I have a confession. I like Sen. Bernie Sanders personally. What’s not to like?
Sanders is like that uncle who would visit your family when you were a kid and perform magic tricks. One moment he is pulling a quarter from your ear or miraculously separating his thumb away from the rest of his hand, and it was amazing. But what you would learn later in life was that it was an illusion, a fun distraction. We have the luxury as kids to believe the illusion, but as voting adults we have a greater responsibility. That is what Sanders is peddling, the dangerous allure of a new “Shangri-La” known as democratic-socialism.
The fact is democratic-socialism is a misnomer, a contradiction in terms, two ideologies that are counter to each other. In an America that is a constitutional-republic, bound at times by a loose confederation with democratic tendencies, are the concepts of democracy and socialism even compatible? Many Americans believe they are compatible, flocking to his “Lost Horizon,” freely calling themselves democratic-socialists, without understanding the true historical understanding of our own form of government, let alone the dangers of a pure democracy or the eventual tyranny of socialism.
No political-economic system is perfect, and although democracy and socialism mean different things to different people, a factual understanding of both would lead a logical person to understand the goals of socialism and democracy are at odds with each other. A common understanding by some of democracy is that it is often tied to the ideas of political free expression and self-determination. In this regard, some people believe democracy serves as a shield against others more powerful than themselves.
At its foundation, socialism is a form of collectivism that may be suited for a family or small, intimate groups familiar with each other, but will eventually cave in on itself as population expands. In a socialist society, government seizes control of the means of production. The fact is socialism uses control over capital, land, free-expression and the means of labor to institute an economic structure to control people.
French historian Alexis de Tocqueville best described the difference when he wrote – “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference, while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
With democratic-socialism there will always be a fight for balance between individual liberty and self-determination (democracy) and the control of a central authority (socialism). In the end, eventually the democratic principles are washed away, and the tentacles of socialism will wrap tightly around every aspect of the society. The tragedy is those who embrace democratic-socialism eventually voluntarily become slaves to an oppressive system of their own creation.
Democratic-socialism is socialism, and Sanders policies reflect that. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sanders plans would cost $18 trillion, and would raises taxes by 34 percent (Tax Policy Center). Further complicating this issue is that Sanders points to Scandinavian countries as an example of successful socialist societies. The fact that they practice what is known as the Nordic model also masks the fact many of the countries are experiencing numerous breaking points related to the stress on the welfare state they created. Additionally, the matter of human nature must also be factored into the equation. The Nordic culture is built upon trust, with a strong work ethic and an emphasis on personal responsibility.
Many of the Nordic countries consist of a small, homogeneous population, which is being tested by an influx of immigration and a discontented, younger generation burdened by high taxation. The problem of a country that has 5 million people and is roughly the size of California (Finland), cannot compare to a country the size of the U.S., with 320 million people, who derive from many different regions and cultures. Are there things we could learn from the Nordic model? Absolutely. Just as the Nordic model has learned from those in America that practice an ethical, free-market.
With Sanders’ rhetoric, we are seeing a growing population that believes an ethical, free-market is somehow unfair and that through government they will find equality. As citizens we have lost our sense of economic stewardship and self-reliance. Most of us understand fair taxation is needed to ensure we pay for government and provide a societal safety net; but socialism promotes legalized theft by redistributing wealth in the name of social justice, and leads to further dependence on a distant government.
Sanders may seem like he is offering a utopia, but what he is in fact offering is an illusion, a pathway to servitude. I understand there are elements of our economic structure that need to be addressed. However, an ethical, free-market has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic -political structure. So long as people are free to earn money, offer a product and service desired by the community, hire individuals, thereby expanding the economy, there will be individual liberty for all who choose that path.