What is Social Security really? Different people, without dishonest intent, will give multiple and contradictory answers.
Is Social Security a Ponzi scheme, an investment, insurance, or the arbitrary grant from government that can be changed at the Congress’ whim? Which do you think, and why are the alternatives wrong?
Getting past the conflicting descriptions, at its root, Social Security is the transfer of money from the productive young to the idle and relatively wealthy old. Even supposed “trust funds” are actually IOUs to be paid by the currently productive.
While many focus on this wealth transfer aspect (from the relatively poor but productive young to the idle old), I want to point to a different aspect related to the collectivization of intergenerational support, and its enforced duty.
Traditionally, prior to government intervention, the elderly were taken care of within the family, mostly by their own children. Meanwhile, those elderly who were not wealthy yet able bodied and able minded continued to work to support themselves.
During the Great Depression, government policies blocked Americans’ ability to trade and contract freely, which led to individuals not being able to support themselves much less family members. Instead of ending such disastrous economic interventions, government imposed a duty on those with jobs to support everybody else’s infirmed elderly, widowed, and orphaned family members; that program was called Social Security.
Note: previously, by choice and voluntary association, individuals had engaged in support of deserving others without sacrifice. The new government policy was that such support be involuntary, directed to unknown others regardless of the recipient’s merit, and be taken out of context related to the payer’s capacity for non-sacrificial “contributions”.
Today, this “noble” ideal consumes almost one-sixth of a typical American’s earnings (more than a tithe), while reducing wages and salaries, pushing jobs overseas, and increasing unemployment. Further, the unchecked growth in this government expenditure dwarfs the costs of legitimate government functions, while driving the country towards figurative bankruptcy.
This exemplifies the price of altruism, which is not benevolence but instead the dutiful sacrifice to others as a principle of morality.