Where Bernie Went Wrong
Teenagers of the world unite!
By Steven Martinovich
Self-described socialist and senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders probably never had a real chance at capturing the Democrat nomination – the party seems to prefer its radicals to be a little more closeted – but there is no arguing that he did speak to a significant number of people, particularly the young, who feel themselves politically and economically disenfranchised. His speeches also resonated outside of the Democrat Party who saw some truth in his attacks on a ruling elite he claimed was plundering America.
Hunter Lewis examines Bernie Sanders' statements and claims in his latest effort Where Bernie Went Wrong: And Why His Remedies Will Just Make Crony Capitalism Worse, a sometimes sympathetic look at the ex-candidate's campaign platform. As Lewis illustrates, however, where Sanders may get the underlying issue correct, his prescriptions are generally more of the same and would actually further entrench the very problems that he discussed on the campaign trail.
Where Bernie Went Wrong is divided into several broad categories where Lewis discusses Sanders' views on the wealthy, corporate America and trade, Wall Street and the U.S. Federal Reserve and the senator's proposals on various issues including health care, immigration, foreign policy and employment. For any conservative, Lewis' criticisms of Sanders' positions won't be much of a surprise but he does go the extra step of discussing historical precedents and writings to show why what Sanders has proposed simply won't work. At this point, can any thinking person truly believe that Keynesian prescriptions have a positive impact on an economy? Even its proponents admit that they do more harm than good…even while they agitate for more of the same.
The more interesting section is where Lewis examines Sanders' assault on crony capitalism. Sanders, like a good number of conservatives and fans of capitalism, are extraordinarily frustrated by the rigged arena that is modern American economic life. Big business essentially negotiates trade deals, writes legislation, heavily influences proposed regulations and uses the system to protect themselves against new entrants in the market or potentially disruptive – to their interests -- technologies. This is hardly new, Ayn Rand addressed crony capitalism repeatedly in her writings including this passage in 1957's Atlas Shrugged:
What Lewis – and Rand – understood, but Sanders apparently does not, is that crony capitalism a) is not capitalism any more than "democratic socialism" is democracy and b) depends equally on the corruption of business which seeks favours and government which grants it. Sanders proposes not a reduced role for government in the economy, which would at least place some sort of a check on its natural desire for growth and power-seeking, but a greater interventionist ability. Sanders believes that because he wants government to intervene in the economy for "the people" that somehow bureaucrats would act without bias and corruption.
Although Lewis does not state it, it may be why Sanders' political philosophy resonated among many of America's youth in 2016. It is ultimately a half-formed philosophy that appeals to people who haven't fully thought out the ramifications of what Sanders is calling for, something that every conservative teenager is aware of when they endure a high school civics class. Sanders well knows, after decades in politics, that government is only capable of picking winners without regard to what the market, or society, determines is a proper allocation of resources. Instead of big business, Sanders sides with big government, big union, big law and big social justice – none of whom have shown any predilection for doing what's right, only for doing what's in their narrow interests.
Sanders may have ended his campaign a few months back but his adolescent political and economic philosophies continue to resonate, making Where Bernie Went Wrong a worthwhile read while after November 8. Although Lewis occasionally sounds a little too sympathetic to Sanders, he is on the whole a good critic of the Vermont senator and does a capable job of refuting his platform – one that will undoubtedly live in part and untouched during any Clinton administration. It is a sad testimony on the decline of the original American ideals that this book is even necessary in 2016 so it is with some regret that it is recommended.
Steven Martinovich is the founder and editor of Enter Stage Right.
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