by Carl Watner
Number 111 – 4th Quarter 2001
Ronald Neff, the author of the following article, “I’m Spartacus,” sent me this article in October 2000. I apologize to him and my readers for delaying its publication.
The subject of his article is the American citizen’s rejection of his or her Social Security benefits, a topic that cuts close to home because it hits us right in our pocketbooks. The government steals from us and then turns around and returns tax monies to us under the guise of retirement earnings.
A number of articles in The Voluntaryist have dealt with the federal government’s “Indian giving.” The foremost one was titled “I Don’t Want Nothing From Him!” (Issue No. 31) and was reprinted in The Voluntaryist anthology. Two points from that article will be reiterated here. First, it told the story of the mother of C.V. Myers, the Canadian investment advisor. Initially, she refused to apply for her Canadian, old age pension checks. Finally, her children “cajoled her into applying.” When she died, they found each and every monthly check stacked on her shelf, uncashed. She had meant “No!” and stuck by her guns. The second point of that article was this: Regardless of how much money the government steals from you in the way of payroll taxes, it is impossible in the nature of things for the government to return your own money to you. Whatever money you receive years later is money that has been stolen from someone else. Therefore, there is no justification in saying that you are “getting your money back.” You are, in fact, getting someone else’s money, and thereby participating in and sanctioning a government program of theft. I suggest that those who are more interested in this subject consult this earlier article. Copies are available if you do not have the anthology.
A second short article on this same theme appeared in Whole No. 41 in December 1989. It was written by R.S. Jaggard, M.D., who is now deceased. “Freedom Is Available” is being reprinted in this issue because it makes the point that no one is forced to accept government money. It may hurt not to, but the government is not forcing you take its benefits. As Jaggard wrote, “Avoidance of such an ethical disaster and preservation of freedom is easy. DO NOT TAKE THE GOVERNMENT MONEY. Just say, ‘No’.”
In preparing Ronn Neff’s article for publication, I sent it out to a number of people who subscribe to The Voluntaryist in order to get their reactions. A number of them already informally belong to the “I’m Spartacus” league. Since some of them wished to preserve their anonymity, I will repeat their remarks without attribution (except one that I found published in an anarchist/atheist magazine).
One, a farmer, wrote that
I was taught from my youth not to accept government money. However, it is only in the last seven years since reading The Voluntaryist and other anarcho-capitalist writings that I came to see the government system as a criminal institution.
If I want something that belongs to my neighbor, there are three things standing in my way: my conscience, my honor, and the law. So I look around for an entity that knows how, and is willing to overcome all three.
I find it in the U.S. government.
Oh, but I don’t want to hand myself over to them.
Once in a while we receive notices in the mail, telling us we are “eligible,” and we have received checks, but we have never cashed them. We just say, “No.” This way we can always say, “We never took anything from you, now leave us alone.”
Surely integrity and honor are more valuable possessions than immediate gratification.
A husband of a husband-and-wife team of private school teachers wrote that both had
been invited by Social Security to dip into the loot for a share, and both of us have refused. We have never thought about the profit of honor in regard to what we are doing. Our choice is based more on avoiding the self-proclaimed title of thief than in gaining a profit from it. Psychologically speaking, I like the idea that we gain another portion of honor even as we avoid a dishonor. I think it is an important point to remember. Also, I think it is important to wonder a little bit about this profit called honor which has no atomic weight nor chemical number to it, but which can infuse us with an energy nonetheless.
Fred Woodworth, editor of The Match! (Box 3012, Tucson, AZ 85702), published these remarks in his Issue 94 from the Summer 1999:
I myself will never ask these criminals for anything, and if necessary will live in a cardboard box in the park when I’m old, rather than grant these bureaucratic assholes one particle of legitimacy. Others may apply and comply, hat in hand, but not me. I’d puke up any food bought by such means, and any roof over my head that was bought by such largess would be hateful even in the coldest howling storm. Personally, I didn’t come this far only to envision a day when statist charity would seem to make sense. I don’t expect anybody anywhere else to behave this way, but if I myself don’t then the message of this particular project — The Match! — becomes susceptible of some other grinning patronizer’s supercilious disdain. [p. 49]
A retired widow, now living in Texas, wrote:
I never approved of Social Security from its inception, though I paid into it while I was working before I was married. My dad first interested me in our country, government, taxation, education, and I became politically active, in clubs, working in the precinct, etc. Then I went to the Freedom School and when I got home I dropped all political connections, even ceasing to vote. I was very enthusiastic about my new outlook, which remains with me today, and from discussions with my husband, believed he had adopted the same views. However, the day came when he decided to take Social Security checks. He wanted to get back what was his. I pointed out to him that “his” had long since been spent, possibly on the sex life of some bug, or maybe to raise Congressional salaries, but gone, squandered; that what he would get would be taken from those paying in today. I then asked him if he really wanted to be the receiver of stolen goods. My arguments were of no avail. It was almost divorce material. The first check he got was a big one as he was a few years beyond the age of eligibility, and then monthly checks. When he passed on, I went to the Social Security office and asked them to stop sending the checks. “Oh, but you can get some of it.”
“Do I have to take it?” I asked.
“No, but if you don’t by a certain age, you won’t be able to get it.”
That age has come and gone, and I have never taken Social Security. I remember Oscar Cooley wrote in a column once that he had not taken it, but the SS people forced him to, so he gave it to charity….
FEE once had an ad asking people to write in if they didn’t take Social Security benefits. I wrote and was “rewarded” (how funny) for not taking it with their new book publications sent from time to time. Such a nice gesture on their part. I know Hans and Mary Sennholz [in the past, at least, didn’t take] SS.
I wrote the Foundation for Economic Education, but they were unable to furnish more information about their ad campaign to locate people that refused Social Security benefits. Hans Sennholz informed me that these advertisements probably reached a readership of more than 100,000 people, but that “only six lonely voices got in touch with [him].” Dr. Sennholz was also very bitter about the Medicare legislation passed during the Reagan years that “practically outlawed medical care for the elderly unless they joined the Medicare System. Physicians who treat Medicare patients [a]re fined $2000 for every treatment of private patients.”
A common response among two of my correspondents was that they understood how Social Security benefits corrupted the mindset of American senior citizens. However, due to their personal circumstances, rather than refuse government money, they accept it and then donate it to charitable causes. Of course, I am sure they recognize that a thief is a thief even if he means well or gives his loot to a good cause. Dr. Sennholz once pointed out in an article in The Freeman (June 1978, pp. 337-338), that “we must stand immune to the temptations of evil, regardless of what others are doing to us. The redistribution must stop with us…. No matter how the transfer state may victimize [us], [we] shall seek no transfer payments, or accept any.” Bob LeFevre put it somewhat differently. There is only one way “to put government in its proper place. [It] is within the grasp of every human being. The tool is his own mind and will, his own determination NOT to rely upon the government for anything at all.” (Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, July 25, 1959)
Read on to find out about the “I’m Spartacus” league.