The Libertarian Case Against Social Security Privatization

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Tyler Cowen makes it at Marginal Revolution and, for subscribers, in the Wall Street Journal.

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  1. It occurred to me a long time ago that the approach S.S. takes is completely bass-ackwards. If anything, the government’s interest should be to *prevent* people from living off one another, rather than institutionalizing parasitic relationships between people. To that end, an individualized “lockbox” account which would contain a certain percentage of one’s annual income, the deposits for which would be facilitated and monitored by government, but the contents of which could be invested freely by the depositor, seems like a good idea.

    But, the idea of coercing people to save, whether through taxation or forced earmarking and deposit of individual income, is very distasteful to me.

  2. Yes, I saw this yesterday. I’ve had a similar problem myself. I can’t help it, and I know this isn’t very Libertarian, but…

    I wish SS was “merely” a means tested insurance program. I do not believe Americans are willing to let poor senior citizens who cannot work starve and become homeless. To avoid further entitlements (which I also see as an extreme danger to privatizing, that the un-intended consequences would actually increase the cost of SS) I think JG made a comment recently about Americans unwillingness to see that as well. She thought seniors were very expensive though. As a means tested insurance program, it would be unattractive to rely on the existence of it, since it would only provide sustinence level funding, hence keeping the cost down.

  3. Someone go get Jennifer… she needs to explain to you guys why you’ll never get anywhere with this attitude… AGAIN. “Soash Secure’ty” is very popular and enforced savings are better than entitlements, and cheaper. Even if they do impede the Libertarians beloved “freedom.”

    Let’s be honest this is the richest nation on Earth and we’re not going to let people suffer the consequences of their folly by failing to plan for their retirement, you can just write that off, so the argument is “Soash Secure’ty” or a more privatized version of Social Security, but it is POINTLESS to discuss any other alternative. To do so is to debate whether or not an Orchish horde could take on a Wehrmacht Infantry company, a nerdish, pointless discussion of the impossible.

  4. “I wish to privatize many things, but forced savings is not one of them. The so-called privatized accounts would be regulated rather than truly private in the libertarian sense. They will channel benefits to government-approved providers, thus leading to bureaucracy, regulation, and costly commissions. We could even imagine a government trying to direct those investment funds to particular sectors.”

    One of the worst things about Social Security is that the money in question is squandered on the least productive sector of our economy, the government. Even if we’re limited to putting our money in the money market and government bond funds, isn’t this preferable? Oh yeah, and even if you get a 2% annual return on your money, that’s better than what you’re scheduled to get from the SSA.

    There’s no question that privatization will be painfully expensive, especially, if you’re going to pay out everyone who’s paid in even while you’re turning off the spicket; but any time a Ponzi scam busts, somebody’s left holding the bag. I’d much rather that be the bond market soaking the tax payers than bet the farm on a raise in the retirement age.

    “A better fiscal idea is to raise the retirement age, thereby keeping the system solvent.”

    …Seriously, raising the retirement age is the most politically unlikely scenario I can think of with the possible exception of killing the SSA program entirely.

  5. The thing with privatization that I worry about is that if the Feds require that people invest in “safe”, ie less volatile stocks, thus skewing the market.

  6. …But, if it’s wide open, then it seems like privatization would be an improvement for sure. But, turning SS into a welfare program for older folks might well be a route to killing off the monstrosity all together.

  7. Mandated investment seems like a great way to skew the market.

    Means testing seems like a politically feasible way to reduce the number of people dependent on the gov’t.

  8. Evan,
    The state can’t want anything. It isn’t alive.

  9. kwais, Shoooosh, “he’s onna roll…”

  10. The people not only depend on the government for welfare, but also for jobs, for handouts, for protection from their own stupidity.

    Can Hit’n’Run institute a ban on ideologically-driven hyperbole, please??

  11. Forced savings invested in securities would likely raise the price of securities. People would feel good as they see their retirement portfolios rise and appluad the Bush reforms. Then, as the money is drawn from the markets, prices would lose the “artificial” support, and the retirees wouldn’t have as much as they thought. They then ask for handouts.

