Bernie Sanders’ Socialism In One Lesson

by | May 28, 2015 | POLITICS

People have a moral right to keep what they earn, and distribute or not distribute it as they see fit.


Socialist and Democratic candidate for President Bernie Sanders:

You can’t just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on. [Source: 5/26/15]

Do you like Sanders’ statement, or do you find it foolish and absurd? If you find it foolish and absurd, can you say why?

You might feel a sense of guilt. For example, you might thank, “Sanders is an idiot. But he’s also saying that it’s more important to feed hungry children than it is to have 23 brands of deodorant. How can I dispute that?”

This unresolved sense of guilt is what leads to the triumph of socialism, even in America where most people still probably do not think of themselves as socialists.

In Sanders’ mind, it’s one or the other. It’s either 23 brands of deodorant or it’s starving children. There’s no other way.

Sanders evades the fact that an economic system which offers 23 brands of deodorant is the only kind of economic system that could ever hope to reduce or eliminate starvation.

How much starvation is really a problem in America is a debatable point. Obviously, people like Sanders want you to believe there is a problem. Even if you accept this assumption, that starvation is a real problem in America, how best to resolve it? Through government-monopolized redistribution or through production and trading?

Distribution and redistribution happen every day, under both capitalism and socialism. Under socialism, the distribution is monopolized by government coercion. Under capitalism, the distribution is voluntary and based on individual estimates and judgments of self-interest.

What Sanders is really saying is: Give up the comforts of capitalism in favor of the starving children (who may or may not exist.) He takes it for granted that by enjoying the fruits of a productive and competitive society, you’re somehow harming those who — for whatever reasons — are not doing well.

Sanders offers socialism in one lesson: Forget the rights of individuals, and take it for granted that producers will always produce, no matter what — and distribute the spoils.

If intelligent and objective aliens arrived from another planet, what would they think in contrasting two different economic and social systems, capitalism versus socialism? Cuba or North Korea versus, say, the United States?

These intelligent aliens would have to observe the following:

“Here’s one country (the United States) with an amazing level of, and capacity for, production. For the most part, people keep what they earn. Economic conditions are not equal. Yet everyone is better off; even the lowest income earners are way better off than the citizens of the impoverished countries where there may be equal rights economically, but little or no production via capitalism. In the U.S., there’s actually more charity than in the other countries, and there’s also more affordability than in the other countries, because of all this production. You can’t have charity without something to give away, and capitalism produces the goods.

Now in North Korea and Cuba, there are no property rights. Nobody is allowed to keep anything they earn. Everything is run by the government. There actually is a lot of suffering, stagnation and even starvation in these countries. On the one hand, the government can claim that everybody has a right to have their basic economic needs met; while in the other country, that’s not necessarily true. Yet the other country, the U.S., has a phenomenally superior situation where even the poorest are better off. Even those depending totally on charity are better off, because of all the production. North Korea and Cuba guarantee security, and equal economic conditions for all citizens; but there’s no incentive to produce, no ability to produce, and consequently not a whole lot to consume or redistribute. In America, there are untold benefits because of all the production.”

Under socialism, redistribution is the key. Under capitalism, production is the key. And by any remotely rational consideration, production trumps redistribution.

The issue is more than economic; it’s moral. Quite simply, people have a moral right to keep what they earn, and distribute or not distribute it as they see fit. By producing something that earns a lot of money, you are not harming anyone else. If you had never produced that money or wealth, the people who have less (in comparison) are no worse off now that you have all that money. You have not done harm to them, unless you physically hurt or defraud them. You don’t harm others simply by being successful. If anything, you help them, because there is now more economic activity (jobs, etc.) because of the increased activity your success creates.

When a government practices compulsory redistribution, it ends any hope of morality. The moment the first penny is taken from someone by force, no matter what the rationalization, is the moment that civilized society is over. The rest is only a matter of time.

Sanders understands everything I’m saying. The only difference is: What I’m calling immorality is what he calls morality.

Sanders’ fatal flaw is that he assumes production will stay the same once you take redistribution to its complete conclusion, as he’d like to do (by restoring a 90 percent tax rate, to name one example.) He thinks it’s moral for the government to legalize theft and robbery, but he’s morally wrong in thinking that. He’s also stupid and foolish. Why? Because he actually believes that government, once it initiates legalized theft, looting and plunder, will remain a moral government. How could it? And why should it, once it has this power? And he’s also stupid and foolish for believing producers will continue to produce once most or even all of their wealth is confiscated and redistributed. How could they? And why should they?

Sanders is the consistent and unapologetic proponent of what redistributors like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama likewise think. His views matter, because Obama and Clinton favor the exact same things, for the same reasons, and on the same premises — even if at a slower pace. (Frankly, so do most Republicans — even if by default, because of the unhealthy guilt they feel from disagreeing with an explicit socialist like Bernie Sanders.)

You can’t just continue growth,” says Sanders. By “you,” in this statement, Sanders means “us.” In his view, there is no “I.” It’s all “us.” This attitude and philosophy is called collectivism. Collectivism is the idea that individuals do not have rights, needs or responsibilities; only groups or societies do.

Of course, there is no collective brain. There is no collective “we” to make all the proper decisions for us. So who decides, under a system of collectivism as Sanders advocates? Certain designated individuals. Superior individuals. That’s the office he’s running for — the high commander, the superior individual.

America does not need a superior individual to do our collective thinking for us. We only need a system that protects the rights and needs of the individual. In the process, we’re all free to be lifted — materially and intellectually — to the highest levels of which we’re capable. That system is not Sanders’ socialism. It’s capitalism.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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