the right to alter or abolish the form of government that previous generations have implemented. Isn’t that what the Declaration of Independence says? If one or more generations decide to implement a socialistic welfare state in America, as Democrats and Republicans have since the 1930s, isn’t it the right of succeeding generations to rescind that way of life and restore economic liberty in their time?

We’re told that Social Security reflects that Americans are a caring and compassionate people. Doesn’t it actually reflect a lack of faith in the American people? Aren’t the proponents of Social Security saying to us, “You are an incompetent and uncaring people; you cannot be trusted with handling your own retirement; you cannot be trusted with honoring your parents on a voluntary basis; you must be forced to do these things through the threat of fines, imprisonment, and IRS audits”?

The ultimate problem with Social Security is not a political one or an economic one. It is a psychological one. When the American people regain their sense of self-esteem – when they recapture the principles of self-reliance and voluntary charity that characterized their ancestors – support for such alien socialistic concepts as Social Security will disintegrate. When that time comes, congressional candidates will be discussing the repeal, not the reform, of both Social Security and the income tax.

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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.