    If the accounts are private, they’ll accuse the markets and business of screwing them, and ask the state to regulate for their children, at the same time asking for those transfer payments.

    The additional savings in the nearer term may moderate or overcome such effects, as capital in private hands tends to increase wealth and efficiency. We might grow out of the problem. Also, the timing of withdrawals might be more favorable as people choose their own retirement age rather than working until the handouts start. Healthier elderly working longer helps probably every scenario.

    As to skewing the market, anything the state does skews the market. If only some percentage of saving is mandated, not specific investment vehicles, perhaps people could satisfy some of their lefty needs by picking green investments, lessening the urge for direct government interference.

  12. “Can Hit’n’Run institute a ban on ideologically-driven hyperbole, please??”

    are you familiar with teh interweb or is this your first week?

    where the fuck would we be without this stuff?

  13. I think a more important question that everyone is ignoring is: During the Social Security debate, how many time will Joe assert that “if it’s not Social, it’s not Security”?

    The current Vegas over/under is 17.5

  14. But, turning SS into a welfare program for older folks might well be a route to killing off the monstrosity all together.

    Hell, that’s all its ever been. No reason to think all of a sudden people will turn against it.

  15. It doesn’t seem a libertarian argument so mush as a pragmatic argument.

  16. Seems to me the “means testing” should be for the retirement, not the benefit. If you don’t have the means to retire and you are physically capable of doing some sort of work, then you shouldn’t be retiring.

  17. GBMD: I’ll take the over. 🙂

  18. Joe L. –

    “she needs to explain to you guys why you’ll never get anywhere with this attitude… AGAIN”

    Trying to stifle my civil rights, son? I’ll have my attitude, and express it too. By the by, it just might foment a discussion, that might stir an idea, that might, at some point, inspire change.

    That, after all, is how the entire tail-chasing Ponzi Ouroboros of “Social Insurance” began. A bunch of blowhards kicking around an idea over bier und schnapps.

  19. WASPB, say what you want… I’m just telling you, my boy, that the L(l)ibertarian view generally goes NOWHERE IRL and things that go nowhere IRL are fairly pointless… just like debates about Wehrmacht infantry companies versus Orcish hordes.

    So what is a REALISTIC alternative to Sosh Secure’ty? Please don’t talk aobut ENFORCED savings and your freedom, because well, they don’t fly politically. How would you realistically change retirement insurance or retirement programs in this nation? SS is based on transferring wealth from black men to older white women… that seems, no IS unfair. Plus, younger workers will see a 1% or negative rate of return on their SS payments, how can we help these workers and avoid bankruptcy of the system? And the abolition of SS or making it “voluntary” is NOT an answer… if you try that I’ll start talking about the firepower of the MG 42, but also talking about the constiturion of Orcs and the composition of their armour.

  20. Let’s speak of the whole package of government frauds and bad decisions.
    What we’re debating here is, which is worse: a government Ponzi scheme or government enforced savings?
    We should be against both.

    The US government made a horrible decision in 1913 to go with a progressive income tax. (Income tax period, but, especially progressive.) There was plenty of opposing opinion at the time.

    Government wars–on drugs, terror, you name it–are similar to Ponzi schemes, aren’t they?

    I’m saying let’s keep all bad government decisions in mind as we begin discussing Social Security privatization.

  21. Witty, Joe, at least half so.

    I would be absolutely for S.S. in its current form – if I could opt out. Then let’s see how many hands in the air there would be to sign up, assuming truth in advertising about how the scheme actually works. Historically, any system that relies on coercion to keep it going contains its own eventually fatal flaw – I refer you to Soviet Communism, conscription of troops and chattel slavery – so bring on the Sauron vs. Hitler rant.

    And don’t be so sure it’s still the third rail you believe it to be. My parents are Democratic organizers in Iowa, and S.S. went absolutely nowhere as a campaign issue in this election, even though the folks and their cohorts made every effort to bring it front and center. You will see some sort of partial privatization in the next four years. Mark my words. Mark ’em I say!

    Now, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, you, the Dark Lord and Herr Shicklegruber can commence debate.

