May 17, 2013

Garet Garrett, Social Security, and the Nature of the State

By In Philosophy, Politics

For those that work for a wage, you have already discovered, upon glancing that your recent paychecks, that the Social Security tax has risen.  There are those who might counter: “The tax has not risen, but rather, the temporary cut has expired.”  This is deceiving government speak.  No citizen should speak in such a way.  The answer is that last year, the tax was at 4.2% and this year it is at 6.2%.  A “temporary cut” means that, at the end of the term, the cut will be eliminated and the rate will rise again.

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Garet Garrett

It is therefore a proper time to reflect on the scenario given in 1936 by Garet Garrett, which was published in the Saturday Evening Post.

“The Social Security Act imposes upon you a law of compulsory thrift, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Each week the Government puts its fingers into your pay envelopes and abstracts a certain percentage.

[The Government] says: ‘The Government does this for your own good.  When you are old, it will give the money back to you, with interest.’

There may be an industrial worker who says: ‘I do not wish the Government to take it from me and give it back when I am old.  It is mine.  I have earned it.  I want it now.’

The Government says:  ‘But this is our old-age insurance.  It is social security.’

The worker might say: ‘I will take care of my own old age.’

The Government says: ‘The actuarial evidence is that you do not take care of your own old age -at least, not very well.  Now the government is going to do it for you.’

The worker may say again: ‘Nevertheless, it is mine.  I have earned it.  I want to save it myself.  I want to invest it myself.’

The Government says: ‘The evidence is that you cannot be trusted to save it, or invest it, for yourself.  Too often, when you invest it yourself, you lose it.  The Government will now invest it for you in Government bonds.’

The worker may say: ‘I would sooner buy a house.  Nobody knows what Government bonds will be worth forty years hence.’

The Government answers: ‘Social security is a house for everybody.  Moreover, it is the law.’

And the industrial worker is obliged to accept the law, to accept a status, to accept a card and to account for his time to the Government, for, whether he does or not, the Government each week will put its fingers into his pay envelope to abstract a percentage of what he has earned, and only by accepting can he get any of it back.”

What have we learned with Mr. Garrett’s scenario?  That in order to steal the money of the people, the government starts with a false promise, that is, a lie.  It neglects all wishes that the individual may have about the money that he has earned.  The reasoning given to the individual is that the individual, the victim, is to blame for this institutionalized theft.  The Government will put the money into its own bonds and when the individual offers his last piece of protest, the Government simply replies: “it is the law.”

The State, as Murray Rothbard once noted, is “the organization of robbery systematized and writ large.”  And also as Lysander Spooner noted, that the State is different that the highway robber only in that the highway robber:

“does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands.”

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com