Bernie Sanders is an interesting man. He is a 75 year old politician with a fan base made up of adoring teenagers and twenty-somethings. The admitted socialist is in the top 4% of American income earners (what a difference 3% can make), and claims to fight for the poor and downtrodden from all three of his homes.
But what interests me the most about the senator from Vermont is not the glaring contradictions between his personal life and public views. I do not doubt for a second that his socialist beliefs are genuine, even if they are incongruous with his lifestyle. What interests me, and concerns me, is that his devotion to socialism is sincere.
During the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, many on the right, myself included, had a good deal of fun laughing at the economic illiteracy of Sander’s proposals.
As president, Sanders promised to enact a host of expensive polices – from expanding the already insolvent social security, to new entitlements like “free” college and single-payer healthcare, a massive increase in the minimum wage, universal childcare, an immense infrastructure package, etc. etc. etc. All of that sounds really nice. Who is against sending people to college, giving healthcare to the sick, or a raise to poor people who could really use the money?
Reality. Reality is against it.
Socialism is an ideology that sounds great as along as you never go past the part where you talk about free stuff to examine how all those “free” programs will be paid for or enacted. Those concerns are usually brushed off with claims that those terrible “millionaires and billionaires” will pay for it all. But of course, socialists never consider that there may be reactions or consequences to their grand designs. But this is of no great concern to socialists. Sanders freely admits he is not troubled by the extensive debt that would result from his proposals, and while it is a serious issue, debt is not the most worrisome part of socialism.
Coded in the language of compassion, socialism is all about control.
Thursday, Sanders sent a tweet that illustrates the dangers of socialism far greater than his proposed $18 trillion in new spending.
Again, let’s skip over the obvious hypocrisy of a politician berating wealthy Americans for owning multiple cars so soon after paying nearly $600,000 for his third house, a beach front vacation property. The implicit message behind this tweet is that he, Bernie Sanders, should be able to decide what American citizens can and cannot have.
And lest you think Sanders would limit his economic restrictions to the famously wealthy, during the presidential campaign he also criticized the variety of deodorants and shoes everyday Americans can choose from as something “you don’t necessarily need.” You see, Sanders believes he knows best how to allocate almost every dollar and every product in our $19 trillion economy that serves over 320 million Americans. You don’t really need those shoes, that car, that insurance, that college, that job, or that food; Sanders will tell you what you need, and that is what you will get.
Although America was fortunate enough to avoid a socialist victory last year, Sanders was kind enough to provide an example of his vision in practice. In 2011, Sanders posted to his Senate website a “must read” that concluded: “These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger. Who’s the banana republic now?”
Let’s ignore the anti-Americanism there and focus on the choice of Venezuela as a model to emulate. Even in 2011, it should have been obvious to anyone not blinded by ideology that Venezuela was a dictatorship heading for economic collapse. Well, if it wasn’t clear then, it certainly is now.
Despite having the world’s largest proven oil reserves (yes, even more than Saudi Arabia), Venezuela is circling the drain. Venezuela’s unemployment rate is at 25%, its economy shrank 18% last year, and inflation is set to hit 720% this year and estimated to be over 2000% next year. Venezuelan’s are short on food, medicine, and even toilet paper.
The tragedy is, this desperate situation is entirely man made. Socialists like to talk about helping the poor and the sick, but their policies inevitably create greater poverty and sickness. And here’s the stickler – they also lead to tyranny.
Containing the determination to help the poor, a supreme confidence in their own abilities, and the belief they are justified in dictating what people can and cannot have, socialists inevitably seek more and more power while shedding their qualms about using it. Socialists desire control, and their trust in their own wisdom and goodness compels them to brush aside dissent.
As their economic fallacy creates greater poverty, all they see is the greedy rich thwarting their plans; this justifies assuming more power to combat the opposition; the increased suppression of the free market leads to more poverty, and the downward spiral continues.
Venezuela is an extreme example, but not because there is anything special about the Latin American nation. That country has great potential with its natural resources and was never destined for dictatorship. But socialism brooks no dissent, and any committed socialist program must go the way of Venezuela.
No, Sanders has not proposed arming militias and shooting protesters. But as a socialist, Sanders has strenuously argued for the control over American’s economic choices and class based sanctions that inevitably lead down that path. Venezuela may be an extreme example, but it was Sanders’ example of a goal to emulate before it was my example of a tyranny to fear. Socialists tell us what they want; we should listen.