  22. Isn’t that from an old Dragon magazine? IIRC, the orcs had their asses handed to them.

    My pet equivalent of a means test, since nobody asked, is to yank the driver’s license of anyone claiming infirmity. “Wait, I’m well again! It’s a miracle!”

  23. BUT, WASPB the thread seems posited that CHANGING SS rather than abolishing it is bad… and that’s what I’m on about, as well as the violence inherent in the system, whether or not libertarians like enforced savings or not they are going to exist so what is the best form of them?

    Ruthless, at one point you make a good point, guv’mint schemes all have drawbacks, but from another view, you are merely spouting Libertarian rhetoric… most folks don’t view the Income Tax as evil, nor “Government wars–on drugs, terror, you name it” and that weakens your argument. Can yo breat me in a libertarian forumn, mayhap, but can you translate that victory into a meaningful change IRL, doubtful?

    So it comes down to how to change the SS system, not it’s abolition, or making it voluntary or OPTING OUT (WASPB-you can’t do that because you are paying for your granny’s retirement now, anyway), but rather how best to use that what is it 15% of your pay packet that goes to SS. Sure taking the SS contributions and investing them directing into Wall Street would be horrific! But how to allow contributors to invest some and where and how is the real question?

  24. LOL, CTD, excellent! My other pipedream, and I admit, Joe, it is nothing but, is to register only those not in receipt of any entitlement dollars, including S.S./Medicare/Medicaid, to vote. The tagline would be “Payin’ the Cost to Be the Boss.”

    A fella can dream, can’t he?

  25. Why wouldn’t it be possible to have a system that accomodates everybody? Say the government gives you the option to take the SS portion of your paycheck and a) put it into a SS account or b) put it into a 401K or some other private investment account or c) put in your checking account or d) cash it out and stuff it under your mattress or e) some combination of the above. You could make this decision on an annual or bi-annual or monthly or weekly basis. Whatever you though was the better bet at the moment. True, this would cause bazillions of dollars to slosh around from one investment account to another but, hey, isn’t that how the currency and bond and stock and commodities markets work?

    Basically the idea should be to give everybody the right to take their money and stick it wherever they want.

  26. Why bring the Indy Racing League into this?

  27. E.,

    Fine idea, except for the people who are already collecting benefits. Your idea takes the pyramid out of the scheme, but that’s where the political reality lies – something for nothing. The current system GUARANTEES getting your money back and then some, your system guarantees nothing.

  28. Estimates range from 1-4 trillion dollars, depending on whose figures you accept, in transition costs with even a partial privatization. Even this is not insurmountable, assuming that the administration’s current line, that the deficit doesn’t matter, prevails over the next four years, rather than, say, the Concord Coalition’s. I happen to respect the C.C. very highly, but it seems clear to me that this administration is adamant that some sort of reform, including the ability of the individual to take responsibility for some of his/her own retirement account, will take place.

    Watch the new cabinet take shape. Bush will surround himself with more like-minded lads and lassies, and watch his nominees to the Federal bench. His domestic litmus tests will be 1. Roe v. Wade/embryonic research, (2.) major tax reform and (3.) social security reform, in that order. Politically speaking, some progress toward number three may be quite feasible, as some polling data suggests:

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/Social%20Security%20November%206.htm

  29. Now, unlike Joe, I don’t assume the status quo will prevail. I haven’t assumed that since Newt Gingrich was Speaker. I am afraid, Joe, that your take on the possibility of S.S. reform is more of a wish than a prognostication. Bush may not have a numerical mandate, but he is right in his statement that he has capital to spend, and he no longer has to spend it solely in Iraq. That is a fait accompli.

    What convinces me is the utter failure of the Dems in this electoin to articulate the continuing evangel of the New Deal. They are like mainstream churchgoers just going through the motions while the more fervent and politically more relevent Christians are attending storefront tabernacles and speaking in tongues. The old assumptions just don’t have the magic they once did. To pretend they do is a pipedream. Inertia also occasionally means movement, and if you’re not sensing the realignment coming, all I can say is, don’t be standing on the fault line when it breaks open.

