Even conceding that federal taxes might rise rapidly enough to a level noticeably higher than during World War II overlooks an important consideration: All the social democracies are facing similar fiscal dilemmas at almost the same time. Pay-as-you go social insurance is just not sustainable over the long run, despite the higher tax rates in other welfare States. Even though the United States initiated social insurance later than most of these other welfare States, it has caught up with them because of the Medicare subsidy. In other words, the social-democratic welfare State will come to end, just as the socialist State came to an end. Socialism was doomed by the calculation problem identified by Ludwig Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Mises also argued that the mixed economy was unstable and that the dynamics of intervention would inevitably drive it towards socialism or laissez faire. But in this case, he was mistaken; a century of experience has taught us that the client-oriented, power-broker State is the gravity well toward which public choice drives both command and market economies. What will ultimately kill the welfare State is that its centerpiece, government-provided social insurance, is simultaneously above reproach and beyond salvation. Fully-funded systems could have survived, but politicians had little incentive to enact them, and much less incentive to impose the huge costs of converting from pay-as-you-go. Whether this inevitable collapse of social democracies will ultimately be a good or bad thing depends on what replaces them.
Read the whole thing – it’s very sobering. Yet although I agree with the logic, I doubt the scenario described. There are many partial solutions which could delay the inevitable. Someone might even get smart enough to propose to converting from pay-as-you-go to fully funded over a very long time period, say a century or longer. But that’s unlikely given short term political pressures. The best possible outcome is probably just to delay the inevitable. A word to the wise: don’t count much on Medicare or Social Security in your retirement planning, especially if you’re young.