October 27, 2011
There were some objections to my comment about Social Security in Tear Down That Wall of Central Planning’s Prison State that was on LewRockwell.com. I wrote that “ending Social Security and other programs immediately is actually better than gradual withdrawal.” But I followed that with: “But at the same time, the government thefts and trespasses of the people via taxation and regulatory intrusions must also be ended.”
There just wasn’t the space in that article to elaborate on each of my specific points, so I will try to do it here.
Some of the objectors noted past desocialization and past freeing of slaves in which slaves and government-dependents were not prepared for such sudden freedom, or the political class in charge were still devising policies to maintain some of their powers while simultaneously attempting to free slaves and/or dependents. As I mentioned in regards to the Soviet Union, during the early ’90s decentralization-desocialization process, Gorbachev and his fellow devoted communists were clinging to their bureaucratic fiefdoms and controls like a toddler not able to give up sucking his thumb. No wonder the people of the former Soviet Union were having such a hard time adjusting to their new freedom and to actually having choices in a freed market.
When I wrote that “the government thefts and trespasses of the people via taxation and regulatory intrusions must also be ended,” I really meant ended completely. Some people seem to believe that it will be less painful if we gradually remove that invasive, enslaving structure (perhaps comparing that to gradually quitting smoking or taking anti-anxiety medications, as to prevent withdrawal symptoms). But we are dealing with politicians here, bureaucrats who thrive on power and control, and they are not going to let go of their powers without a struggle, and they will come up with whatever manipulations of the system so as to keep their fiefdoms in place but making the people think they are being freed. Murray Rothbard wrote,
It is well known that the giant socialist bureaucracy will only seize upon such delay to obstruct the goal altogether. But there are further important reasons for speed. One, because the free market is an interconnected web or lattice-work; it is made of innumerable parts which intricately mesh together through a network of producers and entrepreneurs exchanging property titles, motivated by a search for profits and avoidance of losses, and calculating by means of a free price system.
Holding back, freeing only a few areas at a time, will only impose continuous distortions that will cripple the workings of the market and discredit it in the eyes of an already fearful and suspicious public. But there is also another vital point: the fact that you cannot plan markets applies also to planning for phasing them in. Much as they might delude themselves otherwise, governments and their economic advisers are not in a position of wise Olympians above the economic arena, carefully planning to install the market step by measured step, deciding what to do first, what second, etc. Economists and bureaucrats are no better at planning phase-ins than they are at dictating any other aspect of the market.
To achieve genuine freedom, the role of government and its advisers must be confined to setting their subjects free, as fast and as completely as it takes to unlock their shackles. After that, the proper role of government and its advisers is to get and keep out of the subjects’ way.
I very much suggest that readers check out that article by Rothbard cited above, “How and How Not to Desocialize.” And the other one I linked to in my original article, The Decline and Fall of Gorbachev and the Soviet State, is the introduction to Yuri Maltzev’s 1992 book, Requiem for Marx (.pdf version here.). Maltzev compares Western interventionists to the Leninists:
One of the common denominators between Leninists and government interventionists in the West is the belief that the problems of monopoly are the problems of ownership: only private monopolies acting out of greed are harmful. These institutions are suppressing scientific and technical progress, polluting the environment, and engaging in other conspiracies against public well-being. Government monopolies, however, were believed to be ethical and upright; they substituted the “greed” of the profit motive with a “societal interest.” Yet group bureaucrats who manage and operate the public sector are no less self-interested than those who manage and operate private business. One important difference exists, though: unlike private entrepreneurs, they are not financially responsible for their actions and they operate without institutional constraints of cost control that private property and competition induces. The enlightened minds of planners and technocrats cannot overcome the problem of economic calculation without market signals….
And he describes how the Soviet state’s central planners destroyed their economy:
The decades-long effort to eliminate markets destroyed the work ethic, the mass misallocation of resources through centralized investment, the demolition of the base for private capital accumulation, distorted means of economic calculation, and technology so obsolete that the capital value of industrial enterprises is zero or negative.
Sound familiar? And Maltzev describes Gorbachev:
Gorbachev never learned economics in school. In all my dealings with him, I never saw even a slight flash of economic insight, or even any desire to learn more about economics. He preferred to think like a communist: everything can be done by issuing orders, no matter how perverse, contrary to human nature, and brutal they may be.
Beginning with the day he assumed power, he positioned himself as an opponent of freedom and the market. He singlehandedly destroyed what little market activity existed in the Soviet Union, wrecked the already-miserable lives of the public, presided over appalling violence against innocent people in the Baltic states, and openly supported old-guard communists. Yet the Western media decided not to be skeptical about his aims.
Hmmm. Sounds like Obama.
What he did in the Baltic States — authorizing the Soviet military to crack the skulls of innocent people in the Baltics — qualified him to be included among history’s litany of murderous rulers, but he was never included. Even while he was heralded in the West as a great reformer, he was also running labor camps, committing human-rights violations, and sending people to prison for speech crimes.
Sounds like Obama.
The “reforms” that Gorbachev implemented were really reforms to save socialism, not end it. That is exactly what we are hearing from our politicians in Washington, including (or especially) the Republicans.
The Maltzev article is important to understand those clinging, selfish goons of the State. And yes, they are ALL the same, in the Soviet Union, in the European Union, and in the U.S. There is a certain class of people who are driven toward the powers of compulsion over others, the power of monopoly, and toward an institution whose agents are allowed to be above the law, allowed to commit acts of aggression, theft and trespass against others and get away with it.
Regarding Social Security, I know that a lot of people are dependent on that program for their livelihoods. But it is still an immoral scheme that includes forcing all workers to participate in a government-run retirement plan against their will, and is funded by taking some of the earnings of some people and redistributing it to others. No amount of emotionalistic rhetoric or sugar-coating can cover up what that and all these other immoral, illicit government schemes really are. No amount of propaganda and numbers-manipulating can change the fact that it is impossible for Social Security and other government-run, monopolistic financial schemes to avoid eventual bankruptcy and collapse. As with any other economic endeavors in life, managed retirement plans or other financial plans need to have competitive pressures in place to ensure efficiency and accountability, and markets must be freed to ensure stability in prices.
What I want, and I know a lot of other people want, is freedom. When you free people of government’s income- and wealth-confiscation that the people did not voluntarily consent to, they are then free and much more financially able to support their elderly family members. And private charities and churches would also be freed to provide for those in need and who feel in desperation at a time when (not if but when) their promised Social Security payments cease to be paid.
The truth about what has been happening is very hard to hear, but it’s the truth. No one “paid into” their Social Security retirement benefits that they would receive when retiring. That implies that you voluntarily paid into something. No, your rightfully-earned compensation for your labor was taken from you out of your paychecks, confiscated by the government. You were robbed, and that’s exactly what has been happening, and that’s what I referred to in my article when I wrote that we need to “cut our losses and move on in a decentralized society.”
Just as the people of the Soviet Union learned the hard way, socialism and central planning don’t work and are just plain immoral, as well as impractical. In the U.S., we need to get out now and end it, as a way to prevent the actual, predicted economic collapse, riots, looting and violence that is already beginning to happen as the elite central planners and all their dependent followers amongst the population cling on.