  30. Instead of forcing people to save, why not encourage it, by changing the tax code? Our current tax system is asinine–it penalizes the frugal and rewards the prodigal. How about something like this:

    If you make up to, say, $50K per year (with a progressive scale to cover higher income-earners) any money you put into savings is tax-deferred; if I earn 50K and bank 20K this year, I only pay tax on the remaining thirty thousand.

    Now, that money remains tax-free if you take it out after age 65, or to cover certain expenses like medical care, education, or the purchase of your primary place of residence; otherwise, when you take your money out of savings you pay the standard tax you’d’ve paid anyway for your tax bracket.

    And here’s the catch: with the exception of federal student loans, NO FORM OF DEBT INTEREST is deductible, not even mortgage interest. (Of course, those who already have mortgages will be ‘grandfathered in,’ because it’s unfair to change the rules after someone’s started the game. And no, I do not currently have a mortgage.)

    There’s still a welfare system for the indigent old people, because I like to think we’re a more-or-less civilized nation and there’s nothing civilized about letting poor old folks starve in the street. However, the benefits would be only just enough to provide the basic necessities of living, none of the luxuries people dream of for their retirement. Exactly what falls into which category–luxury or need–can be debated later.

    What do you think? I think it could work, and be fair and equitable, and Increase the Overall Happiness Level, which is why it hasn’t a chance in hell of being implemented.

  31. Jennifer,

    Sounds good to me, except it still has that “except February, which has 28” feeling to it. Simplify, simplify…

  32. WASPB-

    Forgive me if this sounds rude, but I’m not too surprised to learn you’re a bachelor, y’know?

    It can’t get much simpler than it is, not if it is to remain self-supporting in a complex society of nearly three million people. The original Thoreau, who said “simplify, simplify,” overlooked how easy it is to ‘simplify’ if you’re living rent-free on your buddy Emerson’s land and hiring out to do your laundry.

  33. “I like to think we’re a more-or-less civilized nation and there’s nothing civilized about letting poor old folks starve in the street.” Saying we need Social Security to prevent that is like saying that you would just stand by and let it happen if the government did not take money from you by force to prevent the elderly from starving. What’s civilized about that?

  34. Um, make that “society of nearly three hundred million people.” Sorry-I’m distracted by this weird noise my computer started making.

  35. LisaMarie-
    I personally cannot afford to save every old person in the nation or even on my street, and in all of recorded human history there has been nothing to suggest that the number of folks who ARE willing to voluntarily help out to a small extent will be enough to outnumber the number of folks in need of help.

  36. Or even break even with the number in need of help.

  37. Jennifer,

    Well, the dirty little secret is, I am happily married, thank you. My doppelganger, the WASPB, is my former self I’ve written about in a recently-released book.

    I hope THIS doesn’t sound rude, but I get tired of folks who make the ridiculous logical leap that those of us with serious reservations about New Deal programs are heartless bastards, or the equally ridiculous notion that extra-Constitutional Robin Hood schemes are the only means by which “security,” ( a ridiculous notion this side of the grave in the first place ) can be attained.

    If it is true that we still need these supernumerary programs, designed for a decades-dead industrial economy with completely different demographics, you need to make the objective case for them all over again, because your constituency is dying off.

  38. Ah, a married guy pretending to be single. Every woman my age has encountered one of *those.* Heh-heh-heh.

    No, but seriously. To say that ‘my constituency is dying off,’ is not true–with the exception of hard-core libertarians, most people, if asked, would agree that there should be *something* in place to ensure that the neediest cases are taken care of even if they’re not able to find citizens able and willing to help them out.

    If Joe L. doesn’t mind my using him as an example (well, even if he does mind, I suppose, since I’m posting without asking him first), I’d like to point out that he and I are at *completely* different ends of the political spectrum; he’s a devoutly religious, right-wing conservative, whereas I’m a left-leaning liberal hardcore atheist. Yet despite our wildly differing viewpoints on a LOT of things concerning how society should be, we both agree that *something* should be done by the government, paid for by people who didn’t first go to the trouble of signing a voluntary social contract, to do certain things, and preventing old folks from starving in the streets is one of them.

