Taking Government Money

Taking Government Money

Austrian influenced economist Mark Skousen recently turned 65 and faced a dilemma many us have or will soon take – should we take social security ‘benefits’?

The issue is part of a broader issue for libertarians, can use of government services, including money payments be morally justified? Walter Block, not only a top Austrian economist, but a leading figure in expanding and developing the ethics of liberty, provides strong argument in the affirmative.

In short from a post at LewRockwell.com Block argues:

This is because the state as thief simply has no right to this booty. Better that any non statist posses this wealth than the thieving state. Yes, of course, there will arise the question of whether and to whom and how these monies are to be returned to their rightful owners (for my analysis of these questions see here, and here; for my views on reparations see here, and here), but this complication cannot be allowed to get in the way of appreciating the primordial moral fact that the state has no legitimate claim to this wealth.

And thus for non-statists and non-members of the ruling class:

Indeed, it is a positive mitzvah for people of this sort to relieve the government of its stolen property.

Skousen, on his 65th birthday wrote:

I’ve thought long and hard about what to do on this day.


As an ardent supporter of self reliance and limited government, I also feel a little reluctant to accept Social Security payments when our government is so deeply in debt. While everyone can use a little extra cash, I don’t really need Social Security. I’ve worked hard, saved, and invested to build up my net worth. I’ve paid off my home mortgage, and I have both a company pension program and an individual retirement account. Like many wise Americans, I’ve followed the golden principles of “industry, thrift and prudence” advocated by Benjamin Franklin in “The Way of Wealth.”

Over the past year I’ve pondered two questions:

1. Should I sign up for Social Security?

2. What should I do with my monthly Social Security check?

He then asks, “Can Social Security payments be used for a good cause?”

His answer is based on what his uncle did, sign up for Social Security and invest the monthly government check into a good cause or a variety of good causes.

His recommendation, “I invite you to join me in this cause. Take the Social Security Pledge. If you are wealthy enough, use part or all of your Social Security proceeds to invest in your favorite causes.”

Following Walter Block, none should leave any funds for which we are eligible on the table for use by state; everyone eligible should free the funds from an entity with “no legitimate claim to this wealth.”

Given the importance and success of the Ludwig von Mises Institute over the last 30 years, I recommend that, if you can afford it, do as I did, and take Professor Skousen’s pledge and name the Institute as your number one beneficiary.


  1. Given the exceeding number of things I have done wrong in my life, I sure don’t have room to adversely judge any libertarian who accepts Social Security. Plus, I am mindful that Jesus advised, “judge not.”

    I’ve personally never been tempted to apply for SS or Medicare. I made a commitment to demur many years ago when I stopped paying any local, state or federal income or employment (SS, etc.) taxes. Although I paid employment taxes for enough years to be eligible for SS and Medicare, I feel I’d really be a hypocrite if I took any state lucre after all these years of condemning the State for its taxes as more detrimental to humanity than extortion or or even human slavery. It’s sort of a quid-pro-quo thing with me. The State takes nothing from me, and I take nothing from the State.

    A couple of decades ago I began referring to myself as a voluntaryist rather than libertarian or anarchist. I like the sound of it better and I love the thought it conjures, at least in my mind, of people cooperating voluntarily to achieve greatness. (I also am trying to stop using the word capitalism in favor of laissez faire or free market.) I embraced the voluntary way described by Carl Watner in his volunme, I MUST SPEAK OUT. (http://www.voluntaryist.com/books/index.html). Carl wrote:

    “Difficult as it is to totally divorce ourselves from the State, each of us must draw the line for him or herself as to how and to what extent we will deal with statism, whether it be driving on government roads, paying federal income taxes, using government “funny money,” or the post office. Several things are imperative though. We must support ourselves on the free market, never taking up government employment. We must also remain uninvolved in politics, refusing to vote or run for office. We must never accept a government handout or government funds, even when justified on the pretext that the money was stolen from you or that you were forced to contribute to a government program.) No one is forcing you to accept money that the government has stolen.” (p. 7)

    Although I do not judge Walter Block adversely, I do think the argument for accepting SS benefits because “no one should leave any funds for which we are eligible on the table for use by state” sounds ever so much like an attempt to rationalize something one thinks may be wrong. I suspect that accepting SS funds to deprive the State of resources will only cause the State to send forth its tax collectors to close the funding gap thus created by mulcting the taxpayers of even more money, and in fact that is how the funds to pay SS beneficiaries are gathered. Even if one donates all of his or her SS checks to a good, non-statist cause like Mises.org, that good end doesn’t justify the bad means. Such means could spell the downfall of Mises.org, just as the use of OPM (sounds like opium, is equally addicting, stands for other people’s money) has sapped the integrity and vitality of other private enterprises that were beguiled into taking it.

    For me there is also a spiritual component to declining the State’s inducements. I generally take my cues on spiritual matters from Jesus. In his Sermon on the Mount he said this, which seems to me to apply to this issue:

    ““Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

    I don’t have the financial resources that Professor Skousen has admirably accumulated for his retirement, but I have all the security and peace of mind a person could hope to achieve. I suspect I would be in dire straights if I had accepted SS benefits 13 years ago when I became eligible. As for Medicare or Obamacare, I wouldn’t touch those inducements to subservience with a ten foot pole. It is my observation that among my contemporaries that those who accept Medicare are going to need it, and will find it is a medical quagmire that sucks them in and sucks the life out of them.

  2. PatrickP……There is no “Trust Fund.” All the money sent in the guise of Social Security Taxes is spent as soon as it hits the Treasury, Any money that an individual receives in Social Security Benefits comes out of the paychecks of current day workers. Or it is borrowed or just printed into existence. Actually,Social Security is legally a tax. Basically,when someone receives a benefit called Social Security that person,in essence,has gone on Welfare. This is why Social Security is a fraud, a Ponzi Scheme and is headed for bankruptcy.

