Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

February 15, 2005

Is Social Security like Slavery?

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:20 pm

La Shawn Barber takes up a question asked by Star Parker:

Whenever citizens are prevented from doing something (like keeping the money they earn), the government is exerting its control. In the case of prohibiting murder or injury to another, it’s a good thing. Removing criminals from society and protecting citizens is how the state’s power is most effectively flexed. This is for the benefit not just of the state but citizens as well.

Where the state’s power is most effective for itself but least effective for us is in exerting control over our ownership rights in the form of excessive regulation (land use, for example), burdensome taxes and gun control.

An argument can be made that the social security system is burdensome and broken and infringes on our freedom and ownership rights. Slavery was burdensome (to the slave) and broken and infringed on people’s freedom and “self-ownership” rights. Just as slavery was abolished, social security should be abolished. Is that line of reasoning a stretch?

This is similar to Alan Keyes’ argument that the income tax is a form of slavery:

We ought to have realized that the income tax is utterly incompatible with liberty. It is actually a form of slavery. A slave is someone the fruit of whose labor is controlled by somebody else. A slave is not somebody with nothing. Rather, he has only what the master lets him have.

Under the income tax, the government takes whatever percentage of the earner’s income it wants. The income tax, therefore, represents our national surrender to the government of control over all the money we earn. There are, in principle, no restrictions to the pre-emptive claim the government has upon our income.

I’m sympathetic to the notion that the income tax is incompatible with liberty — at best, it is a restriction on our liberty, since it means we are not free to do as we choose with 100% of the fruits of our labor.

However, there is one important — I would say, critical — difference between the slave and the taxpayer. The slave is does not simply do whatever he wants, and give 100% of the resulting income to the master — they slave is under the master’s complete control, and must do whatever he is ordered to do whenever he is ordered to do it. The income-taxpayer is free to take whatever job he wants, as long as he pays the percentage ordered to the tax collector. If the income-taxpayer chooses to make less income, he will pay less tax. If he chooses to make no income, he will pay no tax — and the tax collector has no authority to ahve him whipped for refusing to take a job.

In other words, if they declare a 100% income tax, I can — and certainly would — quit my job. The slave does not have that option.

Likewise, the social security tax deprives me of 12.4% of my income, but if I choose not to make some quota of income, they don’t come and whip me. Plus, there is a chance that if I live long enough, I can get (some of) the money back — not as much as if I’d put it in the bank and earned interest (and if I don’t live long enough, my heirs get nothing), but there’s a chance of seeing something in theory.

By the way, people really do earn less income when the income tax gets too high. See this post on the Laffer curve. Also, Dinesh D’Souza, in his book on Ronald Reagan, pointed out that in the 1950s when the top marginal tax rate was over 90%, “Reagan saw in Hollywood, when marginal tax rates of 90 percent discouraged film stars from making more than one or two movies a year.” After the second movie, their income high enough to put them in a tax bracket that made it so they received almost none of the money they earned.

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