Socialism seems to be the only thing that mainstream media wants to talk about when they interview Bernie Sanders: Are you a socialist? Will the United States be a socialist country under the Democratic party if Bernie Sanders is President?
Yes, in part, this is mainstream media’s way of trying to dumb-down the conversation for its viewers. To be clear, Bernie Sanders is not afraid to say he is a socialist, but in mainstream scrums he prefers to be specific about what he is in favor of: free national single-payer healthcare, free post-secondary education, and a higher minimum wage. But to look into whether Sanders is truly a socialist, and whether it actually matters, let’s start by defining and distinguishing between socialism and capitalism in order to gain clarity on the ideological context that Sanders is dealing with in the United States.
This Investopedia article helps provide context:
Capitalism and socialism are the two primary economic systems used to understand the world and the way economies work. Their distinctions are many, but perhaps the fundamental difference between capitalism and socialism lies in the scope of government intervention in the economy. The capitalist economic model relies on free market conditions to drive innovation and wealth creation and regulate corporate behavior; this liberalization of market forces allows for the freedom of choice, resulting in either success or failure. The socialist-based economy incorporates elements of centralized economic planning, utilized to ensure conformity and to encourage equality of opportunity and economic outcome.
In a capitalist economy, property and businesses are owned and controlled by individuals. The production and prices of goods and services are determined by how in demand they are and how difficult they are to produce. Theoretically, this dynamic drives companies to make the best products they can as cheaply as they can, meaning that consumers can choose the best and cheapest products,. Business owners should be driven to find more efficient ways of producing quality goods quickly and cheaply.
This emphasis on efficiency takes priority over equality, which is of little concern to the capitalist system. The argument is that inequality is the driving force that encourages innovation, which then pushes economic development. In a capitalist economy, the state does not directly employ the workforce. This can lead to unemployment during times of economic recession.
In a socialist economy, the state owns and controls the major means of production. In some socialist economic models, worker cooperatives have primacy over production. Other socialist economic models allow individual ownership of enterprise and property, albeit with high taxes and stringent government controls.
The primary concern of the socialist model, in contrast, is an equitable redistribution of wealth and resources from the rich to the poor, out of fairness and to ensure “an even playing field” in opportunity and outcome. To achieve this, the state intervenes in the labor market. In fact, in a socialist economy, the state is the primary employer. During times of economic hardship, the socialist state can order hiring, so there is full employment even if workers are not performing tasks that are particularly in demand from the market.
In reality, most countries and their economies fall in-between these two extremes. Some countries incorporate both the private sector system of capitalism and the public sector enterprise of socialism to overcome the disadvantages of both systems. These countries are referred to as having mixed economies. In these economies, the government intervenes to prevent any individual or company from having a monopolistic stance and undue concentration of economic power. Resources in these systems may be owned by both state and individuals.
The American Context
One could rightly say that socialism, not capitalism, was the first system brought to American soil by European colonists. When a group of early settlers arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, their plan was to establish collective property ownership. Their charter called for farmland to be worked communally and for the harvests to be shared. The results were frightening. Many settlers were unwilling to work hard for the common good, and then those who were doing their share lost their motivation to continue to ‘carry the load’ themselves. As a result, many fields were largely untilled and unplanted. Famine came as soon as they ate through their provisions. After famine came plague, and half the colony died.
In his memoirs, Plymouth governor William Bradford explained what happened next:
At length, after much debate of things, the Governor… gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves… And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end.
This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression. (source)
Not only did the colonists work much harder, but they were motivated to innovate. They traded with the Indigenous population and were eager to learn from them how to plant maize, squash and pumpkin and how to rotate these crops from year to year. This resulted in bountiful harvests. On the strength of this real-world experience, and other similar ones from surrounding colonies, the American identity of hard work and innovation was founded, having a significant impact not only on their thirst for independence, but on the content of the Constitution on which their Republic is based.
Needless to say, Americans have historically rejected socialist doctrines, and for similar reasons have vehemently rejected and fought against the influence of communism, which was seen by Marx as the logical endpoint of socialism. To be seen as a ‘socialist’ in American politics has long been a campaign-wrecker.
