We’re living in dark times, and just about everyone can give you their version of evidence that civilization is on the brink of collapse. For some, it’s Donald Trump. For others, ISIS. Choose your preferred harbinger of the End Times.
For me, the person who’s earned my deepest contempt and is the clearest evidence that we’ve reached an absolute nadir and collapse of American principles in politics and culture is the presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
After spending his entire adult life as a political parasite espousing openly Marxist views and sympathies towards brutal Communist dictatorships, Sanders is currently enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame as The Principled Democratic Socialist Who’s Sticking It To The Fat Cats. Despite his highly dubious legislative record which includes support for Clinton’s Kosovo bombing campaign, the 1994 Crime Bill, four Iraq War appropriations bills as well as the notorious boondoggle known as the F-35, Sanders enjoys a largely unquestioned reputation as a politician of spotless virtue and courage. Fortunately, intellectual titan and all around champion of liberty, Tom Woods, has assembled a collection of transcripts from his indispensable podcast which systematically dismantle Sanders’ carefully crafted edifice of would-be moral rectitude and misguided policy prescriptions.
Sanders’ platform is not even remotely new or innovative, and if anything, is comprised merely of more expansive and bloated versions of pet projects that have been incubating within the Left for decades. What’s actually new about the Sanders phenomenon is that he’s packaged them into a unified political agenda and is presenting them on a national stage as ideas which belong in the Democratic Party platform. This is especially interesting and noteworthy given that Sanders has spent his entire political career in DC officially as a self-described Independent, but as a “democratic socialist” in public.
Naturally, Sanders and his supporters have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from the undeniable legacy of misery, repression, and economic dysfunction that’s been the hallmark of every socialist regime in history by condescendingly handwaving away any comparison between Bernie’s vision of socialism and the repressive dictatorships of past and present. Bernie doesn’t want Venezuelan socialism, he wants the nice version of DEMOCRATIC socialism like they have in Scandinavian countries! By invoking the welfare states of Northern Europe, Sweden and Denmark in particular, as irrefutable evidence that socialism is benign and benevolent, Sanders and his loyal Berners consistently and fallaciously argue that these are, in fact, socialist success stories AND that Sanders’ magical campaign promises will produce a comparable or greater outcome here without so much as a shred of evidence on which to base the ludicrous claim or the slightest concern for potentially adverse effects of implementing such an agenda.
Of course, these promises and glib pronouncements are either pathetic, manipulative delusions or outright falsehoods and distortions of reality. Tom Woods’ magnificent little book walks you through his entire agenda point by point and succinctly illustrates exactly why Bernie Sanders is Wrong.
The book is divided into four sections which cover the central pillars of his agenda: Sanders’ designs on implementing European-style welfare state policies, government subsidized renewable energy, minimum wage, and income inequality.
Woods starts off by letting out the gas in the hot air balloon of Scandinavian welfare state idolatry. Johan Norberg lays out a century’s worth of historical context around Sweden’s economic rise which includes a period of 50 years of laissez faire policy which created the prosperity for such a generous welfare state in the first place. The decline in Sweden’s overall prosperity after the implementation of the welfare state is never mentioned by Sanders or his supporters, nor are the policies which are friendlier to business. Norberg also discusses the ways in which the advent of the welfare state destroyed cultural bonds of trust that were forged over decades of organic social cooperation and market driven policy in a country that was, in fact, a white, Nordic monoculture. A fact that’s conveniently omitted by multiculturalists. Woods chose to limit the scope of his excerpt to Sweden’s economic history and development, but this section could have been further strengthened by some mention of the failure of immigration policies and the collapse of social cohesion which has been hastened by force feeding the population feminism and multicultural social justice politics.
Professor of Economics from Aarhus University, Christian Bjørnskov, unpacks the seemingly ubiquitous myth of Denmark as “the happiest country in the world.” Naturally, the Berners will chalk this up to the size of the welfare state and government mandated benefits, but Bjørnskov provides some sobering perspective. The benefits conferred by the welfare state do not contribute to an individual’s active pursuit of happiness, but simply become baked into the expectations of each citizen that aren’t consciously chosen. Subsequently, it breeds a higher level of entitlement amongst the population as well as a disincentive to produce. Bjørnskov makes a very interesting point about how state mandated 52-week maternity leave creates an artificial incentive for women to become mothers and often diminishes their future employment prospects. He concludes with some fascinating data about how the welfare state disincentivizes actual charity as well as some intentionally neglected liberal policies, like those found in Sweden, which are friendlier to business than the US.
Robert Bryce and Alex Epstein take a sledgehammer to the deathless progressive claims of the necessity of government investment in renewable energy. Bryce argues that if environmental protection is a priority, then the density of the energy source must be the primary measuring stick. Outrageous calls for a 20-fold reduction of fossil fuels are little more than a death sentence since renewable energy sources are not even remotely close to filling present or rising energy consumption needs. Epstein tackles the issue from both the moral and empirical perspective and elucidates some critical points that are absent from climate change alarmist script. Environmentalists consistently agitate for minimizing human impact for non-human life while ignoring positive metrics for humanity that are the direct result of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels.