    And perhaps the hard-core libertarians are right (as are we hardcore atheists, of course). Perhaps one day the majority of people will realize that the Libertarian way is the best way, just as one day the majority might realize that secular humanism is better than religion. But there’s no way in hell either of these will happen in my lifetime or that of my theoretical grandchildren, so while it’s one thing to work toward the day when society reaches that point entirely, you and I still have to deal with the fact that the majority of humanity does not believe in the obvious rightness of our respective beliefs, and will NEVER willingly vote in someone who tries to make them live by our view anyway.

    So compromise, and get what you CAN, while working to change what you CAN’T.

  39. “In all of recorded human history there has been nothing to suggest that the number of folks who ARE willing to voluntarily help out to a small extent will be enough to outnumber the number of folks in need of help.” Where do you get this from? I see charity everywhere, everyday. Basically, you seem to be saying that we need Social Security because everyone else isn’t as good as you are, and the rest of us are jerks who would let old people starve in the streets. Does the fact that you have such a low opinion of others justify the government taking money from me that I could use to take care of my elderly family members, since you don’t trust me to do so without coercion?

  40. LisaMarie-
    This isn’t about *you” doing the right thing, nor about *me” doing the right thing; the issue is far bigger than any one of us, so stop trying to take it personally when I say “somebody, somewhere, will suffer in such a case.”

    Look, maybe you guys are right: if we have no safety net whatsoever, either nobody will suffer or the ones who do will deserve it. Okay, fine. I agree with you completely. Now how exactly are we going to convince enough potential voters of our wisdom to have it pass muster in a non-totalitarian fashion? Bear in mind that anything we propose will have SOME ways in which unscrupulous people can take unfair advantage of others, or make others suffer, so we have to come up a system that will work fairly well even though it will never be perfect. Bear in mind that the unenlightened Great Unwashed (but not us, of course) define “a system that works fairly well” as, among other things, a system where the number of people lacking the necessities of life is kept to the barest minimum possible in a human society of three hundred million people and growing.

  41. Crassly-worded solution: Import voluntarily indentured darkies in sufficient numbers to change the diapers of the American seniles.

    The price of your green card is two years in the fields, two in the factory, and two more in the retirement castle. Eventually the importee can apply for citizenship and wait for more immigrants to come in and wipe his aged and naturalized butt.

    Phrase it in kind language and we’ve got a scheme that work as long as we’re considered “the land of opportunity.”

  42. ALLAHU AKHBAR, Praise Be Unto God… Jennifer has arrived! What Jennifer said…”But there’s no way in hell either of these will happen in my lifetime or that of my theoretical grandchildren, so while it’s one thing to work toward the day when society reaches that point entirely, you and I still have to deal with the fact that the majority of humanity does not believe in the obvious rightness of our respective beliefs, and will NEVER willingly vote in someone who tries to make them live by our view anyway.

    So compromise, and get what you CAN, while working to change what you CAN’T.”

    All this talk of coercion and freedom, GET OVER IT! You live in a very free and rich society, that is NOT LIBERTARIAN and isn’t likely to be any time soon! your job is to find ways to make the system palatable not perfect! And talking about coercion and taking care of parents ain’t gonna cut the mustard come Election Day in November… So what program(s) can we adopt that make the society richer and freer? A sales tax a la the “Fair Tax Plan” and some form of indivisual SS account(s) that ARE THE PROPERTY of the contributor? Or some alternative, ‘cuz folks SS and old age retirment programs are NOT going away as long as this society has lotsa cash in it… and you won’t want to see the economic crash that vitiates Social Security, because anything that big is going to be equal to if not worse than the GREAT DEPRESSION. So how do we move from a insolvent entitlement to a better retirement program?

  43. IMO, the single best thing that could happen for the debate is if politicians would drop the pretense that their is anything like a “trust fund”, or that you’re getting your own money back, or anything like that. Admit what it is: young people paying taxes, and old people getting money. (Yeah, I know. I want a pony, too.)

    To ‘jc’:

    The current system GUARANTEES getting your money back and then some, your system guarantees nothing.

    Eh? The current system guarantees nothing. If Congress found it politically expedient to just shut down the program tomorrow, we’d get nothing. If there’s a guarantee, please tell me where it’s written down. As for “getting your money back and then some” – only if you’re lucky enough to live that long, which includes “long enough to collect at all.”

