Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ludwig von Mises and Social Security

Mises’ 1949 comments on Social Security and government debt read as
if they had been written yesterday: “Paul in the year 1940 saves by paying
one hundred dollars to the national social security institution. He receives
in exchange a claim which is virtually an unconditional government IOU.
If the government spends the hundred dollars for current expenditures, no
additional capital comes into existence, and no increase in the productivity
of labor results. The government’s IOU is a check drawn upon the future
taxpayer. In 1970 a certain Peter may have to fulfill the government’s
promise although he himself does not derive any benefit from the fact that.
Paul in 1940 saved one hundred dollars.... The trumpery argument that the
public debt is no burden because ’we owe it to ourselves’ is delusive. The
Pauls of 1940 do not owe it to themselves. It is the Peters of 1970 who owe
it to the Pauls of 1940.... The statesmen of 1940 solve their problems by
shifting them to the statesmen of 1970. On that date the statesmen of 1940
will be either dead or elder statesmen glorying in their wonderful achievement,
social security.” -- from Bettina Bien Greaves' "Forward" to Ludwig von Mises'
Human Action (Fourth Edition)

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