Thomas Sowell

Yet the illusion of something for nothing has kept the welfare state going -- and expanding. If there is something for sale in the marketplace for ten dollars and you would not pay more than five dollars for it, some politician can always offer to get it for you free -- as a newly discovered "basic right," or at least at a "reasonable" or "affordable" price.

Suppose that the "reasonable" or "affordable" price is three dollars. How do you suppose the government can produce something for three dollars that private industry cannot produce for less than ten dollars? Greater efficiency in government? Give me a break!

The fact that you pay only three dollars at the cash register means nothing. If it costs the government twelve dollars to produce and distribute what you are getting for three dollars, then the government is going to have to get another nine dollars in taxes to cover the difference.

One way or another, you are going to end up paying twelve dollars for something you were unwilling to buy for ten dollars or even six dollars. But so long as you think you are getting something for nothing, the politicians' shell game has worked and the welfare state can continue to expand.

The baby boomers, who are beginning to turn sixty, are unlikely to get back all the money they paid into Social Security, with or without strings. The illusion that Social Security can provide pensions more cheaply than a private annuity or other retirement plan is the grand something-for-nothing political triumph.

The baby boomers are going to pay the price big time.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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