The age-old complaint against socialism is that it’s impractical and too expensive. Both complaints are entirely valid. However, this side of Ayn Rand, it’s rare to hear anyone go any further.
In a recent washingtonpost.com column [10-1-15] David A. Fahrenthold did — just a little. He acknowledged that socialism is really less about money than about control.
In the America that Bernie Sanders wants to create, tuition would be free for every student at every public college.
Which, of course, is another way of saying that the government would pay for it. To do that, the Democratic presidential candidate would spend $750 billion over 10 years and raise the money with a new tax on Wall Street trades.
And with the government paying for college, colleges would run by government rules. Sanders’s rules.
If he becomes president, Sanders would spend an enormous amount of money: $3.27 trillion. At the very, very least.
He is not just a big-spending liberal. His agenda is not just about money.
It’s also about control.
It’s an inevitable fact of life: He who pays for something wants say over how that money is spent. It’s reasonable and logical, on its own terms.
Strictly speaking, government does not pay for anything. It merely seizes, taxes, takes and redistributes. It all happens in the context of pressure group warfare. Americans are in large majorities — left and right — turning away in disgust from that pressure group warfare. What most (even on the right) do not yet understand is that socialism is what gives rise to that warfare.
Nevertheless, those running government have the arrogance to see themselves as knowing best. In a way, you cannot blame them. Majorities keep sending them into office to “take charge” of what a majority have concluded a marketplace cannot be trusted to do. That’s why Bernie Sanders, the outspoken socialist running for president, wants to seize control over higher education.
It’s easy to evade the real reasons as to why higher education is so expensive. For example, the fact that government currently subsidizes it by a student loan program run through the government. The student loan program is basically a government bank with political standards, not the financial ones that make a rational bank function. This inflates demand for college, making the cost of college higher than it otherwise would be. (That’s the economic reason). This also makes colleges more assured of customers (students) than they otherwise would be; this complacency and even arrogance makes colleges (as businesses) less accountable to their customers (i.e., students), and enables them to keep raising costs. (That’s the psychological reason).
When oil companies, or even doctors or hospitals, raise prices, they’re treated as moral monsters. When colleges raise prices, thanks to government incentives, people simply conclude, “College is too expensive. The government must fix that.”
Most people say, “Education should not be a business. Profit should have nothing to do with it.” They say it about health care too. Yet the less we permit these two major sectors of human activity (mind and body) to function like private enterprises, the more expensive and less rational and functional they become.
The two areas government most involves itself in, education and health care, are the most expensive and least accountable to their customers. Might there be a connection? Not in Bernie Sanders’ world. In his world, there’s no problem created by government control over 70 percent of the economy that can’t be solved by government control over 100 percent of the economy. Higher education is next on the list for socialization and nationalization.
If the high cost of college were really your primary concern, you’d try to examine the economic and psychological factors causing that inflation. Since the federal government already controls and manages much of anything having to do with higher education, you’d think an honest and objective observer would look at all the possible explanations for tuition inflation, including the federal government’s role. Or at least consider them.
But that’s not what Bernie Sanders is doing. And the reason is the one named by this unusually candid and astute commentator in the Washington Post: control.
Sanders said voters would welcome the change. Even if it means Americans must turn to the federal government to oversee new sectors of their lives. He bristles at the idea that this might be considered an intrusion.
“You’re not ‘turning to’ the government. You’re assuming that the government is some kind of foreign entity,” Sanders said in an interview. “The government, in a democratic society, is the people.”
Wow. “The government is the people.”
Which people, Bernie? The people with the most votes, and the guns/police officers/federal agents to back them up? What about the 49 percent — or even 1 percent, if that’s the number — who do not want the socialist policy being proposed?
It’s astonishing to think that Bernie Sanders believes what he’s saying. Even if you think it’s morally justified to use the force of 51 percent, or 99 percent, of “the people” to coerce the remaining minority to do their bidding, you ought to at least be intelligent enough to know that this is what you are doing.
“The people” refer to all of the people, not just the 51 percent or 62 percent you get on your side to fund yet another socialist program. “The people” include not just the majority, but the minority. “The people” include the smallest and most vulnerable minority of all: the individual.
The slogan of Sanders’ presidential campaign is “Feel the Bern.”
“Feeling Berned” is more like it.
Sanders is an old, established career politician whose socialist ideas are not new. Trying to reshape society with other people’s money and at the expense of individual rights and liberty? There’s nothing moral or economically feasible about that.
It will work as well as in America as it did in every other society who tried and failed at it. It’s not working now.