  44. “All this talk of coercion and freedom, GET OVER IT! You live in a very free and rich society, that is NOT LIBERTARIAN and isn’t likely to be any time soon! your job is to find ways to make the system palatable not perfect!

    That’s great Joe. Now if you can just get the bleeding heart sob monkeys to stop trying to wipe out poverty and the burger eating attack monkeys to stop making us all perfectly safe from terrorism, you’ll have the hat trick.

  45. JD is correct, there is NO LEGAL GUARANTEE of any SS benefit… or at least any set amount. Congress TOMORROW could simply say, “As of 1 January 2005 the age of eligibility will be 75 and everyone now getting a benefit shall see it fall to 1/4 it’s current level. Thank you and have a nice day.” Sure the AARP would rise up in almighty wrath and the elderly would bring the Fire of the Wrathful and Vengeful Electoral Gods down on such a Congress but there is no guaranteed benefit in SS. You are not guaranteed spit in SS! IF it continues apace new contributors ARE GUARNATEED a NEGATIVE benefit rate of return on their “contributions” but that’s about it on the guaranteed front.

  46. Well Ken if you want to defeat the crazy nanny state folks, I wouldn’t recommend equally crazy counter-programs, like voluntary Social Security…or Privatized Courts of Law or Abolition of the State, not that necessarily that you do, but SOME libertarians do. And if my choice is to pick between two sets of crazies, that ain’t much choice is all I’m say’n.

  47. Jennifer –

    The fly in your destitute old people argument is that those over 65, as a cohort, are pretty damn flush. Right now, we are paying it backward, not forward, with a generational back payment of historic proportions. It will only get worse.

    I have no children, but I do have a four year old niece and a three year old nephew. As things stand, the two of them, alone, will be responsible for supporting Uncle WASPB in his old age. Formerly, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 people would have shouldered that burden for the previous two generations of recipients. I personally don’t want my retirement income forceably extracted from my kids. What kind of a heartless bastard are you that you would force two strangers to support you in your old age whether they want to or not, causing a huge drag on both their earning power and their potential to support their own offspring?

  48. My points exactly, Jacob. Truth time: I voted for Kerry, mostly on so-called “social issues.” However, I do believe that social welfare programs have, on the whole, done as much or more harm than good, have created class resentment where it did not previously exist, and forced people to monetarily support lifestyle choices and beliefs of others they would not otherwise support.

    Just as I would prefer not to subsidize your church through tax exemption, I would not expect pro-life types to help pay for the abortions of indigent strangers. It is the “social safety net” that is making it possible for the Right to deny gay people the right to marry, and that threatens to interject government into the doctor-patient relationship in matters of reproduction. Were we not required to pay for one another’s stupid decisions, bad luck and outright vices, there would be no argument against the proposition that each of us mind his or her own damn business.

  49. I said:

    “But, if it’s(investment choices are) wide open, then it seems like (a start toward) privatization would be an improvement for sure. But, turning SS into a welfare program for older folks might well be a route to killing off the monstrosity all together.”

    RC said:

    Hell, that’s all its ever been. No reason to think all of a sudden people will turn against it.

    But, if folks didn’t have an expectation that they were going to get something out of it in the end, they would likely view it with a more jaundiced eye. And, perhaps vote accordingly.

  50. Joe L.:

    “You live in a very free and rich society, that is NOT LIBERTARIAN and isn’t likely to be any time soon!”

    To the degree our society is free, it IS libertarian. This republic was founded on libertarian-based ideals. And, we tend to be rich to the degree that our freedom includes the economic freedom called capitalism.

  51. Rick-
    Capitalism and taxation are not mutually exclusive. And since the latter will always exist, even for things you wouldn’t ordinarily fund on your own, the thing to do is accept that and at least try to make it so that unnecessary taxation is kept to a minimum, but to get rid of some things you’d probably have to accept others. Compromise. I’m NOT saying give up your libertarian ideals; I’m saying that, given the situation we have now, find which ideas are most likely to find favor with the majority of voters and emphasize THAT, while minimizing those things you KNOW folks won’t like.

