Friday, March 04, 2005

Too lazy to invest

Having experienced first-hand (and discussed) the opportunity cost aspects associated with socialized medicare versus free-market provision of health care, I feel compelled to note Thomas Geoghegan's Slate article complaining about having to spend his valuable time managing his own retirement savings. This piece has been rightly panned, but it reveals an important hurdle facing proponents of reform. And while I completely understand where he's coming from (and I think the same argument can be made about privatization/deregulation of energy markets), this strikes me as a pretty weak blow at Social Security reform. Saying the government should do something for you because you're too lazy to do it yourself exposes a pretty similar sentiment to the one conservatives complain about recipients of welfare. And the way I understand Bush's plan is currently formulated is that you could choose to opt out of the guaranteed benefits in order to create a private account. So if you're really too lazy to look after your own future, the government can continue to do it for you. But just because you want the government to take care of all that thinking, doesn't mean everyone else should be painted into the same corner. While they're at it, they can tell you what to eat, smoke, and watch on television. Oh, wait. They already do that, too.

The larger issue that interests me is the tradeoff we make when choice enters in the equation. I think the benefits of being able to make choices on your own preferences (rather than adhering to the government's or the majority's) are pretty clear, and worth the effort. Yes, there is definitely an opportunity cost associated with obtaining choice, and as George Bernard Shaw said "Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it." As far as I'm concerned, the fact that we will have to be responsible for ourselves is a better argument for liberty than against it.


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