Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date



The 2000 presidential election focused attention on an idea that has been surfacing for some time--the privatization of Social Security. Although opposition remains fierce, proposals for privatization have been gradually gaining acceptance as the inadequacy of benefits from the present system become more apparent, and bankruptcy becomes certain in the absence of additional onerous funding. Resistance to privatization largely centers on concerns that existing participants will lose their contributions and that private accounts may result in investment losses, which would leave future pensioners penniless. The disability and survivor benefits of the present Social Security system also raise concerns for the plight of the disadvantaged, should those features of Social Security be eliminated. However, proponents of private accounts argue that such accounts would provide far more social security and retirement benefits than available under the present government system, which offers little more than a poverty line existence to individuals dependent on Social Security for retirement. Proponents further contend that the system can be privatized without undue hardship and that survivor and disability benefits can be privately insured more effectively than through existing governmental programs. This Article will address the debate and discuss regulatory concerns that would arise with the creation of private social security accounts. As will be shown, the present system fails to provide real social security, and deprives those most in need of a retirement program of an opportunity to increase their wealth or to have a comfortable retirement. Shifting to a private system would be expensive, but could be accomplished through recognition of the benefits of private investments and through a program of tax credits and deductions. Existing regulatory requirements protect private social security account holders from fraud, as well as overreaching and unsuitable investments. The question remains whether the government should be the custodian and provider of investment choices in a “privatized” Social Security system. As explained in this Article, government control would ignite a never-ending war over the role of the government in selecting “socially responsible” investments.