Was Ayn Rand a Hypocrite If She Took Social Security?

A number of readers know I’m a fan of Ayn Rand’s ideas. (Ayn Rand is the author of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and much else.) They have written to ask me if it’s true that Ayn Rand, an advocate of individual rights and an absolute opponent of government redistribution programs, accepted Medicare and Social Security.

I don’t know the answer to this question. But what I do know is that she was entitled to do so.

Participation in Medicare and Social Security is not voluntary. A payroll tax is imposed on every working person or productive business in the country. Yes, this initiation of force is unwarranted and unjustified. It’s done in the name of ‘your own good.’ But government has no business imposing your own good. Government’s only proper missions are (1) leaving you alone and (2) ensuring that others (e.g., criminals or crooks) leave you alone.

Nowhere, morally or politically speaking, is there justification for imposing programs such as Social Security or Medicare on people, because there’s no reason for justifying the initiation of force by government (or anyone) against an individual in the first place.

Nevertheless, this force was imposed, starting in the 1930s, expanded further in the 1960s and now again with Obamacare. There’s nothing you can do about it, once it’s law, short of risking imprisonment. Risking imprisonment is not worth it, because in America, especially, our other freedoms have been left alone enough that life can still be highly worthwhile, despite the intrusions of government into certain areas where it does not belong.

So what’s a person who disagrees with these programs, on principle, to do? Attempt to get back his or her money, of course! And all the while fighting those programs, on principle, every step of the way.

In a consistently free society, the rational person would be responsible for saving, or otherwise providing for, his or her retirement via an unhampered free market. Such a free market would offer who-knows-what array of benefits, insurance policies and the like for purchase. People would know from their young adulthoods that this was their responsibility. (The current generation of young people will almost certainly face this responsibility, as the welfare state continues its inevitable fiscal implosion, already underway.) Such freedom was denied the rational person via government monopolization of the insurance industry with the Medicare and Social Security behemoths, not to mention other government regulations too numerous to detail here.

The point is: It’s not the innocent person’s fault.

I can’t speak for Ayn Rand, but I will speak for myself. I have been paying payroll taxes in very large portions for Medicare and Social Security for many years now. I fully intend to cash in on those and attempt to get some of that money back, if those programs still exist when I’m in my 60s or 70s (far from guaranteed). Even if those programs do still exist in 20 years, I will never get the return on my coerced investment. I would have fared much better in an unhampered market economy for medical and retirement insurance, had one existed. I wish I had the responsibility and freedom to plan my own retirement, but my government does not let me.

Also, I know full well that my current payroll taxes are not really being ‘put aside’ for me in the future. This money is simply being transferred to people currently obtaining Social Security and Medicare benefits, some of whom will never pay into “the system.” This angers me, but I cope with it by focusing on the fact that certain people I value are already of age for these programs, and at least I can think of them benefiting from those programs. (Everyone I value is productive, and like myself they were forced to pay more into those programs than they’ll ever receive.)

It would be hypocritical of me to lend financial or moral support to somebody who wants to preserve or expand government redistribution of wealth, or other so-called welfare programs. Why? Because I’m against those programs on principle. Initiation of force is always wrong. It’s wrong when a criminal does it with a gun or a threat of violence, and it’s equally wrong when a government does it with the threat of imprisonment. The added claim that it’s ‘for your own good’ does not alter the coercive nature of the whole scheme.

It’s not hypocritical to take back some of what was forcibly taken from you. Consider the alternative. If the government takes a third, a half or even more of your income, and if you object to this fact (on principle), what are you supposed to do? Let others who are supportive of government’s actions have the benefits? Ridiculous.

For example: What if refusing to take the money led to your death? What if the only health insurance available was government insurance? Let’s say a doctor was available to cure your fatal illness using government insurance. ‘No,’ you’d say. ‘I’m going to stand on principle. I won’t accept government help.’ But this is government help you were forced to pay for, in the first place!

And it’s not your fault that government has refused to let a free marketplace exist. (At least, not if you don’t support what the government is doing.) It certainly wasn’t Ayn Rand’s fault, who spent her entire life developing a philosophy (deeper than politics) to allow for a rational existence on earth, including the implementation of a completely unhampered free market system grounded in individual rights.

If the government left the marketplace, including for medical care, alone, then you would be responsible for taking care of those important needs, or even worst case finding voluntary charity to help you. By the way, there’s nothing morally wrong with taking charity if you honestly did not create your own problems. However, it’s always morally wrong to advocate force in doing so.

I recall it was Ayn Rand herself who wrote, ‘Morality ends where a gun begins.’ The guns and intimidation of government are not your fault, especially if you speak out against them (at least while it’s still legal to do so). Those who produce the most and/or who oppose Big Government in the most consistent way are, in a sense, the greatest victims of the whole nasty enterprise of the entitlement state.

Integrity does not exist in a vacuum; nor does any human knowledge. If you’re forced to do something against your will, the moral condemnation belongs to the persons initiating the force ‘ not their victims.


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