Why is the notion of allowing the American people to decide how to invest their own money being treated as if it is so radical?

The money that supposedly exists in Social Security trust funds is not the government's money. It is money the government forced American workers to pay in order to provide a small measure of security for retired and disabled people. Ideally, workers eventually will take out what they put in.But, for decades, the government has been collecting more money than it needs to pay out right away, and it has been using the rest to pay for other things. Soon, this tactic won't work any more. The so-called "baby boom" generation is aging. When it hits retirement age, the number of workers won't be sufficient to cover the promised benefits. By 2030, if current demographic trends hold, only two workers will exist for every beneficiary.

Luckily, lawmakers and the president have caught on to this. Social Security reform seems to have worked its way near the top of the national agenda. Luckier still, several other nations already have shown the way. Great Britain, Australia and Chile have successfully privatized their public retirement systems.

Privatization is the only worthwhile solution. It would preserve the integrity of the system and recognize, finally, the fact that Social Security funds belong to contributors, not the government. Under the current system, retirees are receiving far less for their money than they would if their contributions had been placed in even the most conservative investments. If they had been allowed to invest in even a moderately aggressive stock portfolio, those retirees could live a life that truly is financially secure.

A number of privatization plans have been proposed. All would provide a measure of choice for contributors, who could pick which way to invest their money.

Some politicians see this as radical. They worry that downturns in the market could leave retirees vulnerable. They worry that contributors won't know how to make wise investment decisions. They worry too much.

People today are more market savvy than ever. The stock market isn't absolutely safe, but its long-term performance has been impressive. A good retirement system would allow many investment options, including safe, government secured funds for jittery investors. It would allow people the flexibility to change their investments.

Most of all, it would allow people to do something that makes sense - to make decisions about their own money.