L. Neil Smith's
Number 307, February 20, 2005

Happy 90th Birthday, Dad!

A Real Ownership Society
by Lex Concord

Exclusive to TLE

The latest Big Lie from President Bush involves his attempt to push "partially private accounts" on a wary public, as the latest in a series of ill-conceived attempts to save Social Security. If he succeeds, he can thank a century of citizen indoctrination in the government-run school system and a brilliant propaganda campaign to pass an intrusive and colossal central state off as an "Ownership Society."

In the Ownership Society of George W. Bush, a small portion of the money you are now forced to pay to wealthy retirees would be diverted into an account you would "own," if by ownership you mean that you can allocate it between a few government-approved accounts, and withdraw it under terms and conditions set by the government. That this is seen by many as a marginal improvement over the present system speaks to the stupidity and criminality of the original Social Security plan.

In the Ownership Society of George W. Bush, payouts to present retirees would not be reduced a corresponding amount, as might make fiscal sense, but you would get to "own" the difference, in higher taxes now, or higher taxes later to pay off the resulting increase in the federal deficit.

In the Ownership Society of George W. Bush, you wouldn't get to choose the investment options you might like, since you might not make the right choices. That this reasoning is a direct echo of Bill Clinton's rationale for not cutting taxes, that "...you might not spend it right," seems to be a point entirely lost on Republican voters.

In the Ownership Society of George W. Bush, you might get to own other funds extracted from your paycheck, willingly or otherwise, if you spend them in a government-approved manner on government-approved medical care, educational expenses, or other politically popular necessities.

In the Ownership Society of George W. Bush, the poor could look forward to a better chance at owning their own homes, regardless of their credit rating, thanks to government intervention in the housing market, and the wealthy wouldn't be forced to pay more than one-third of their incomes to the government, at least not in direct personal income taxes. Such generosity.

A real ownership society would look much different.

In a real ownership society, you would own every dollar you earn. You would decide for yourself how much to save, how much to spend, and how much to give away to those in need. You would decide for yourself when, where, and how to invest your own money. With no income taxes and no Social Security taxes to pay, saving for retirement would be a breeze. With the elimination of the government drain on the productive class, the greatest era of prosperity in human history would begin, offering unprecedented investment opportunities.

In a real ownership society, you would own your own home and land, and would no longer have to pay rent in the form of property taxes to a state or local government for the privilege of living there. You would decide what to build on your own property, and how to build it, without requiring approval from your not-so-friendly neighborhood government employee.

In a real ownership society, if some group of people wanted to pass themselves off as a government, you would decide whether or not to join them, and how much to pay for the services they offered. If you weren't happy with their performance in protecting your life and property, you could find another government to join, or hire a personal bodyguard or two, or perhaps just build a moat around your home and stock up on boiling oil.

In a real ownership society, you would decide how to educate your children, and who would teach them. With no one taking everyone's money, voting on how to spend it, and arguing about what everyone's kids should be taught, your neighbors might be more civil, too. With no local property taxes, no state or federal income taxes, and no Social Security taxes, paying for school, or helping to educate the children of the truly needy, wouldn't be much of a problem.

In a real ownership society, you could grow and consume the natural plant products of your choice, and collect and practice with the personal-protection devices of your choice, without fear of midnight storm-trooper raids, since you would own your own home and your own body, and anyone who tried to violate either of them could be sued for damages, if anyone survived the attempt.

In a real ownership society, your bank balances would be true private accounts at last, with no one forced to report suspiciously large transactions, or routine interest payments, to some government busybody. You would no longer be viewed as a likely criminal simply for carrying large amounts of cash with you when you travel, or a weapon suitable for defending yourself. With no taxes to pay, and no government checkpoints, you might actually be able to travel, and carry large amounts of cash.

In a real ownership society, the cash you carry wouldn't be issued by a government central bank, backed by nothing, and subject to massive devaluation at the whim or incompetence of government bureaucrats. The cash you carry would be real gold, with real value, and would be worth more every day you held onto it, thanks to the increasing productivity and prosperity of a free people.

In a real ownership society, you wouldn't have much use for politicians or bureaucrats, which is probably why none of them will ever propose anything remotely resembling one. When we succeed in establishing a real ownership society, perhaps someday our wealthy and liberty-loving grandchildren will listen to our stories of the dark days of the Second Bush Administration, make a skeptical face, and say, "Grandpa, you're making that up! Why would anyone ever call that an ownership society?"


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