In defense of Bernie Sanders and his revolution

Nick Sallen, Editor-in-Chief

To conservatives, capitalism is often synonymous with living the American dream. Capitalism is the ‘pursuit of happiness’ from the Declaration of Independence. Conservatives enjoy the free markets which have been established by the North American Free Trade Agreement and typically are not in favor of business regulators, such as the Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency, which might dip into their profits.

To liberals, capitalism can imply individual greed, vast income inequality and lack of government protections for the poor. Liberals often confuse capitalism with “crony” capitalism, which will give special treatment to businesses in the form of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks or bailouts. A perfect example of this kind of capitalism can be found in the 2008 bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two government-backed mortgage lenders.

An article was published last week saying that a Bernie Sanders presidency would have been disastrous for the U.S. economy because Sanders is a socialist. Her argument was that socialism breeds laziness, kills economic growth and limits opportunities by making everyone equal. What she failed to realize in her argument is that Sanders is not a socialist. Rather, he is favorable of social democracy, a style of government found in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

True socialism, whenever and wherever it has been tried, always ended in disaster.

Sanders is not a typical socialist because he does not want the state to own banks and make cars. His proposed tax plan will eliminate corporate tax loopholes that riddle the U.S. tax code. He would also heavily increase taxes on businesses and the wealthiest individuals.

Considering the negative connotations of socialism in America, it is a bit of a puzzle why Sanders insists on mislabeling his political ideology.

The Scandinavians have proved that social democracy is an economically viable option, given their high level of wealth redistribution and income inequality. Those who oppose social democracy should consider that Norway, Sweden and Denmark are able to find success with their socialist programs because their government is smaller than the U.S. Big government and socialism often go hand-in-hand, but a social democracy can be run with a smaller government, much to the disbelief of conservatives.

The United States already has a plethora of socialist programs, including: highway and road construction, public services such as police and fire departments, mail delivery, social security, medicare, student loans and grants and the FDA or EPA, just to name a few. While there are individuals who take advantage of the welfare system, socialism is not to blame here. Instead, the regulators who oversee the redistribution of funds should be to blame for poor resource management.

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. economy is not a free, capitalist market. Rather, our economy is somewhat regulated by the government, making it a mixed economy.

Also, the majority of enterprises in America are privately run and owned. As a consequence, much of the wealth created is privately produced. That’s capitalism.

Therefore much of the wealth produced by the private sector each year is not spent by the private sector, but by the government. Today, local, state and federal governments spend 39 percent of the gross domestic product. That’s capitalism and socialism.

Thus, while production in the U.S. is dominated by the private sector, the government is by far the single most important spender and, consequently, the single most important economic factor. In fact, many of the most important financial decisions made by ordinary Americans during the course of their lives, such as the purchase of healthcare, social security, education and housing, are heavily influenced by the government. That means that if we were to transition to a social democracy with many of the social programs already in place, government already being the single most important economic factor and our mixed economy very little would change. I could argue that, in a sense, we are already in a social democracy. But that’s another article for another day.

Over the next decade, the U.S. government will have to face many problems including: wage stagnation for low-income families, deteriorating infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, energy shortages and budget deficits including significant shortages for state and local governments. I think a social democracy will be better able to handle these problems than a capitalist democracy would.

Pure socialism is not a viable government option. Nobody has figured out a way to have a truly socialist government with high rates of growth over a long period of time. But I think our version of capitalism is seriously flawed. As a nation which values competition in free markets, we have been too soft and forgiving to the wealthiest people in our nation and bailed out too many businesses. It is time for big businesses and the top 1 percent to pay their fair share.

In a social democracy, individuals and corporations continue to own the capital and the means of production. Much of the wealth, in other words, is produced privately. That said, taxation, government spending and regulation of the private sector are much heavier under social democracy than would be the case under pure capitalism. I think the addition of government regulators such as the EPA and FDA are extremely valuable in making sure the products we choose to consume are good for our health and good for the health of our planet as business is concerned with profit margins, not the quality of their product.

America is not the bastion of capitalism that some make it out to be. In fact, U.S. taxes, spending and regulation are quite high when compared to truly economically free countries. America’s is a mixed economy and so are Scandinavian countries. We’re not so different after all, it seems.

Ultimately, I believe in freedom above everything, and options are a form of freedom.

Right now I can send mail through the public postal service, or I can choose a private option like FedEx. I can send my kids to public school or private school.

As a liberal, I don’t want a government takeover, I want options. I think we should have the freedom to be able to choose to have government health care if we don’t like our private plan. If we are 18-64, we have no options or freedom over our own health care. We need more options and I don’t understand why this isn’t viewed as a corporate takeover of health care. Monopolies are never good for the economy.

Social democracy is not a bad thing, so let’s just stop the fear mongering and mislabeling surrounding Sanders and his social democracy ideology. Socialist ideas is, and will continue to be, in our nation’s laws.

Nick Sallen is the editor in chief for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]