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The Socialism of Social Security

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The crown jewel of the socialist welfare state in America is Social Security. Rooted in the socialist predilections of Otto von Bismarck, the iron chancellor of Germany in the late 1800s, Social Security is one of the most immoral, anti-family socialist programs in America today. It also perfectly embodies the American peoples denigration of the great God-given gift of free will.

One of the Ten Commandments, of course, is Honor thy father and thy mother, but implicit in that commandment is the notion that individuals are free to say No. Thats what freedom and free will are all about. If the state forces a person to honor his mother and father or punishes him for failing to do so, then that person is not truly free. Moreover, to the extent that his decisions are motivated by threat of punishment by the state his actions mean nothing in terms of virtue and morality.

The state justifies Social Security on two grounds. One, that it is actually a retirement system in which the government taxes a person, puts the money away in a safe place, and then gives it to the person when he reaches retirement age. But its all a lie. There is no fund and there never has been a fund. From the very beginning, Social Security has been based on plunder and coercive redistribution of wealth. The state uses its taxing powers to plunder the income of the young and productive in order to distribute the loot to the elderly. It would be difficult to find a more perfect example of the manner in which the American people have enshrined a direct violation of Gods commandment against stealing within their political system.

Once the lie behind Social Security is exposed that the entire system is based on socialist confiscation and redistribution of wealth the advocates of Social Security resort to their alternative justification: that Social Security is based on the moral duty that people have to honor their parents. They suggest that this socialist program Social Security puts into action the love and compassion that the American people have for their parents and the elderly. Nothing could be further from the truth. By relying on the coercive apparatus of the state to achieve its ends, the program actually reflects a continuous violation of Gods commandment against stealing, an absence of compassion for others, and a lack of faith in themselves, their families, and others.
A conflict of visions

After all, lets compare the mindset of Americans from the nations founding in 1787 until Social Security was adopted by the generations living in the United States in 1935. Prior to that time, Americans had rejected socialist redistributive schemes because they believed that such programs were based on an immoral premise that it is morally wrong to forcibly take one persons money in order to give it to another person.

People should be free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, our ancestors believed, and then do whatever they want with that wealth save, hoard, spend, invest, or donate it. Both retirement and charity were the province of the private sector, not the government sector. If someone had suggested to an average American living in 1880, for example, that the government should tax him in order to provide for his retirement, that American would have laughed. I can take care of myself. Keep the government out of it would have been his immediate response.

And its not as if early Americans were unaware of the socialist concept from each according to ability, to each according to need that has held the American people in its grip since the 1930s. Socialism was sweeping Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, and Americans living at that time were well-informed and well-educated on world events. There were also many American intellectuals who were trying to move America in a socialist direction, but without success. The plain and simple truth was that Americans in the latter part of the 19th century wanted nothing to do with socialism.

First, our ancestors understood the fundamental wrongdoing of using the state to take money from one person in order to give it to another person. Stealing is stealing, they believed, and empowering the state to achieve what is immoral on a private basis did not eliminate the fundamental immorality of the action.

Second, they believed that liberty entailed the right of people to do whatever they wanted with their own money.

Third, they believed that morality and compassion meant nothing unless they came from the willing heart of the individual.

Fourth, they were deeply imbued with a can-do spirit of self-reliance that precluded their looking to the state for paternalistic care or guidance. And finally, they had faith in their fellow man to do the right thing but would never force him to do so.

Are you getting a sense of how differently our ancestors viewed the concept of liberty and the role of government in their lives? Compare that to the mindset of current-day Americans. Today, the thought of repealing (not reforming) Social Security strikes dreadful fear in the hearts and minds of so many Americans. Why, how could I survive without Social Security? Why, there would be elderly people starving in the streets without Social Security! The mindset is now one of total dependency on the state and a total lack of faith in freedom, family, charity, and free markets.
Repealing Social Security

In fact, such fears are totally irrational. For one thing, a large number of people who receive Social Security are sufficiently wealthy that they dont really need it. There are also a large number of Social Security recipients who are fully able to work (but are penalized for doing so by reductions in the Social Security checks). Furthermore, many Social Security recipients have children who are doing quite well financially and would be doing even better if they didnt have to pay Social Security taxes any-more. What would be wrong with relying on children to honor their mother and father on a voluntary basis?

What about those who truly need the money those who lack retirement income, those who cannot work, or have no children, or have children who wont help them? Well, isnt that what faith and a belief in others is all about? Isnt that what compassion and charity are all about? Every day, we hear about wealthy and middle-class people donating to this worthy cause or that worthy cause, and yet we continue to steadfastly believe that no one would donate to the elderly in need campaign. Thats nonsense. Theres absolutely no doubt that there would be more than sufficient outpouring of relief to help those people out.

After all, doesnt the mere existence of Social Security reflect, albeit in a misguided sense, the compassion of the American people? If people are as selfish and self-centered as U.S. socialists say they are, then why is it that Americans have left Social Security in existence for so long?

So whats the difference between socialism and freedom? Socialism denies the individual the freedom to say No. Thus, it is a denigration of Gods great gift of free will. Freedom enables the individual to say either Yes or No and operates on the faith that enough people will say Yes. Thus, the difference between the two systems is comparable to the difference between night and day.

Recall the young rich man who approached Jesus, said that he was following all the commandments, and asked Jesus what else he must do to be saved. Jesus told the man to sell all his belongings, give them to the poor, and follow him. Unable to let go of his material attachments, the young man walked away, dejected. While the lesson in the account is obvious, theres another more subtle lesson involved here, that Jesus did not force the young man to do anything. Free will entailed the right of the young man to turn his back on the poor and on God. When the young man chose to walk away, Jesus honored the choice by not forcing the right choice on him.

Social Security and every other socialist program takes the exact opposite tact: You cannot be left free to care for yourselves, your parents, or others because you are too incompetent, selfish, and self-centered to make these choices. You are not free to say No. If you were free, you would make the wrong choice. Therefore, we must force you to make the right choice. We must make you obey God.

In the process, Americans have convinced themselves that their socialist way of life is really freedom, despite the fact that it was rejected by the American people for more than a century. The plight of the American people today is best described by the words of Johann von Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

While Social Security is the crown jewel of the American welfare state, unfortunately it is just the tip of the socialist iceberg. Abandoning faith in themselves, their fellow Americans, and God, Americans have turned their lives, fortunes, and activities to the paternalistic and coercive care of Caesar. Medicare, Medicaid, public education, charity, and bank deposit insurance are just a few of the many examples.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice will not sleep forever. One cannot help wondering whether those words dont apply perfectly to the American people today.

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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.