Social insurance programs help people live more comfortably because they spread risk across the entire population of a nation. They make people and nations more safe and secure. Here’s how.
The one thing we can say for certain about life is that bad things will happen. After all, “Nobody gets out of here alive!” But that’s not the only problem. By their very nature, families and individuals are very small, fragile and very vulnerable— compared with our country’s most powerful private entities.
There is an abundant literature that documents what happens when risk is borne solely by the individual or family and those families must confront the power of entrenched financial interests. John Steinbeck has quite a bit to say about this in his novel “The Grapes of Wrath.”
“And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.”- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 19
Social Security is actually a brilliant two part balancing act.
1) It offers families a measure of security when faced with the normal vicissitudes of human life.
2) It also blunts the sharpest elements of our “winner take all society” and, in doing so, has helped make “domestic tranquility” a normal and expected part of our social fabric.
America without Social Security would, very quickly, cease to be America.