Initially, Hoffer's argument seems to be a logical one. Those who spend too much time thinking about what may happen are probably going to alter what is actually happening now. So someone who is preoccupied and worrying about an earthquake hitting their city may not realize that life is grand and their city is especially beautiful. Instead, that someone may be spending time reinforcing his home, ensuring his personal effects are in a safe place, and planning for a time when there may be no power. All his waking hours may be spent trying to plan for this future natural disaster or catastrophe. This seems to be what Hoffer implies by his reference to rearranging the past. If that worried and preoccupied person had been enjoying life unfettered, he might be hiking with his friends on the weekends instead of reviewing his list of what needs to be done to prepare for the anticipated earthquake. He may be spending time with his family members instead of taking crystal heirlooms out of a display case in the living room and storing them somewhere safe. He may be composing a piece of music rather than moving the piano out of his front room and to a safer place. The anticipated future may never happen, but his rearranged past certainly has. Due to his preoccupation with something that may or may not ever happen, he has altered his life and taken time that he will never get back. What the person is doing is not wrong, per se, since he is admittedly preoccupied. He probably can't help himself and simply can't see the present as it is. He is rearranging his life and his past, but it probably doesn't matter. He is able to sleep at night knowing that he has done all he can to protect himself from the anticipated disaster.
Many people working today will never see a penny of what they are paying into social security. That may seem wrong, but social security payments were never intended for everyone. The original plan for social security was for the fund to provide a minimum source of income for retired people, minors who have lost a head-of-household parent, and disabled people. The amount of money the average person receives in a monthly social security check is usually not enough to live on. The fund is designed to provide a very minimum standard of living guarantee to those who are no longer working. Many people supplement their social security payments with a company pension or individual retirement accounts set up by the individual. Because the fund is intended mainly for retirees, it is likely that not everyone who has paid into the social security fund will ever get their money. A percentage of people die before they retire. Some die a couple of years after they retire. To suggest that all of the money an individual has contributed to the system be available to his next-of-kin is preposterous, and probably even impossible. As money comes into the social security account, money goes out. It is not segregated into separate accounts for each person who has ever paid into it, and it is not interest-bearing. Even though the population has grown in the past few decades, it is probable that the money going in to the social security administration each month is less than the amount going out. There are many minors who are receiving payments today - probably more so than originally anticipated when the fund was created. The definition of "disability" has become broader than it was thirty or forty years ago, for example, and these children receive monthly checks to help their parents and caregivers take care of them. Most people pay into social security without any thought that the money would ever be available to heirs. If a person would like that type of account, he or she would do better to set up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and list next of kin to receive the payout in the event of the originator's untimely death.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013
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