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Civil Disobedience

Upon the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, an Amish sect refused to pay the tax on religious grounds. Interestingly their opposition is grounded in a religious conviction that insurance was seen as not trusting in God – insurance was a worldly operation. They were not opposed to the payment of taxes. The left considers Social Security an insurance scheme too, so it is more than ironic that the Amish suffered severe penalties at the hands of the government under the notion that, when it sees fit, the government considers Social Security as a tax and transfer program. Apparantly there was such huge public outrage that the 1965 Social Security Act (the one that brought us Medicare) included a provision to the effect of:

Tucked into the 138 page bill was a clause exempting the Old Order Amish, and any other religious sect who conscientiously objected to insurance, from paying Social Security payments, providing that sect had been in existence since December 31, 1950. After Senate approval in July, the signing of the bill by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 13, 1965, made it official and canceled tax accounts of some 15,000 Amish people amounting to nearly $250,000.”

Read the whole account here. I am still trying to find out if the exemption holds, and if there are provisions for other religious groups in more recent law and for those established after 1950. Try navigating the statutory documentation to find out and your head will spin. Aside from the obvious, here is what else is on my mind:

  • What made the Amish so special and not other groups? Surely someone else was opposed to social security, no?
  • It’s a novel concept – refuse to accept the government dole and be excused from having to contribute to it. If it were an actuarily and economically sound program perhaps Social Security could make that offer to people. But you cannot do that in a Ponzi game. Some might argue moral hazard as a reason we couldn’t do it anyway. I need some more proof than loud screaming.
  • What happened to equality under the law?

One Response to “Civil Disobedience”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    I’m against SS on moral, Constitutional, and economic grounds. 😉

    Also, I think I recently read something in the WSJ about the Amish and this exception.

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