Book Review — RooseveltCare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance

RooseveltCare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self Reliance, by Don Watkins book coverMost American conservatives, today–however “radical” or “extremist” the political Left calls them–do not openly challenge “big government” in the form of Social Security and Medicare. While some seek a complete repeal of the recent ObamaCare legislation, at most, they want to “reform” these other two programs by a scheme of partial privatization.

Yet, in his recent book, RooseveltCare, Don Watkins demonstrates that the United States grew, prospered, and did quite well at providing for old age for 158 years, before FDR and his fellow “Progressives” pushed Americans into accepting the Social Security program. Watkins also shows that, ultimately, a complete repeal of Social Security is the only moral course of action; any lesser measure, as the ultimate goal, is morally wrong. Social Security is basically an inter-generational Ponzi scheme that is morally bankrupt and does nothing but harm.

RooseveltCare is divided into 2 parts: “The Story of Social Security” and “Social Security: A Verdict.”

The first part is a thorough survey of the history of the United States as it relates to Social Security. The account of the culture of American self-reliance prior to Social Security is inspiring and enjoyable. It includes the plethora of options ordinary people had in dealing with old age and life’s unexpected challenges, both in preparation and response. The account of the rise of Social Security and the welfare state makes clear that these government programs were not something that most Americans considered an obvious necessity, even during the government-created Great Depression. Social Security was pushed by “Progressive” intellectuals, on Americans who had no intellectual defense, (and some operative elements of the un-American morality of self-sacrifice, making them susceptible.)

The second part of RooseveltCare is an exploration of the moral status of Social Security. It takes the arguments of Social Security’s proponents seriously and persuasively shows why they are wrong, (such as that Social Security is an “earned benefit.”) It discusses how and why Social Security is destructive to Americans’ economic and moral well-being. It discusses why “reforms” of the Social Security system are not a morally acceptable endpoint: ultimately, only a complete phase out of the system over a finite number of years will do.

I highly recommend RooseveltCare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance, by Don Watkins. It contains fascinating history, and will help give most people a stronger appreciation for the benefits of liberty and the culture of self-reliance. Workers in 19th-Century America were not downtrodden and were not starving in the streets. Starting out poor was not considered an indignity, to be “corrected” by handouts, but an honorable condition to be improved by diligent work on one’s own behalf. (A huge number of Americans in fact did improve their lot quite significantly this way.) It was, rather, accepting unearned charity and handouts that were often considered beneath one’s stature as a self-reliant adult.

The “Progressive” movement changed these attitudes and made unnecessary dependency morally acceptable in most American’s eyes. This opened the way for government redistribution, and has led to a host of destructive effects, including the destruction of wealth and the elimination of opportunities for investment in new technologies.

If we Americans want a bright future of prosperity, technology, opportunity and self-esteem for ourselves and our children, we need the majority of the population to understand the moral and economic need to completely phase out government entitlement programs. As a first step, we need as many thoughtful people as possible to read Don Watkins’ book:

RooseveltCare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance

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Socialism and Welfare vs. Justice: Why Inalienable Private Property Rights are Required for Justice

A farm and a factory: examples of property that requires effort to build.In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily
the first principle of association, “the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.”

Here, Jefferson is affirming the principle of individual rights, especially property rights. But don’t property rights sometimes stand in the way of justice? In any such cases, wouldn’t it be a moral imperative for government to violate property rights?

The purpose of this essay is to show that inalienable private property rights are a necessary condition of justice. That is, any violation of property rights implies injustice, to the extent of the violation. Please note that it is not the purpose of this essay to argue that property rights guarantee justice. Objectivism does not hold that property rights are a sufficient condition for justice, only a necessary condition. There is much injustice that can occur without violations of property rights. But no one, including the government, can rectify such injustices by violating property rights. Anyone attempting to do this is in the wrong, morally.

So, what is an inalienable property right? It is a principle specifying that no one else may take or otherwise use the thing a person has a right to, without that person’s permission. (All things properly called “rights” are inalienable–that is, they cannot morally be taken away; otherwise they are not “rights,” but grants of permission by someone else. Note also that one person’s rights can be waived by him, by the act of violating another person’s rights.)

A property right to a certain, distinct thing–call it “X”–is properly acquired by either 1) engaging in a productive process directly involving X, when it is not already owned by someone else, or 2) consensually trading things or services with another person for X, when that person owns X, or 3) receiving X as a gift from another person, when that person owns X. A “productive process” might be farming to produce food, building a home, building a factory, making shoes, writing software, providing services, like air conditioning repair, radio, television, movies, etc.

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