José Piñera's remarks after receiving the "Liberty Award for Opportunity" from Steve Forbes, President of "Americans for Hope, Growth and Opportunity"
New York, April 15, 1998.
I am deeply honored to receive this Liberty Award.
Yes, this worldwide mission to privatize Social Security is basically about giving everyone opportunity.
Opportunity to own wealth and not only receive income from the State.
Opportunity to be free from the bondage of misery or anxiety in old age.
Ultimately, opportunity to have a decent retirement income that allows individuals to live the evening of their lives with dignity.
But I must also say that I am humbled by the achievements of the other award recipients that you have chosen today, Milton and Rose Friedman and The Family Foundation.
Yesterday morning I spoke to an enthusiastic group of students at the University of Virginia. And afterwards I visited Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, for the first time.
While walking alone in its beautiful gardens, I thought of two profound insights of the author of your Declaration of Independence.
Allow me to share them with you because I believe that they hold the secret to the possibility of really privatizing Social Security in America.
Jefferson said: "The natural progress of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield."
In this way he showed a perfect understanding of the permanent tension between power and liberty.
And the state-run, tax-and-spend social security system that has reigned supreme in this century all over the world is a proof of the fact that there has not been eternal vigilance and that liberty has yielded too much.
So, to transform Social Security will require that this Jeffersonian admonition be paramount in the minds of Americans.
But that great man also saw the need for real leadership for a republic to survive and prosper. And his second insight is one in which he distinguished clearly between leadership and the mere quest for power.
He said: "Whenever a man casts a longing eye on public office, a rot begins in his conduct."
And the key phrase here is "a longing eye," by which Jefferson distinguished between the necessary role of public men and the illegitimate desire to hold office for its own sake.
Well, there were a few leaders in this country who dared to raise the issue of Social Security privatization in the last few years, when almost everyone thought that it was the so-called third rail of American politics.
We now know that it is not.
I would like to express my admiration for "Americans for Hope, Growth and Opportunity" for showing this leadership.
And now let's do it.
Let's move into a fully funded, investment-based system of individual retirement accounts and produce a paradigm shift in the role of government in modern society.
Transforming social security in this way can be a massive blow against the economic drag of the welfare state that has characterized the 20th century and stifled the creative spirit of mankind for too long.
God bless you all. And many, many thanks.