Another Bad Analogy: Social Security = Ponzi Scheme

Wild Bill has this to say (to write, actually):

I had assumed that, when Ann Coulter(geist) asserted that “Social Security is a governmental Ponzi scheme,” that such an assertion would resound only among the unschooled and the feverish. Now that Gov. Perry has taken to repeating the claim, I guess I should direct you where to read up on it “economically.”

Please read the contributions at

to see how deficient Coultergeist’s proposition was.

However, take cautions.

First, Coulter and Perry have repeated a talking point. Talking points resemble Pavlovian cues more than civic propositions. They are not true. They are not false. They neither enlighten nor clarify. They are shibboleths — expressions that mobilize “us” and demonize “them.” It follows that to engage the talking point is to succumb to misdirection and to mistake eristic disputation for rational discourse. [I am of course sorry to inform you that Ann Coulter is neither engaged nor interested in rational discourse.]

Second, Coulter and Perry have spoken/written in metaphoric language. They thus may retreat into similes or similar defenses. “Social Security much resembles a scam” or “There are many elements of Social Security that are common in or to Ponzi schemes” are merely two of the retreats available to them.

Third, please do not imagine that, if Social Security were a Ponzi scheme or nearly a Ponzi scheme, Coulter’s or Perry’s contention would necessarily have relevance or consequences. If retirees were long ago taken in by a Ponzi scheme, they would have been victims of con men in high places. The misplaced reliance of our elderly on schemers would NOT justify cutting or eliminating Social Security benefits.

An appropriate reply to “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme” would be “You may want to study up on Ponzi schemes so that you can learn why Social Security is different from Ponzi schemes and why likeness to Ponzi schemes has few or no implications for policy.”


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