The two papers that make up the core of this book address what is perhaps the most fundamental question in the current debate over Social Security: whether to shift, in part or even entirely, from today's pay-as-you-go system to one that is not just funded but also privatized in the sense that individuals would retain control over the investment of their funds and, therefore, personally bear the associated risk. John Shoven argues yes, Henry Aaron no. Theoretical issues such as the likely effects on saving behavior and capital formation figure importantly in this discussion.
Public and private pensions control almost a quarter of the United States' tangible wealth—equivalent to all of the country's residential real estate. They account for most current saving in the country, are a crucial component of household retirement resources, and have significant effects on labor market mobility and efficiency. Collectively, they hold a tremendous proportion of all common stock.