Onkar Ghate on Ayn Rand and Social Security

It’s inevitable. Whenever I attack Social Security as an immoral institution that needs to be abolished, someone announces that my arguments are irrelevant because Ayn Rand was a hypocrite who took Social Security. (One version of this “argument” claims that Rand ended up a poverty-stricken welfare recipient, which is only wishful thinking on the part of her opponents.)

What most people don’t realize — and what surely is relevant to the debate — is that Rand herself argued that opposing Social Security and cashing Social Security checks is not hypocritical.

How can that be? My colleague Onkar Ghate has just written a piece that explains the point. From the article:

Precisely because Rand views welfare programs like Social Security as legalized plunder, she thinks the only condition under which it is moral to collect Social Security is if one “regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism” (emphasis hers). The seeming contradiction that only the opponent of Social Security has the moral right to collect it dissolves, she argues, once you recognize the crucial difference between the voluntary and the coerced.

Social Security is not voluntary. Your participation is forced through payroll taxes, with no choice to opt out even if you think the program harmful to your interests. If you consider such forced “participation” unjust, as Rand does, the harm inflicted on you would only be compounded if your announcement of the program’s injustice precludes you from collecting Social Security.

This being said, your moral integrity does require that you view the funds only as (partial) restitution for all that has been taken from you by such welfare schemes and that you continue, sincerely, to oppose the welfare state.

Read — and share — the whole thing.