Oliver points me to an excellent and relatively balanced article on Social Security.

I should be clear that I believe in the cause of Social Security. My concern is with its implementation.

It’s true that Social Security won’t collapse tomorrow, or even several decades from now. And it’s also true that we can’t accurately forecast demographic and economic trends far into the future; anything is possible. It may be that we’ll get past several dangerous-looking baby booms with only minor tweaks to the system.

However, this can only last so long. The mechanism of Social Security is fundamentally broken. The pyramid scheme might last for a while as reservoirs are accumulated and spent, but unless the working population increases without bound, eventually the system will fail. It’s basic logic; no combination of economic or demographic variables can permanently forestall collapse.

I think it’s safe to say that Bush’s interest in reforming the system is as much ideological as it is economic. I can’t disagree with the economic concerns, and I also feel that the sooner we fix things the better. Full-on privatization seems like a bad bet because people who do not invest wisely will be out of luck when they retire. We’ll find out what Bush is thinking on Wednesday night, I suppose. As for ideology: I think if Bush had true political capital he might try and do away with Social Security altogether. Luckily, he doesn’t. Social security will be around for a long time to come; the form will be different, but the underlying social philosophy is unlikely to change.