How do we explain young American voters’ attraction to Socialism in their enthusiastic support for the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed, life-long Socialist who expresses contempt for capitalism and a market economy – the only economic system that has ever lifted great portions of humanity out of poverty?
Sanders likes to point to socialist “success stories” like Sweden and Denmark, but both of these countries are moving away from Sanders-style socialist economies. Sweden has eliminated its inheritance tax and cut its corporate income tax. As refugee groups overwhelm government services in Sweden, voters are questioning whether they can continue to provide so many free services without bankrupting the country.
In the past, liberals in America have pointed to countries such as Italy, Greece, France and Cuba as workers’ paradises where citizens were offered a multitude of free things – child care, healthcare, food, housing, higher education, guaranteed income of high minimum wages. In many of these nations today, their government bonds are given junk status. For example, Greece is in de facto bankruptcy because Athens cannot cover the runaway costs of all these free things: pay checks, pensions, welfare benefits and medical exams. Fifty percent of their young people don’t have a job, and more than half of Greeks retire before age 60. Simply put, there are too many people in the wagon with too few people left to pull the wagon.
Other countries – Argentina, Italy, Spain Portugal, France, as well as the U.S., have experimented over the last decade with quasi-socialist government. Almost all these countries are in a recession or are experiencing very low-growth economies.
The key to funding a socialist government and its programs is the aggressive redistribution of income and wealth through confiscatory tax rates. Economic freedom with a market economy, however, is the opposite of socialism.
Socialism with a government directed, top-down economy is incompatible with liberty. In mid-February, the Heritage Foundation released its annual Economic Freedom of the World index. This index shows that “nations that are economically free have freer trade, smaller welfare states, lower taxes, a lighter hand with regulation, private ownership of the means of production and the rule of law.” Countries that are economically free have five times the per capita average annual income ($55,000) of countries that are the least free ($9,000). And the poor do better in nations that are economically free and worse in Bernie Sanders-style nations.
While Bernie Sanders continues to sing the praises of a socialist approach to government and Hillary Clinton joins him in the chorus – especially for free college for everyone – it cannot be disputed that capitalism and a market economy have offered more prosperity and more freedom to more people than any other economic system in history.
America needs to just say no to Bernie Sanders’ style of creeping socialism. Easing the stranglehold of the regulatory overreach can go a long way toward restoring a more free and robust economy with more opportunities for economic growth and job creation in our nation.
There is no free lunch regardless of what politicians may promote. Someone always has to pay. If it is free to you, someone else had to bear the cost. Margaret Thatcher famously reminded us that socialism only works until you run out of other people’s money. The problem with young American voters’ attraction to socialism is that they want someone else to pay for all the free stuff they want, like a college education. And healthcare. And child care. And housing. And guaranteed income. And pensions. And early retirement. And more paid time off work.
And who wouldn’t? But as attractive as it sounds, it just doesn’t work in the long run.
Pat Freibert is a former Kentucky state representative from Lexington.