Friday, December 17, 2004

Column on SS Privatization

Social Security Abolition vs. Gradualism

Tibor R. Machan

Human beings often want to improve matters, including how they solve
problems. Some of their efforts could use drastic improvement. When a
goodly portion of America tolerated slavery, this was something that
needed drastic changeÂ?it had to be abolished somehow. The social security
system isnÂ?t so severely tyrannical, but it, too, needs to be gotten rid
of. On a personal level, too, there can be demands for different degrees
of change. If one is a thief or molester of children, this requires
drastic change, no two ways about it; if one smokes or eats too much, the
change to moderation is needed but not so urgently.

How does one go about changing these kinds of things in oneÂ?s life and
society? Some believe that nothing but cold turkey will do, in any of
these cases. I disagree.

In personal matters it is often best to go cold turkey, but that, too,
can depend on oneÂ?s personality, temperament and even medical situation.
When it is a matter of violating other peopleÂ?s rights, cold turkey is a
must, that is clear. When it is a matter of becoming more virtuous,
conscientious in going about oneÂ?s life, a gradual approach is certainly
not out of the question.

There are those who believe that in matters of political reform only the
abolitionist approach will suffice. Thus, for example, they insist that be
it slavery or social security, there is no room for gradualismÂ?both must
be instantly abolished. Well, sadly, this is a mere dream.

Unfortunately institutional malfeasance brings about massive dependence.
Slavery, once established, became entrenched and in order to rid the
country of it, there needed to be a process of disengagement. Abolition
was, of course, the right goal. But there was no way to simply halt it.
Too many people had all sorts of rationalizations for hanging on to the
practice and they needed to be dealt with without catastrophic measures.
Indeed, many argue that the a war was not the right way to handle itÂ?the
slave holders could have been bought out or some other policy of bringing
about change might have been tried so as to save the thousands and
thousands of lives lost in the war.

Once an institution gains a loyal constituency in a society, however evil
it may be, it will require cumbersome disengagement and there is rarely
some policy of pushing a button that can switch things from bad to good,
from wrong to right. ItÂ?s a bit like going from sickness to
healthÂ?convalescence, recovery, cure and the rest all require time.

Social security abolition is even more difficult to deal with because so
many people sincerely believe it is OK to coerce people to put money away
for their retirement. Never mind that the scheme is also fraught with
fraud. The fact the millions of people accept it as legitimate and that
hundreds of pundits and politicians rationalize it around the countryÂ?not
to mention all those employed to administer and are thus economically
wedded to itÂ?makes instant reform impossible.

However, the gradual approach is also very risky and could amount to no
change at all. Already, in the case of social security, we get word from
President George W. Bush that severe restriction will accompany his meager
privatization measures, should they go through. Â?You canÂ?t take it
[Â?retirement nest eggsÂ?] to the racetrack and hope to really increase the
returns.Â? He added, Â?ItÂ?s not there for the lotteryÂ?.People are not going
to be allowed to take their money for their retirement account and take it
to Vegas and shoot dice.Â?

Now this is outrageous by standards the American founders set out in the
Declaration of Independence, where they spoke of our unalienable right to
liberty. Who is President Bush to speak of Â?allowingÂ? anyone to do this or
that with his or her money? All this talk about an Â?ownership societyÂ? is
evidently bunk. People will continue to be treated like children or

Sadly, this is standard fare these daysÂ?political thinkers around
universities and the media accept that government is in charge of us. Yes,
it is a kind of modern day serfdom, one that denies our sovereignty. But
because of its widespread acceptance, there is no way to put a stop to it

So those who love liberty may just have to put up with the gradual,
imperfect approach of semi-privatizationÂ?just as they need to put up with
school vouchersÂ?in order to make some headway toward the proper goal of
ridding our society of the paternalism that the social security system

No comments: