The purpose of this paper is to address the development of a Social Security Act through its historical phases. Social Security has two distinct meanings in American life. Specifically it refers to the old age insurance system established by the Social Security Act of 1935. It also describes a much broader goal: the protection for all citizens against a wide range of suffering, including poverty, homelessness, disability, and ill health. The considerable difference between the two meanings says much about America's approach to social deprivation. The Social Security Act represented a sharp departure from previous American practice. The United States had traditionally celebrated individualism and voluntarism, and except for war veterans the national government prior to 1929 did not provide old age pensions, unemployment compensation, health insurance, and public assistance. The Great Depression of the early 1930s, however, created widespread suffering causing the Federal government to take action, because states, local communities and private charities neither had the financial resources to cope with the growing needs of the American people.
The administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to these pressures by signing the Social Security Act in 1935. In the long run, however, the old age insurance system grew to become America's most important social program.
The history of social security as we know it now can be linked back to early Greek civilization. The Greeks economic security was olive oil, in which it was stored in an amphora or jug. Through this process the olive oil could be stored for relatively long periods, therefore providing economic security for themselves in times of need (Social Security Online, n.d.). According to Jansson (2001), in medieval Europe, the feudal system was the basis of economic security, with the feudal lord responsible for the economic survival of the...