Of all the progressive policy myths which have been the most durable, the minimum wage has enjoyed an extraordinarily long life. Like everything Sanders says, it has tremendous surface appeal because it gives the illusion of expanding prosperity, but the opposite is true. Former DOL economist, Diana Furchtgott-Roth swings a wrecking ball of truth against Sanders’ flimsy claims. The arguments against minimum wage will be familiar for those who actually investigate economics for 5 minutes, but as the appeal of Sanders attests, rationality and logic has yet to prevail. If you’re truly concerned about the welfare of the poor, then don’t criminalize work for low skill laborers whose labor isn’t worth $15 per hour, and most of all, don’t try to sell low skilled labor as a lifelong career path. The fact that Sanders is peddling minimum wage as a centerpiece of his economic platform shows how bankrupt his agenda is. For Sanders, creating wage floors on low skill labor and subsidizing college education without regard for what a student actually studies will somehow magically create prosperity.
Loyola University professor, Thomas DiLorenzo, adds some additional historical insight into the racist origins of minimum wage while bursting the mythology of labor unions as drivers of upward economic mobility. Progressive era business owners didn’t want to have to compete with firms who could hire cheaper black labor, so they agitated for minimum wages to price them out of the labor market and inhibit black economic upward mobility. By using the club of the State to criminalize non-union labor, unions make the market less competitive and only enshrine a culture of entitlement and mediocrity.
Another gaping hole in the Sanders platform mentioned briefly in the book is his disregard for the skill gap that already exists within the US labor force. While Sanders touts his confiscatory plans for subsidizing every art history and gender studies degrees for middle-class Americans, he ignores the 5mm jobs that are unfilled largely due to a shortage of skilled labor. Apparently, it’s more important to subsidize college so kids can study The Communist Manifesto and agitate for safe spaces than prepare them for adulthood with marketable skills.
Among the most revelatory chapters is the interview with physician and entrepreneur, Dr. Josh Umbehr. Dr. Umbehr runs a concierge medical practice modeled on a Netflix/Costco-style membership which covers the general practice medical services people actually need. For a monthly fee, people can gain access to any general practice medical care they need including home, office or online consultations. He explains how opting out of the ACA’s bureaucratic straightjacket allowed him pursue a business model that lowered costs, increased access and provided a better value for all of his patients. Just like virtually every other scientific profession, he encountered an antagonistic attitude towards business throughout his education, but ultimately rejected the false dichotomy.
Mark Perry from University of Michigan takes another swing at the seemingly indestructible myth of the so-called gender wage gap. Aside from equally laudable takedowns of this talking point by Christina Hoff Sommers, Claudia Goldin and seemingly countless others, Sanders, the feminist media/academic industrial complex and the Tumblrista Brigade won’t let this die. It doesn’t matter that women consistently choose different career paths that are less strenuous and less remunerative. It doesn’t matter that the Equal Pay Act of 1963 is already law. It doesn’t matter that women work fewer hours in aggregate. It doesn’t matter that motherhood plays a major role in a woman’s career choices and ambition. Sanders flogs this meme because it sounds good and scores “Equality” points with his base.
Scott Winship, Don Boudreaux, and Grant Phillips round out the book with some excellent discussion of free trade, inequality, and rising living standards resulting from capitalism. Sanders focuses solely on metrics that invoke outrage, greed, and envy while ignoring the affordability and accessibility of technology and consumer conveniences that were inconceivable to previous generations. The schism between unskilled labor and the acceleration of automation is an issue that warrants further discussion and scrutiny since it tends to validate arguments for universal income and the imminent arrival of the post-scarcity economy amongst the Berners.
Even if one sets aside all of the failures of morality and logic inherent in Sanders’ agenda, his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination seems both deeply opportunistic and fully at odds with his carefully cultivated pretense of principled independence. Beside the fact that he’s carefully avoided throwing any hard punches at Hillary, he’s only embraced the Democratic Party after assiduously avoiding identification with the Democratic Party throughout his entire career in Congress. Why should the Democrats embrace Bernie-come-lately as the leader of their party? If he really saw himself as a political maverick, why would he hitch his wagon to the DNC unless he had no real intention of clinching the nomination in the first place? He blames it on “the structure of American politics”, but not only is this a whiny cop out, it’s contrary to his previous public statements about the necessity of a third party. It seems he’s only interested in enjoying his cult of personality on the taxpayer dime while tilling the soil for a more overtly socialist tenor in Democratic Party politics.
Bernie Sanders’ candidacy perfectly epitomizes the classic socialist con game; lots of soaring appeals to secular morality, manipulative declamations around “equality”, and promises of bread and circuses which mask a naked hunger for power fueled by a blatant ignorance of and contempt for basic economics. Despite everything, Sanders’ reputation is seemingly beyond reproach to his loyal Berners. By carefully omitting his partisan support for the central bank, warfare and police state and maintaining rigid message discipline, Sanders has very skillfully avoided deep scrutiny from most of the media. The truth is that Sanders doesn’t have a single original idea in his policy toolkit, and his entire agenda should be called by its true name: soft Bolshevism. Thanks to Tom Woods’ excellent little book, he is exposed as the contemptible, parasitic fraud that he is.