    I’ll never see a society where secular humanism holds sway among the majority, so in the meantime I’ll settle for a society where the religious majority is forbidden by law to impose its beliefs on me. Right now, if I had to choose between trying to dismantle organized religion or trying to overturn laws requiring stores to be closed on Sundays, or prayers to be recited in schools, I’d work on the latter choices.

    Fighting specific instances of religious abuse will be more effective than trying to bring about a one-hundred-percent secular society, just as fighting particular cases of government abuse and fraud would probably work better than dismantling the government. Likewise, repairing Social Security, and even revamping it, is far more likely to win people over than abolishing it entirely.

  52. Well, true, incrimental steps are more logical than simply ending a decades-old institution. Establishing slave states, free states and border states certainly forestalled any conflict outright abolition would have otherwise caused…

  53. Jennifer:

    “Capitalism and taxation are not mutually exclusive.”

    I agree, but they tend to be inversely proportional. For sure, when the taxation goes beyond just funding contravention against force and fraud. Beyond this, taxation most certainly limits economic freedom, thus it limits capitalism.

    I agree with you, to make progress we must compromise along the way-take what we can get and sell the state a piece at a time. As it is know, the cause of liberty might be said to be losing badly. So, we do need to be smarter about it, agreed. Hey, I’m a Republican and will work for certain candidates if I think that net progress will be made with them. I would even work for a Democrat if I thought it would help liberty. Although, that hasn’t happened yet.

    “And since the latter will always exist…”

    The same was said of slavery. Don’t be so sure, and give up on the goal of taxation’s abolition.

    “I’ll never see a society where secular humanism holds sway among the majority, so in the meantime I’ll settle for a society where the religious majority is forbidden by law to impose its beliefs on me.”

    I share your lack of religious belief. I think that I have some answers concerning politics. But I KNOW that when it’s metaphysical matters, I only have many questions. However I think that your restraint in this area to striving for a society where the religious majority is forbidden by law from imposing its beliefs on you is not only practical, it better serves liberty. The mere existence of organized religion doesn’t violate our rights as the government does. But, religious groups using government other than for defense against aggression most certainly do.

    Of course, if you want to invest your time in proselytizing the religious against their Gods, it’s your right to do so. I’m appreciative of many of the contributions of religion, both now and to our culture historically as well, and at the same time I’m appreciative of a strict separation of church and state and will fight for that separation.

    “Likewise, repairing Social Security, and even revamping it, is far more likely to win people over than abolishing it entirely.”

    I agree, and I’m all in favor of partial privatization as long as the plan does in fact yield a freer situation and as long it doesn’t some how preclude the adoption of an even more pro-liberty solution in the future.

  54. I call for a moratorium on using the phrase “dying in the streets” ESPECIALLY when we are talking about the most affluent generation of people to ever walk the earth.

  55. And why should we be forced to save anyway? It is foolish to save at a constant rate across our entire life. Most people vary their savings rates with age, dissaving in their early working years and after retirement while building up a nestegg in between. Government imposition of a savings standard upon all of us denies us the ability to arrange our fiscal affairs so as to smooth out variations in our intertemporal wealth. It hinders the mutually beneficial transfer of wealth from middle aged savers to young borrowers.

  56. Oh, and fatalists piss me off. I only get one life, and I’m not going to live it in quiet resignation to whatever interest groups were established in power before my birth. Life is, or should be, about striving for noble ideals and doing great things. It should not be about trying to pass the time comfortably and not rocking the boat too much while waiting for death.

  57. Jacob-
    I agree that life should be about striving for noble ideals, but implementing those deals will require some level of compromise. Like f’rinstance–I support the abolition of the War on Drugs, all of it, but in the meantime legalizing marijuana would more likely pass. So I’d focus on legalizing pot, without mentioning the legalization of heroin and methamphetamines, which would scare off more votes than it would win. Later, once people are accustomed to the idea “Pot is legal, as well it should be,” then we can move on to the harder drugs.

