Recognizing that Social Security and other programs of this nature are of great debate across the country, the Ayn Rand Club at UCI brought light to this topic by hosting a brief lecture/Q-and-A session called “Can the Entitlement State Survive? And Should It?” on Thursday, Sept. 29 in honor of Capitalism Awareness Week.
Capitalism Awareness Week was a series of free lectures, debates and Q-and-A sessions held on campuses across the nation from Sept. 24 through Oct. 4. All of the presentations addressed three main questions: What is capitalism? Does it work? And is it moral?
UC Irvine was just one of the many locations where Capitalism Awareness events were held. The lecture held on campus in the Social Ecology II building featured Don Watkins from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Along with working as an Analyst at the Ayn Rand Center, Watkins is also a columnist for Forbes.com.
The basic premise of Watkins’ argument advocated for a “keep-it” economy, which he said was a very controversial way of thinking.
“It’s very simple,” said Watkins when beginning to explain his philosophy. “If you earn it, you keep it. Every last dime.”
This mindset plays a role when referring to the Entitlement State, which is comprised mainly of programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and retirement plans for veterans and federal employees.
Watkins presented the idea that taking money out of tax payers’ paychecks for these programs is “theft.”
He believes that people should be able to make everything that they earn, and that money should not forcibly be taken out of checks to help people who are eligible for these benefits.
Watkins discussed his idea that if people work hard and maintain their own productive efforts, they are naturally entitled to everything that they earn and shouldn’t be forced to give it away.
After stating his basic ideas and giving examples, Watkins addressed one of the most common counterarguments that he usually receives, and attempted to refute it.
“I want to answer what I think is the most common question whenever I make this point,” began Watkins. “And that is, ‘Look, that’s a nice fancy theory — yes, entitlements are stealing, wealth redistribution is stealing … but you want to bring us back to a world before there were entitlements — that immoral, cruel, inhuman world where people starved in the streets.”
In order to assure audience members that this was not his intended goal, he began to talk about the state of the world before entitlements.
He expressed that although the world was tough, there was a greater amount of charity. He said that when people were going through hard times, citizens would band together to help each other out and that there was no need to “steal” this money from others.
“What you should be debating right now is not how to save the Entitlement State, but how to undo it,” said Watkins when making the point that the world could be better without these programs.
“Ultimately, I think the Entitlement State should be completely abolished.
The majority of the attendants of this lecture found merit in this philosophy, based on the questions they asked and the praises they expressed.
However, although many participants were in favor of eliminating the Entitlement State, there are other perspectives held by people across the country when addressing these programs.
There are citizens who believe that these programs are essential, and that since many endured several years of having Social Security removed from their checks, they should be able to receive these benefits when they are eligible.
No matter what people gained or learned from the lecture, it was evident from the debates and questioning afterwards that this event definitely got people thinking.