  3. “But do 2 wrongs make a right.”

    I completely agree with you that it is a personal decision, but I am presently doubtful that choosing to receive SS entitlements should be considered another wrong. The existence of SS in the first place is wrong, but your choice after that is to either keep the seized funds with the Treasury or with yourself. Whom do you think would make more productive use of that money? Moreover, receiving benefits drains the “trust fund” and leads to an earlier collapse of the Ponzi scheme.

  4. The problem with the political world today is that it is filled with hypocrites and hypocrisy. Limousine Liberals who shout that everyone should “pay their fair share” of taxes then in the Spring quietly go to their accountants and tax lawyers and take every write off and deduction they can find. Or the super rich who put all their wealth in foundations,endowments and trusts and then support politicians who want to tax the so called “Rich” who make 250k or more a year. Or people like John Corzine who defraud people out of billions and gets a slap on the wrist,while some poor soul who made errors of a few thousand loses everything or is put in jail by the IRS. The lists of these hypocrites is endless. Yet on the other hand there are those,like myself,who for the last 35 years or so have been very critical of government “entitlements” especially Social Security. Its obvious,at this late date,that Social Security is a gigantic fraud and is bankrupt. With that said,I am almost seventy years old and have not yet applied for Social Security. Over the past several years I have worked at a small hand to mouth business to support myself and my family. In essence about 40 years ago I got tired of being a serf and decided to go Galt. Its been tough. I never took any kind of government aid or entitlements. Have never used the government in any way and all I have ever asked for is to be left alone to pursue my happiness. Yet,as I get older and am still working albeit part time,I feel the pressure of inflation and property taxes on my budget. Taking Social Security,even though I paid the tax for many years seems to me to be hypocritical. We can use all the reasoning we want. But,in the end,for libertarians I think that it is a personal decision. Ayn Rand took Social Security, which I think was a big mistake from a publicity point of view,seeing that she didn’t need the cash. Was she a hypocrite? Would Howard Roark or John Galt take it? Yes,its true to a large extent,that the Social Security money was stolen from you. But do 2 wrongs make a right. My final view is that,for libertarians, if one is financially secure that a person should refuse to have anything to do with Social Security. It only makes one look like a hypocrite. My answer at social gatherings when the subject of Social Security comes up,is that I don’t take Social Security and then people ask me why not? I just tell them that Social Security is a Communist idea and that I’m not a practicing communist. Are you?

  5. “This is because the state as thief simply has no right to this booty. Better that any non statist posses this wealth than the thieving state.”

    If you saw a robber on the street take someone’s belongings, would it be ethical for you to take those belongings from the robber … and keep it?

    I started collecting SS at 62 (2 years ago). I still have a problem with it. I would like to ignorantly console myself by thinking: “This is wealth that I paid into the system.” But I know my government already squandered that wealth.

    • For that analogy to work the robber would have to also have stolen from you (and many others), so that by retaining his most recent plunder you are, in effect, reducing the lifetime amount of property he has seized from you (since we’re talking about money in this context which is, by definition, fungible). Therefore, I think we’re back to the ethical divide that exists between (re-)acquiring more property than has been seized from you vs. less.

  6. Ok, my long winded reply here:

    I’m a US Army Veteran. I joined when I was young, ignorant, and essentially penniless. My reasons were economic purely. I was hungry and was not getting anywhere dealing with academia and the low wages that existed in the area I lived in. So the easier path to prosperity at the time appeared to be the Military. I can admit now, that I was wrong, and I understand how wrong I was now. I have no regrets, because I never would have ended up here on Mises.org had I not been through all of that.

    Now onto to my real point, I am physically disabled, and medically retired from the Army. I receive funds from the VA. I donate almost all of it to charity and printing copies of books that are given freely here on Mises to poorer folks in my area.

    I am in college now and live purely off of the GI Bill. My major is Economics. They “teach” based upon Modern Monetarist Theory, I’m in Arizona, and attending those classes I spend my time picking apart what it is that they are trying to “teach”, brainwash me with. I keep buying Austrian centric and Classical School Econ books and reading them multiple times until I understand them fully. My goal is to get that magical Ph.D. and to start teaching Austrian School. I have been burning through their hoops for two years now, and I’m making good time on it. I’m using their stolen funds in efforts to ending their grasp on the public.

  7. There are two reasons why I plan to take advantage of every federal benefit possible. First, I paid nearly one million (inflation-adjusted) dollars in federal taxes over the years, and I sure as hell haven’t gotten my money’s worth. Second, I want the absurd government entitlement system to go bust: the sooner, the better.

    Also, even while I’m receiving federal benefits, I continue to fight for their elimination, and I support politicians who agree.

  8. Increased funding of the LvMI is always a good thing and…

    Personally, I think the Rothbardian “net tax recipient vs. net tax payer” concept applies here. In many instances, those who have saved and invested for their retirement will have to pay Federal tax on funds withdrawn from a 401k or from a dividend, sale of stock, etc.. As libertarians, I think we all agree that the optimal tax amount is $0. Anything that gets you closer to $0 is desirable in that regard. In many instances the savers and investors who receive Social Security will still be, on net, tax payers. While it’s unfortunate that they’re still victimized at all, they should certainly not feel guilty about reducing their tax burden through the receipt of Social Security.

    That having been said, those who would become net recipients of tax funds do have a dilemna and I’m all for donations to the LvMI as a salve to ease the wounds inflicted by receiving!

  9. As a side note, I remember reading on LewRockwell.com recently that the form for signing up for social security is the same form that signs you for Medicaid, in many states. Be careful not to accidentally get trapped in Medicaid.

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