Top Menu Left

Top Menu Right

The Moral Integrity of Condemning Social Security While Collecting It

In an absurd act of injustice, the left routinely castigates those who criticize government redistribution programs while accepting some benefits of those programs.

For instance, writing for the Huffington Post, Michael Ford blasts those on the right who allegedly hold the attitude, “venerated in public, disdained in private”; he describes such people as “vip-dippers.” Ford proceeds to smear Ayn Rand with the term because she accepted Social Security and Medicare payments—after being forced for most of her working life to pay into those rights-violating programs. According to Ford, Rand accepted those “benefits” even as she “said it was wrong for everyone else to do so” (a flagrant misrepresentation of Rand’s position). Ford concludes, “In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite. . . .”

Similarly, commenting prior to the Republican convention in August, David Sirota wrote for Salon:

Hysterical jeremiads against “socialism” and for the “free market” are sure to pepper the Republican convention, if not from the dais then from the assembled rabble. . . . [Y]ou can expect the assembled media to loyally echo the themes—and barely notice that the paroxysm of anti-government hysteria is taking place inside a socialist enterprise.

That’s right, as the Daily Dolt first noted, “The stadium where the GOP will be announcing ‘We Built This!’ was financed primarily by the government.” Specifically, according to Marquette University’s National Sports Law Institute, “The total budget for the project was $139 million, of which public money accounted for $86 million and team money accounted for $53 million.”

Sirota thus implies that, if one uses a tax-financed stadium, not only can one not properly oppose the tax financing of the stadium, one cannot justifiably condemn socialism or promote free markets.

One more example: This summer Eli Stokols reported for Denver’s Fox31:

Mitt Romney’s Colorado campaign held an event involving local business owners expressing their outrage over President Barack Obama’s statement that businesses “didn’t build” their companies themselves.

“It pissed me off,” said Jack Davis, who hosted the press conference . . . at Advance Surface Technologies, which he bought 15 years ago. “To me, that statement really demonstrates to me that the president doesn’t have an appreciation for what it takes to start and run a business.”

Like the business owner who hosted the Romney campaign’s “We Did Build That” event Monday in Colorado Springs, Davis acknowledged that he did receive a government-backed SBA loan.

This story led to predictable smears. Lynn Bartels, a reporter for the Denver Post, Tweeted, “Great reporting by @EliStokols on the ‘You didn’t build that’ double standard.” The leftist publication ColoradoPols.com asked, “[A]t what point will people stop the fake rage against the evil ‘government’ when they knowingly take advantage of government programs?”

In short, these leftists shrilly mock, “You hypocrite! You accept money the government is handing out, yet you dare criticize the government for handing out money!”

Never mind the fact that the government looted Rand’s paycheck for most of her life to finance rights-violating “entitlement” schemes. Never mind the fact that the government forcibly took people’s wealth to build the stadium in question (thereby driving private investment from the market) and that government continued to seize wealth from anyone doing business near the stadium. Never mind the fact that Davis was forced—by threat of criminal prosecution and imprisonment—to subsidize government loans long before he ever applied for one. To leftists, such facts do not matter. What matters to them is that government be free to hand out wealth without anyone recognizing where the wealth came from or criticizing the government for expropriating that wealth.

A message someone posted to Facebook illustrates the absurdity of smearing critics of government programs for drawing some benefit from those programs: “Saying that Rand was a hypocrite for benefiting from social security . . . is like saying people who opposed communism were hypocrites for benefiting from government issue clothing.” Or, as I wrote a couple years ago, “According to the logic of [leftists], somebody standing in a Soviet bread line has no right to criticize Soviet bread lines, because he is after all waiting his turn for the bread.”

Consider the implications of the left’s smears. According to the left’s “logic,” the bigger the government program—the more wealth distribution it entails—the less legitimate is any criticism of the program. Today, we are forced to finance government roads, government schools, and myriad government “entitlement” and handout schemes. By the left’s “reasoning,” if a person drives on government roads (that he is forced to fund), sends his children to government schools (that he is forced to fund), or “benefits” from any government assistance program (that he is forced to fund), then he is a hypocrite for criticizing those programs. The implication is that, if the government forcibly confiscated every last cent of your income, making you dependent on the government for your every scrap of food and rag of clothing, you would have no moral right to criticize the government whatsoever.

Such is the utter inanity of today’s left, which claims that the victims of government rights violations cannot complain about those violations because and to the extent that the victims are victimized.

Ayn Rand offered a retort to such absurdities in her 1966 essay, “The Question of Scholarships” (in the book The Voice of Reason). Although Rand here specifically addresses tax-subsidized scholarships, her reasoning applies to all cases of recouping some of one’s wealth taken for government programs:

The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who advocate public scholarships, have no right to them; those who oppose them, have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.

Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others—the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it.

Contrary to the smears of the left, there is no contradiction or lack of integrity in condemning a rights-violating government program that one is forced to finance, while simultaneously recouping some benefit from that program. To forego the opportunity to recoup some of one’s stolen money would be to compound the injustice.

The victims of right-violating government programs should proudly and righteously condemn those programs—and seek to minimize the injustice of the programs by recouping whatever value they can from them. Far from hypocrisy, this is an act of integrity: recognizing the full truth and upholding one’s principles accordingly.

Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard.

Related:

Image: iStockPhoto

, , ,

Ari Armstrong

Ari Armstrong is an assistant editor of The Objective Standard. He blogs at AriArmstrong.com, and he has written for publications including the Denver Post and Complete Colorado. He is the author of Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles, a book exploring the heroic fight for life-promoting values in the Potter novels.


Comments submitted to TOS Blog are moderated. To be considered for posting, a comment must be civil, substantive, and fewer than 400 words in length. If approved, your comment will be posted soon.