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The mechanics are similar, but the motivations are different - in a Ponzi Scheme, the numbers need to keep growing to keep paying out ever-increasing amounts, otherwise people will abandon the scheme. The payouts from Social Security will go down (or inflation will eat them, or some other equivalent) if less gets put in; but it won't kill the scheme. Young people will still put money in, because they have no choice.

Social Security isn't a magic pot of gold. Nobody believes it is. It's welfare that's designed to give more welfare to the people who contributed more when they are able, and less to the people who didn't contribute.

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