    I know a humanist who agrees with me that the ideal society would be irreligious, but he thinks the best way to bring about a secular utopia is to do things like try to get Christmas abolished as a legal holiday. And he may be right on a moral and philosophical level, but politically, he’s guaranteed that he’ll never be taken seriously, and for every one person who might think, “He’s right! Christmas as a holiday is a load of crap!” there are a hundred more who look at him and think “Them secular humanists are as crazy as Revrunt Doofenheimer says they are!” Then I come along, and before I can even BEGIN to explain the virtues of secularism I have to first hasten to explain that no, no, I’m NOT trying to make them work all day Christmas. No, really. Yes, I KNOW that guy wants to abolish it, but he’s an extremist. Hey, come back! Goddammit, there’s another person who will never come over to our side!

    Abolisihing all forms of social security may be morally and philosophically right, but in your life time it will NOT be accepted by the majority. So why not settle, in the meantime, for making it LESS of the immoral, unfair, government-enforced clusterfuck than it currently is? Give people more opportunites to save and control their own money, which most would support anyway, but at the same time they’ll need some assurances that no, the most desperately poor among us will not be left to starve in the streets. We can do this, and have it cost less money and be less immoral than it now is.

  58. By the way, I’m sure you guys are familiar with Godwin’s Law, right? I’d just like to point out that saying “Mandatory taxation is no different from or better than chattel slavery” will work about as well for Libertarians as “George W. Bush is Adolf Hitler” worked for the Democrats. If you want to win people to your cause, you’ll need something less hyperbolic than that.

  59. I write “the current system” and two people counter “Congress tomorrow could…” which would make it no longer the “current” system. I know Congress could change the system, that’s what the topic is. The question is whether the changes suggested in effect create a new system in terms of expectations, or merely one or two tweaks that benefit some over others but essentially change nothing as far as the way money is input and output.

    As Rick Barton said “if folks didn’t have an expectation that they were going to get something out of it in the end, they would likely view it with a more jaundiced eye. And, perhaps vote accordingly.”

    Any act of legislators tomorrow that doesn’t change the expectations will pretty much be no change at all.

  60. Nothing wrong with taxation per se, it is the uses to which those dollars are put. Constitutionally mandated, and necessary, functions of government (I am NOT a Libertarian, in the sense that I do believe people need a referee, else “freedom” give the ruthless strongman license to abuse his neighbors.) require funding. That does not mean I and others have to put up with every instance of whacky-ass taxation for every purpose under the sun, or for no purpose at all. And it certainly does not mean that I have to knuckle under quietly when my tax dollars are put to uses that I would not voluntarily support. I am pro choice, but I don’t expect Rightie-tighties to have to pay for other people’s abortions, for example.

  61. I write “the current system” and two people counter “Congress tomorrow could…” which would make it no longer the “current” system. I know Congress could change the system, that’s what the topic is. – jc

    There is a major difference between the scheduled, but changeable by ordinary legislation, benefits one expects under the SSA and vested benefits in a pension scheme covered under ERISA or a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k), or an IRA. The second class of retirement wealth is considered property which is covered by the fifth amendment. While the government might tax it, it can’t be confiscated. The county where I live negotiated ruinous pension benefits* with its public employee unions a few years back. They were so bad that, once the voters discovered what it was going to cost us, the county executive was recalled, along with several supervisors who voted for the overgenerous deal. Advisors who recommended it to the county board are being investigated by prosecutors. Although the contract was a stupid, stupid, stupid move, it has to be honored. The board can change the rules for new hires and reappointments, but to touch the rights of anyone already covered would be a violation of the 5th A, ERISA and probably the ex post facto clause.

    Shifting as much of that 15% of compensation that employees and the self-employed now pay in FICA into accounts that they own means that those funds would be protected from confiscation in a way that Old Age benefits can never be.

    Kevin

    * Milwaukee County, WI. The longterm hacks in charge were buying labor peace by offering hefty pensions in place of higher hourly wages. The larger paychecks would have to be paid for out of current revenue, while the geniuses who came up with the fattened pensions figured the stocks in the pension fund would continue to appreciate at late 1990’s levels. When the market hit the skids at the end of the century, the wheels fell off. I simplify, but that’s the nut.

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