The problem, he writes, is that the government is focused on consumption instead of production. That means it’s good at “giving” people things, but lousy at creating value. To turn that dynamic around -- and, while doing so, save Social Security -- Williamson sketches a way to turn the program into an investment plan instead of a redistribution scheme.
“A pension system in which workers spend 50 years investing in the real marketplace and earning real returns will radically transform everything from retirement planning to corporate governance -- and will shift trillions of dollars in capital away from politics and into investments in real goods,” he writes. “Solving the problem of poverty for the young begins with solving the problem of pensions for the old. We can do that for less than most Americans are paying in Social Security taxes today.”
Indeed we could. But getting to the new system involves eliminating the old, which millions of Americans have built their lives around. There’s no way for a 65-year-old to grow wealth (he doesn’t have enough years left) and anyway, he’s taken us at our word that he may retire at that age and collect regular monthly payments the rest of his life. The problem isn’t “can we” solve problems. It’s “will we” solve problems.
The disruptive power of technology may help.
For example, in Nevada, when armed federal agents clashed with protesters in a land dispute, camera phones were everywhere. The agents didn’t engage. Elsewhere, police in Albuquerque now wear cameras, and have faced public outrage at their alleged use of force. Technology is changing how government agents deal with people.
But when it comes to overall governance, little seems to be changing. Williamson blames “politics,” because they can’t seem to evolve. That may be a threat, or an opportunity. But it’s too soon to know whether our future will, indeed, be awesome.