None Dare Call for Repeal of Social Security
As I have noted in my previous Substack articles, in around 1990 a Libertarian Party activist invited me to serve on the national Libertarian Party Platform Committee. At first I was hesitant because I figured that the L.P. was just a collection of ad hoc, compromising, reform-oriented positions intended to increase vote totals for L.P. candidates. When I read the Platform, however, I changed my mind. I considered it an honor to be part of a political party that adhered to libertarian principles regardless of the impact on voters. I wanted to be part of the “Party of Principle.”
The following is the provision on Social Security in that 1990 Libertarian Party platform: “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.”
The following is the provision on Social Security in the current 2022 Libertarian Party platform: “Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system.”
Do you notice any difference?
The operative terms, of course, are “repeal” and “phase out.” The difference between the two terms is day and night.
For the past 25 years, it has been considered verboten for any L.P. candidate for federal office to call for the repeal of Social Security. Indeed, consider the L.P. candidates for federal office during the past three years. Examine the websites of L.P. candidates for Congress in the current mid-term elections. Consider the many interviews, podcasts, and speeches delivered during the past three years by major L.P. figures at FreedomFest, PorcFest, the national “reset” convention in Reno, state political conventions, L.P. fundraising events, and L.P. social events. I guarantee you: You will not find any L.P. candidate or L.P. writer or speaker expressly and specifically calling for the repeal of Social Security. That’s because the prevailing mindset within the Libertarian Party is to advocate schemes that reform, save, fix, preserve, privatize, or phase out Social Security. None dare call for the repeal of Social Security.
This mindset is another example of the powerful influence that the right-wing has had on the Libertarian Party. When disgruntled Republicans flooded into the party in the late 1990s and 2000s, the baggage they brought with them included their “practical” or “pragmatic” approach to Social Security.
When President Franklin Roosevelt proposed Social Security in the 1930s, Republicans fiercely opposed it. They correctly pointed out that the program was a socialist one whose concept had originated among socialists in Germany. It had no legitimate place, Republicans pointed out, in a society based on the principles of free markets and voluntary charity. Moreover, they correctly pointed out that the Constitution did not authorize the federal government to adopt such a socialist program.
Yet, Roosevelt prevailed, and Social Security became a permanent part of American life. Nonetheless, for 30 years, Republicans continued fighting against this socialist program. However, once Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, who opposed Social Security, got massacred in the 1964 election, Republicans were faced with a choice: Should they continue to oppose Social Security and the welfare state and possibly never regain political power? Or should they throw in the towel and accept the permanence of Social Security and the welfare state and thereby have a good chance of regaining political power?
They chose the latter course. They decided that what they would do is simply come up with reform-oriented plans to fix or improve Social Security and other welfare-state programs. In the process, they would call such reform plans “free-market approaches.”
In 1971 — some 7 years after the Goldwater massacre — a small group of Libertarians formed the Libertarian Party, with the aim of offering the American people a political party that advanced the principled case for liberty, including the repeal, not reform, of Social Security.
But when disgruntled Republicans flooded into the party, they convinced L.P. members that they needed to be practical if they were to win elections. Needless to say, “practical” meant compromising on Social Security. “The L.P. is a political party,” they maintained. “Its job is to get L.P. candidates elected to Congress and to the presidency. To win or at least to garner more votes, it’s necessary that the L.P. settle for reforming, saving, fixing, preserving, privatizing, or phasing out Social Security.”
The irony is that Social Security is one of America’s biggest socialist programs. (Others include immigration controls, public [i.e., government] schooling, the Federal Reserve, the military establishment, and Medicare.) Why is that ironic? Because the libertarian philosophy, as well as the Libertarian Party, stand foursquare against socialism. In fact, the libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises, who most every Libertarian extols, even wrote an entire book criticizing this statist economic philosophy, which is entitled Socialism. Yet, within today’s L.P., none dare call repeal of this gigantic socialist program and instead settle for reforming, saving, fixing, preserving, privatizing, or phasing it out.
There is another important problem to consider: that pesky Libertarian Party Pledge that every person who joins the Libertarian Party is required to sign before he can become an L.P. member. It states: "I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.”
As every Libertarian knows, the Pledge reflects the core principle of the libertarian philosophy — the non-aggression principle.
