ROBERT J. BARRO
The best part of Aaron's paper was the unabashed 1960s- style appreciation for a big social welfare program, namely Social Security. This enthusiasm was refreshing, especially because it reminded me of how I used to think about things when I was a kid. These days, however, most economists have become more excited about market-oriented policies such as privatization, flat-rate taxes, and property-rights enforcement--things that appear to encourage investment and long-term economic growth. So, while I would like to return to my youth and feel good about Social Security, I cannot do so.
Despite Aaron's assurances that the U.S. Social Security program has been a great success, especially in lowering inequality, I was not convinced. For one thing, I found no discussion of empirical evidence on the actual effects of Social Security on inequality or other interesting economic variables, whether in the U.S. time series or across countries. This kind of assessment is not just a matter of accounting,