Pension tension
Posted by aogSunday, 28 December 2003 at 16:50 TrackBack Ping URL

Via Peter Burnet we have a youngster in Germany complaining of the pension burden.

What Missfelder said, in an interview published in the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel, was that old people were soaking up Germany’s financial resources with lavish pensions and gold-plated health care plans. Such largess, he said, came at the expense of young Germans, who he warned would be strangled by the burden of supporting an ever-larger population of retirees.

It’s interesting that folks in Germany are actually becoming aware of this problem. However, Burnet opines that

this story also shows how stark and selfish individualism and free-enterprise can be when they are not buttressed by commitments to faith and family.

I think it’s a bit of a stretch to blame free-enterprise for the debilitating results of massive state pension plans. One might argue that freedom is essential to civil society and that protection of property rights is an integral part of freedom. State pensions are the opposite of property rights - property is taken from some and given to others. One might also argue that pensions of themselves are harmful to family ties.

In the comments, Burnet asks, what would libertarians do about the dependents in society, if government pensions are out of line? This is a fair question.

I can’t speak for all libertarians but it is a mistake to believe that libertarianism requires autarkic individuals. In fact, libertarianism (much like conservatism in this regard) believes that people cannot be coerced into cooperation, forced to care or compelled to be charitable - the view is that these are intrinsically opposed concepts. Libertarians believe strongly in voluntary associations, the kind of thing Tocqueville liked about the USA. But if there is no “opt-out” the organizations can never really be voluntary. Just as defending freedom of speech doesn’t mean one approves of dreck like Noam Chomsky, defending the right of individualism doesn’t mean one supports an atomized society.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
oj Sunday, 28 December 2003 at 19:23


Here I fear you run smack into the fatal flaw in libertarianism: its utopian view of human nature. Many—maybe most, but by no means all—value freedom for themselves, but none truly value the freedom of others. This is why democracies notoriously tend towards precisely the kind of wealth transfers above. Consider that Germans not only voted themselves such generous benefits but then stopped having children, in order that there not be a majority of taxpayers to revoke them, and began importing workers, who pay taxes but can’t vote.

For this reason the kind of ownership society that George Bush is proposing may be the best that libertarians can hope for—the least coercive system compatible with popular demands for a social safety net.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 30 December 2003 at 08:54


That may well be correct. That’s one of the reasons I’m a minarchist and not an anarchist.

oj Tuesday, 30 December 2003 at 11:42

As long as you aren’t the AntiChrist… :)

End of Discussion