Why is that a problem? Because Social Security necessarily depends on the initiation of force since it is based on collecting taxes from people. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, taxation involves the initiation of force. Refuse to pay your Social Security taxes, and the feds will come after you with the initiation of all sorts of force.
Thus, during any period of “phasing out” Social Security, the Libertarian Party is necessarily advocating and embracing a violation of its own Pledge and its own core principle. Moreover, the period of the “phase out” necessarily will be a minimum of 35-40 years in order to cover everyone who is 55 and above. That means three or four decades of a continuous violation of the libertarian non-aggression principle and the Libertarian Party Pledge.
How can a political party survive when it is is openly and publicly embracing a position of violating its own core principle and its own Pledge? What’s that old saying about a house divided against itself?
Another irony is that Republican-lite, reform-oriented schemes to “privatize” Social Security inevitably entail the adoption of a fascist Social Security system to replace the socialist Social Security system. The privatization schemes are based on mandating that everyone invest part of his income in some government-approved stock of a private company, which is about as fascist as you can get. In fact, it’s not a coincidence that the unelected dictator of Chile, military strongman Gen. Augusto Pinochet, adopted this type of fascist Social Security plan in Chile.
Why is that ironic? Because the libertarian philosophy stands as fiercely against fascism as it does against socialism. Again, I quote Mises: "The great danger threatening domestic policy from the side of Fascism lies in its complete faith in the decisive power of violence.”
Even those Libertarians who come up with Rube Goldberg schemes to save Social Security without resorting to the initiation of force are sending out the wrong message to the American people: that this socialist program deserves to be saved. No socialist program deserves to be saved. Every socialist program deserves to be sent without fear or hesitation into the dustbin of history. That’s the message that the Libertarian Party needs to be delivering to the American people.
There is something else to consider — something practical or pragmatic. The notion of compromising on Social Security is based on the hope of getting seniors to vote for L.P. candidates for Congress and the presidency. That’s utterly ludicrous. Except for Libertarian seniors, seniors are never going to vote for any political party or candidate that is threatening to tamper with their beloved socialist program. Seniors are on the dole and they are going to make certain that no one threatens their dole in any way. The minute they hear “privatize” or “phase out” from an L.P. candidate, they are out the door. Anyway, does any L.P. candidate really believe that seniors cannot read online the 1990 L.P. Platform provision on Social Security, the one that calls for “the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system”? As a practical or pragmatic matter, the L.P. needs to give up targeting seniors for votes and instead concentrate on the vast majority of Americans who are getting fleeced with Social Security taxes.
“But Jacob, if we repeal Social Security, instead of phasing it out over the next 40-50 years, people will die in the streets.”
Nonsense! Either freedom works or it doesn’t. And we Libertarians know that freedom does, in fact, work. You could push a button that would eliminate Social Security today and everyone would be fine. For one thing, many Social Security recipients don’t need the money. Others might have to return to work. There is nothing wrong with that. I see seniors in the workplace all the time. It keeps them interacting with young people and actively involved in the process of life.
For those who are truly needy — say, poor people dying of cancer — that’s where private charity comes into play. Private foundations, church groups, neighborhood groups, and the like would fill the breach. It’s just that modern-day Americans have become so addicted to welfare-state socialism that they cannot imagine that freedom and voluntary charity really do work.
And let’s not forget one other important factor in all this: Children and grandchildren would no longer be paying enormous Social Security taxes. All that money would now be available to help out parents and grandparents and others who need help — and without having to waste millions of dollars on a massive Social Security bureaucracy.
What is critically important in all this is that we recapture the faith in freedom, in ourselves, in others, and in God that characterized our American ancestors, who rejected Social Security and other socialism for more than 100 years and embraced instead a society based on the principles of the free market, voluntary charity, and a limited-government republic.
The only political party that can lead America out of the socialist morass into which both Democrats and Republicans have plunged our nation, together with the out-of-control spending, debt, and inflation that have come with it, is the Libertarian Party. But such leadership necessarily entails rejecting Republican-lite, reform-oriented statist measures that purport to reform, save, fix, preserve, privatize, or phase out Social Security and other forms of socialism and, instead, embracing, once again, the pure principles of liberty.
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