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Free-Rider Problem Shifted – Indeed, Intensified – Not Solved

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My column today in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review discusses the economic (il)logic of Social Security, Medicare, and other schemes whereby everyone attempts to live off of resources confiscated from others [2].  Here’s a slice:

As currently arranged, Social Security allows today’s retirees to free-ride on other people’s money. By voting for candidates who promise to maintain (or even better, to increase) Social Security’s stream of payments to each retiree, retirees free-ride on the earnings of current workers.

Or if Uncle Sam borrows the money to pay today’s retirees, these retirees free-ride on the earnings of future workers, who will be taxed so that Uncle Sam can repay his creditors.

If it’s crazy to believe that individuals will selflessly contribute adequate amounts of money to a voluntary fund — that is, selflessly avoid the opportunity to free-ride on others — it’s just as crazy to believe that people will selflessly refuse to vote themselves benefits to be paid for by faceless others.