Sunday, May 22, 2011

Social Security and the "Hypocrisy" Charge

Is it hypocritical to collect promised benefits from government-run social welfare programs if you are morally opposed to them and actively work for their repeal?

The issue behind that question came up in the comments section under a letter-to-the-editor
that dealt with a different subject – Ayn Rand’s concept of sacrifice. The above question relates to an off-topic issue that was raised by a correspondent. That is the topic of this post. The issue of sacrifice will be set aside for perhaps another post.

Often, when the subject of Ayn Rand comes up, ad hominem types emerge from their skulls lacking even mush to clutter up the conversation with mindless versions of what they undoubtedly consider to be their cleverness. The fallacy of ad hominem, of course, is the tactic used to evade the necessity of dealing with ideas by attacking irrelevant character traits or actions of the person promoting the ideas. Pointing up failings or faults of the person – real or imagined – is then supposed to be taken as proof of the nonvalidity of that person’s ideas.

As a correspondent, I used one such ad hominem attack to address the serious issue raised by the question opening this post. Here is my response:

“Ayn Rand was a fraudulent hypocrite who scammed the government for aid under an assumed name after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.” - stopGOPnuts

As an Objectivist who opposes these government programs and who nevertheless will soon be collecting Social Security and applying for Medicare, I must take strong exception to the “hypocrisy” charge.

According to the government’s own yearly statement, my wife and I have paid into both programs more than $450,000 over the course of our working lifetimes, including the portion paid in by the employers, which is money actually earned and paid by the employee but camouflaged as the “employer contribution”. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, a reasonable rate of return of perhaps 6% would yield a nest egg of perhaps double that amount. My accountant tells me that is conservative, with the likely total amounting to over $1 million. This is money taken by force, it must be remembered, and [allegedly] held “in trust” by our government.

A million bucks +!! Keep that figure in mind, when you hear anyone refer to the promised benefits as “government help” or “aid”.

But the “hypocrisy” charge is much worse, and reveals a sinister premise, to put it mildly. Those who fire that charge are essentially attempting to silence critics by means of a combination of blackmail and extortion. The money is extorted under threat of force, and then held as moral ransom – unless you keep your mouth shut. Your own money is used as a weapon of moral censorship.

It’s not legal censorship – yet. But property rights, the foundation of economic freedom, are already under withering assault. If the “hypocrisy” mindset ever took hold in law, it would be the end of free speech, as well: A double-killing for the champions of the omnipotent collectivist state.

Thank God for the late Ayn Rand – today’s strongest voice for justice and individual rights.

“Thank God” is used metaphorically, of course, as a statement of the supreme importance I attach to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.

There is another way to approach the hypocrisy charge. I might answer the accuser this way:

“Suppose you were accosted by an armed thug, who put a gun to your head and demanded your wallet. You turn over your wallet under threat of physical force- in this case, a bullet in the brain. Later, the thug is apprehended, your wallet is held as evidence, and you are subsequently asked to testify against the thug at trial. Would you testify? Would you expect your wallet to be returned to you after trial, or left in the possession of the thug? If so, wouldn't that be hypocritical? Wouldn't that be participating in the very thing you testified against?

“ ‘But I was forced’, you angrily protest. ‘He had a gun.’

This is precisely the point. I was forced into the Social Security program, essentially at gunpoint. Morally, I have as much right to collect Social Security benefits as the victim of a that thief does to get his wallet back—as restitution. My personal opinions are irrelevant. The relevant principle is justice.

This is essentially how Social Security and Medicare work. Government programs are based on the threat of force. Had we tried to evade those taxes, we would have eventually been accosted by armed government agents, cuffed, arrested, tried, and fined and/or jailed – for tax evasion. We had to pay the taxes - “participate in the crime” – under threat of physical force. The only difference is the perpetrators work under cover of law, leaving us no restitutional recourse save the promise of benefits down the road, paid for by victimizing others in the same fashion. The money we “paid in”, remember, didn't go into any so-called “trust fund”, “lock box”, or personal investment account. It was simply stolen by the Washington scoundrels.

To say that I am hypocritical (i.e., morally forbidden) to collect the promised benefits that my taxes were supposed to pay for while simultaneously working to have that system phased out is tantamount to using my own stolen money to silence me – i.e., to assault my First Amendment rights.

This is what the once-grand moral crusade for the welfare state has shriveled to. Welfare statists have been reduced to attacking their victims; the same people their righteous socialist crusade was intended to benefit, who are now told that the promised benefits their taxes were to provide for is conditioned on the beneficiaries keeping their mouths shut—on giving up their free speech rights and their right to dissent—i.e., their minds. This is what intellectual bankruptcy looks like.

So I will collect whatever government benefits my taxes helped to support over the years, as a morally consistent expression of my belief in justice.


Michael said...

the hypocrisy charge is so lame and irrational and has one big flow to it. That is the fact that while we are free to “choose” not to use the services we oppose, we are not free to opt out of paying for such things in the first place. Where was this concern for morality and choice at the moment where taxation was levied to pay for these services?

Mike Zemack said...

Yea, it's ridiculous on its face. Still, the lie must be taken seriously and exposed. As Ayn Rand has observed, "Today's unchallenged absurdities are tomorrow's accepted slogans."