Cato Studies: “Is Social Security Privatization Moral?”

March/​April 1999 • Policy Report

December 2: U.S. Postmaster General William Henderson and Federal Express CEO Fred Smith were the featured speakers at “Mail @ the Millennium: The Future of Private Postal Service,” a conference on the future of mail service. Henderson contended that monopolies are being deregulated around the world and that the USPS will eventually lose its monopoly over the mail. Smith, a Cato Board member, questioned whether the post office should be allowed to diversify and compete with the private sector when taxpaying private enterprises are already performing the needed services. Other speakers included Michael Critelli, CEO of Pitney Bowes; James Lucier of Prudential Securities Inc.; Gene Del Polito of the Advertising Mail Marketing Association; James Campbell of the International Express Carriers Conference; and Murray Comarow, former senior assistant postmaster general.

Libertarians Charles Murray (left) and Daniel Shapiro debated the morality of Social Security privatization with Howard University’s Kenneth Tollett and communitarian Amitai Etzioni at a Cato Policy Forum. December 7: At a Policy Forum titled “The Morality of Social Security Privatization,” Daniel Shapiro, associate professor of philosophy at West Virginia University, argued that a privatized Social Security system would be morally superior to the current system from any philosophical perspective—libertarian, egalitarian, or communitarian. Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute said that it is immoral for the government to take care of irresponsible people by taking important choices away from responsible people. Communitarian philosopher Amitai Etzioni maintained that the moral and economic considerations are intertwined and that neither justify Social Security’s privatization. Kenneth Tollett of Howard University contended that Social Security should not be privatized because it turns individual risk into shared security.

Brink Lindsey moderates as David Schorr of the World Wildlife Fund and Kanthi Tripathi of the Embassy of India debate World Trade Organization rules at a Cato Policy Forum. December 8: On October 12, in a key decision relating to possible conflicts between trade liberalization and environmen‐​tal protection, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization upheld a U.S. law designed to protect sea turtles endangered by shrimp fishing but faulted the United States for the way it administers the law. Four analysts discussed the implications of the decision at a Policy Forum titled “The WTO’s Shrimp‐​Turtle Decision: Free Trade vs. the Environment.” Kanthi Tripathi of the Embassy of India contended that overly restrictive environmental laws cause Third World nations to waste valuable resources battling lawyers and environ‐​mentalists in court. David Schorr of the World Wildlife Fund said that trade policy is interwoven with social and environmental policies and that there must be rules for resolving disputes laid out in advance. Other speakers were John H. Jackson of Georgetown University Law Center and Steven Charnovitz of the Global Environment & Trade Study at Yale Law School.

December 9:At a Cato Roundtable, UCLA Law School professor Eugene Volokh discussed issues of separation of church and state with legal scholars and policy analysts. Maj. Gen. Al E. Lenhardt (Ret.) tells a Policy Forum audience that a volunteer force is more effective than a conscripted one. Doug Bandow (right) listens.

January 12: The recent proposals by some military analysts and members of Congress to resume conscription were discussed at a Cato Policy Forum, “A Draft or Fresh Air? Alternatives to Conscription.” Maj. Gen. Al E. Lenhardt, U.S. Army (Ret.), contended that a volunteer force is more effective than a conscripted one. He stressed that increasing pay and benefits could help the military cope with personnel shortages. Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, emphasized that military commitments should be reduced to induce more people to stay in the military. Capt. Rosemary Mariner, U.S. Navy (Ret.), emphasized the Founders’ intention that we have a small, volunteer military. George C. Wilson, former Washington Post defense correspondent, proposed establishing a limited draft.

Defense analyst Kathleen Bailey

January 26: At a Capitol Hill luncheon, Kathleen Bailey discussed with congressional staff her new Cato Policy Analysis on problems with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

January 27: At a Roundtable Luncheon, defense analyst Kathleen Bailey spoke on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to a group of scholars and policy analysts. Andrei Illarionov of Moscow’s Institute of Economic Analysis discusses how aid from the International Monetary Fund has exacerbated the Russian crisis at a Policy Forum. Ian Vásquez chairs.

January 29: When the Russian ruble collapsed in August 1998, many Western observers saw it as a failure of capitalism. At a Cato Policy Forum, “How the Russian Crisis Was Manufactured,” Andrei Illarionov, director of the Institute of Economic Analysis in Moscow, explained that assistance from the International Monetary Fund has retarded liberal reforms in Russia and exacerbated the crisis. He also warned that official Russian statistics—upon which international organizations and the Western press rely—are misleading because they underestimate the size of government and the size of the country’s economic problems. Government policies in post‐​Soviet Russia remain essentially “socialist” in that the state uses fiscal, monetary, and regulatory policies to allocate the country’s vast resources instead of allowing the market to do so.

This article originally appeared in the March/​April 1999 edition of Cato Policy Report.
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