A common law citizen trope which is no doubt in the final analysis completely bogus is that social security was modelled after mandated insurance for ships. David Siegel in another question suggested that it might have actually been insurance for railroad workers although I wonder if it wasn't more modelled from private pension schemes. Anyway is there any kernel of truth?

I kind of suppose that their interest in the topic more derives from the fact that it represents something that the government takes out of your every paycheck which it is thus widely satisfying and appealing to have a conspiracy theory-like explanation of.

  • 5
    I’m voting to close this question because This does not seem to ask a question about law or legal history but cultural history. This might be better served on History.SE - Hint: Social security systems developed hand in hand with the industrial revolution's rise of socialist groups.
    – Trish
    Jun 23, 2022 at 18:58
  • This could also be a great fit on skeptics.se
    – TCooper
    Jun 23, 2022 at 20:27
  • The history of the legal framework here is imo clearly on-topic at Law.SE Jun 23, 2022 at 23:05

1 Answer 1


According to the Wikipedia article "History of Social Security in the United States":

In the 1930s, the Supreme Court struck down many pieces of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation, including the Railroad Retirement Act. The Social Security Act's similarity with the Railroad Retirement Act caused Edwin Witte, the executive director of the President's Committee on Economic Security under Roosevelt ... to question whether or not the bill would pass

The official page "Historical Background and Development of Social Security" gives a fairly long and detailed history of both remote and immediate predecessor programs and concepts, including ones from other countries than the US.

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