Thursday, April 21, 2005

Social Security Morality

Walter Williams has some interesting questions .
"There's a moral dimension to Social Scurity that few have the guts to address. What moral principles, consistent with liberty, justifies forcing a person to set aside a certain portion of his weekly earnings for retirement and jailing him if he fails to comply? Retirement isn't the only important item for which we should budget. How about a congressional mandate that we set aside a certain portion of our weekly earnings for housing, food, entertainment or our chilidren's education? Were Congress to propose a measure that would require each American to set aside a portion of his weekly earnings for these items, most of us would see it as tyranny. Pray tell, what's the difference in principle for a congressional mandate that requires setting aside earnings for retirmement versus a mandate setting aside earnings for housing or our children's education?"

2 comments:

scribo said...

Certainly at the time of the initiation of Social Security, there was a majority of our elected representatives willing to sign on to the passage of the bill. What moral principles might they have been operating under to feel that the choice of a retirement tax/obligation was an appropriate choice?
What have the results of the Social Security system been from a moral perspective? The level of poverty in elders has been reduced measurably, although that of children has not--is that a result consistent with the moral principles that might have supported the passage of the bill?
The choices made by the elected representatives at the time should reflect the moral decision making and concerns of the populace...at least in theory. Are the concerns and moral framework different now than then?

Larry Eubanks said...

Scribo writes: "Are the concerns and moral framework different now from then?"

I suspect the answer is "no," in general. But, the relevance of this question and the others offered may be missing because they seem to be based upon a presumption that I think is false. The presumption seems to me to be that the politicians have truthfully described the nature of the Social Security program as well as their reasons for supporting the program. One of the points Walter Williams is arguing is that the politicians have not been truthful in these regards. I suggest that asking about the "moral decision making" may have little relevance because the lack of truthfulness and the lack of integrity characterizing the political support for the status quo already puts us in the arena of the unethical.

I would ask you to consider another possibility. Those who support the status quo with respect to Social Security may be uncomfortable answering Walter's questions. If so, they may choose to respond by (1) attempting to deflect the ethical issue by suggesting other important ethical points of view without ever explicitly stating what they are, (2)continuing to hide behind the falsehoods as though the status quo could not possibly be as Walter describes. Why would proponents be uncomfortable directly answering Walter's questions? I'm thinking it would be because the proponents of the status quo know that much of the population is comfortable with Walter's ethical perspective.