So Why Is Bernie Sanders Popular?
Note in the ‘Special Considerations’ section above that the economies of most countries fall between the ‘extremes’ of capitalism and socialism. That is because in its purest form, unbridled capitalism inevitably leads to an ever-increasing wealth disparity between the haves and the have-nots, while pure socialism, as in the above example, stifles motivation to work, learn and innovate. Both of these ideologies, in extremes, can lead to a complete disintegration of social and economic order.
The reason Sanders has gained popularity in recent years is that the United States is nearing the breaking point in terms of wealth disparity between the rich and the poor, with the middle class rapidly eroding. Bernie Sanders preaches a brand of socialism he calls ‘Democratic Socialism,’ in which he alleges ‘the people’ will control the means of production rather than the financial elite who are at the top end of the wage disparity.
Details about how this actually works are sketchy. Amid fears that socialism really centralizes the power within ‘Big Government,’ the Democratic Socialists of America website had this to say:
Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.
Of course, logic dictates that it would be very unwieldy and inefficient to have the country run by popular consensus, and that a massive and all-powerful bureaucracy within a centralized government would currently seem inevitable. While Sanders uses examples of different countries in the world considered to be socialist in nature, he hand-picks small and specific successes in certain countries, like universal healthcare or free education, but is not able to point to any particular country that has fully and successfully implemented ‘Democratic Socialism.’ Countries like Sweden, which is often used as an example, actually credit a return to some capitalistic principles to explain their return to economic viability in the past few decades. (source)
Why It Doesn’t Matter
Many of the ideals of socialism may be appealing, but as we saw in the Plymouth example, they are not easily implemented in the real world. In all likelihood, if Bernie Sanders is elected President and he maneuvers the United States into some kind of socialist country, he will only be shifting the power from private corporations and banks to a centralized industrial-governmental entity that controls the means of production, which would wield unprecedented power in the American economy. In practical terms, that means the corrupt global elite who bribed, threatened, and murdered their way into controlling the American economy will just start to shift roles and arrange to occupy the seats of this new power. In other words, the Deep State will still be in charge. And consolidating power within a large bureaucratic institution makes it much easier for that power to be insulated and maintained.
In addition, I believe Bernie Sanders is really a political hack who is only interested in getting a prime seat within the ruling class. Why do I say that? Simply by the fact that, after becoming aware that the 2016 Democratic Party nomination was literally stolen from him by Hillary Clinton and her full control over and illegal activities within the Democratic National Committee (a committee that is supposed to be neutral and impartially supportive of all candidates), he did not do what some of his more ardent supporters wanted him to do: disavow the DNC, lambaste Hillary Clinton, and perhaps even take her to court and run for the presidency as an independent. Instead, he remained quiet and eventually supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, just like someone who had been promised the moon to toe the party line. And in supporting Clinton and remaining with the Democratic Party, all signs indicate that he is aligned with the Deep State and will be prepared to do their bidding if he gets elected, whether he wants to call it ‘Democratic Socialism’ or anything else.
No, Bernie Sanders and his version of socialism are not the answers to the woes of American citizens. The matter at hand is not whether to choose capitalism or socialism, or even finding a way to strike the right balance between the two. The matter at hand is overcoming Deep State control and enslavement and restoring the power to the Constitution and the freedom of individuals that it protects. While Donald Trump could be accused of many things including engaging in crony capitalism, a growing number of people believe that the main reason he decided to run for President in the first place was to help an alliance of insiders take down the Deep State. If this turns out to be true, and they are successful, then this is where the resurrection of the United States of America, and perhaps even the world as a whole, will be found.
Only our discernment of the true source of the problems in America and throughout the world gives us the context to evaluate whether a move to become more of a socialist nation really matters. In the case of Bernie Sanders ever becoming President, corruption and control from the top would likely be left unchanged. As we continue to become aware that unelected powers have long enjoyed massive control over our social and economic fate, we become agents of change that will help bring down these forces, leading us to a much higher level of freedom and prosperity no matter where on the continuum between capitalism and socialism we decide to operate from.