Liberty Means Repealing, not Reforming, Social Security

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Jacob G. Hornberger – April 16, 2019

Liberty necessary entails the absence of infringements on liberty. Therefore, the attainment of a free society necessarily entails a lifting, dismantling, or repeal of infringements on liberty. If all that we libertarians accomplish is a reform of the welfare-warfare state way of life, all that we will have done, at best, is improve our lives as serfs on the federal government’s welfare-warfare state plantation. In the process, we will not have accomplished our ultimate goal — knowing what it’s like to live lives of free men and free women. Our goal of liberty necessarily [requires] a lifting, dismantling, or repeal of all welfare-warfare state laws, programs, departments, agencies, and apparatuses.

Think about slaves in the Old South. It would certainly have been possible to improve their lives as slaves. Fewer lashings. Better work conditions. Less work hours. Improved healthcare. More nutritious food. Education. All those things would have certainly improved the lives of the slaves. But it would not have been freedom. Freedom necessarily required an end to slavery.

The core principle of the welfare state is the concept of mandatory charity. Through the force of the IRS and the welfare departments and agencies of the federal government, Americans are forced to share their money with other people.

Coerced charity is not charity at all. Charity can come only from the willing heart of the individual. Coerced charity is also not freedom. In a genuinely free society, people have the right to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with it. Thus, no one is forced to be good and caring in a free society. In a free society, the choice lies with each person.

Therefore, a free society necessarily entails a lifting, dismantling, or repeal of every single welfare-state program, including the two crown jewels of the welfare state, Social Security and Medicare. Both programs are based on using the coercive apparatus of the federal government to take money from one group of people in order to give money and healthcare benefits to another group of people.

Many seniors have convinced themselves that Social Security is a retirement program, one in which they have “put their money in” or “made contributions” and, therefore, that they have simply [been] “getting their money back.” But they have convinced themselves of a false reality. Social Security is not a retirement program and never has been. It is a welfare program and has always been a welfare program, no different from food stamps. The government taxes the productive citizens, retains a large part of the money for performing this “service,” and distributes what is left to seniors.

Every American is supposed to consider himself a good, caring, and compassionate person for living in a society that is based on coerced charity. That, of course, is a ridiculous notion. If charity is coerced, how can the person whose money is being taken from him consider himself good, caring, and compassionate? Genuine charity comes from the willing heart of the individual, not the coercive apparatus of the IRS and bureaucratic welfare-state agencies.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Social Security, Medicare, and other welfare-state programs (as well as warfare-state programs) are the reason why so many people, especially young people, are so financially strapped. Many people are living paycheck to paycheck. They cannot make ends meet. They have little savings. Some young people are living with their parents into their 30s. Some are deferring marriage for lack of money. It’s all because people are having so much of their money taken from them by force to fund America’s welfare-warfare state way of life.

Most important, Social Security, Medicare, and all other welfare-state programs violate a fundamental principle of individual liberty: the right of people to decide for themselves whether or not to help other people, including their parents, grandparents, or others in need. Freedom necessarily entails the exercise of the great God-given gift of free will.

Social Security and other welfare-state programs also demonstrate a lack of faith in freedom —a mindset that holds that if people are free to decide matters of charity for themselves, there would be people dying in the streets because, it is believed, most people would exercise their freedom by turning their backs on others.

At the same time, welfare-state programs inculcate a mindset of governmental dependency on the part of the recipient. The process is similar to going on heroin. Once people go on the dole, they become convinced that they could never survive without it. Social Security, Medicare, and other welfare-state programs severely damage such values as self-esteem, self-reliance, and can-do.

Although they would never admit it, Christian advocates of the welfare state believe that God made a mistake when He vested man with free will. Their support of mandatory charity reflects their conviction that people cannot be trusted with the decision on whether to help out others because inevitably, they believe, most people will choose wrongly. Therefore, to correct God’s “mistake,” they use Caesar to force people to be good, caring, and compassionate through a system based on mandatory charity.

Every American, including seniors, must ask himself some critically important questions: What does it mean to be free? Can a system of mandatory charity be reconciled with the principles of liberty? Does freedom necessarily involve a repeal, not a reform, of Social Security, Medicare, and all other welfare-state programs? Should we settle for the “security” of Social Security, Medicare, and other welfare-state programs? Or should we instead choose to discover what so few people in history have discovered: what it’s like to live a life of freedom — genuine freedom — before we pass from this life?

This article was originally published at FFF.org. Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He 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.

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