Social Security was intended to be a backup or supplement for retirement savings. For many poor Americans who worked minimum wage jobs throughout most of their lives, without it, they would be in crisis. I'm not assuming it will be there for me, but I'm glad it's there for those who are less fortunate financially.
So why are Objectivists against Social Security?
To understand why Objectivism opposes Social Security, it is first necessary to understand the Objectivist view of physical force, rights, and the proper purpose of government. I recommend Rand's essays "Man's Rights" and "The Nature of Government" to start.
Briefly, government is an institution with a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. In a rational society, its sole function is to act as the citizens' agent of self-defense against criminals and foreign aggressors; that is, to protect the individual rights of the people. If the government takes money from Citizen A to give to Citizen B (or even for some purpose allegedly for the benefit of Citizen A), then the government has become a legalized looter, a violator rather than a protector of rights.
Also, as a technical matter, it is important to realize that Social Security is not a retirement savings program; rather, it is a cash transfer scheme that funds today's retirees with Social Security taxes taken from today's workers and employers. The amount of money that one will "get back" upon retirement is nothing more than the federal government's promise to extract that amount from future taxpayers.
Objectivists are against Social Security for the same reason they are against any entitlement program. At it's core, an entitlement program takes money (through force) from one group of people and gives the money to another group of people.
Ayn Rand identified force as the ultimate threat to a man's life. If a man lives under the threat of force, he cannot act on his own judgment. He is not the owner of his own property or his own life. If a man cannot act on his own judgment, if the product of his labor is taken from him, he is not a free man.
It is for this reason that objectivists reject social security. Now there are many additional economic/political/social reasons for why social security is fundamentally flawed. It's a ponzi scheme, it's not a savings account, the return on funds forcibly taken from individuals is abysmal (any private company that returned an investment at that low a rate would go out of business), it assumes people are stupid and can't manage their own money, it was started at an age when the average life expectancy was 65 now it's almost 80, it's been abused as a slush fund by congress for 30+ years, and the piper is coming due now, etc. etc.
But while those are all good arguments against, the fundamental reason objectivists are against social security is because it robs from the working, to give to the old.
answered Nov 09 '10 at 08:09
John Hoffman ♦