Socialism Going Mainstream

Amongst some of my friends I often get into discussions about presidential candidates. Being somewhat neutral, or emotionally unattached to the outcome, I’ve offered the same unsettling prediction several times: Bernie Sanders will probably be our next president.

That might come as a shock to some, who think his brand of socialism might do well with certain demographics, but not in the mainstream. I disagree. The makeup of this country has, to quote our glorious leader, “fundamentally transformed” since 2008. The decline was already happening, mind you, but in the last seven years it has accelerated exponentially.

At the Mises Daily, Mises Institute Director Jeff Deist offers compelling evidence that Sanders’ politics are now commonplace, rather than the rare exception.

If anything, libertarians consistently misjudge the degree to which socialist thought is deeply rooted in the American psyche.

Like Sanders, millions of American progressives hold deeply statist and authoritarian beliefs:

  • changes in climate threaten human extinction;
  • fossil fuels should be banned, and alternative fuels should be mandated;
  • wealth and income should be forcibly redistributed;
  • no individual should earn more than a set amount of money each year;
  • welfare and entitlement programs should be vastly increased;
  • whole industries (healthcare, education) should be nationalized, while others (energy, banking) should be regulated to the point of de facto nationalization;
  • some form of global government should be installed;
  • a global wealth tax should be implemented;
  • private ownership of firearms should be banned;
  • anti-discrimination legislation should be applied to private religious organizations;
  • racial gender, and sexual orientation quotas should be mandated on both public and private employers;
  • certain types of speech should be criminalized;
  • certain criminals should be subjected to greater penalties if motivated by “hate”;
  • social justice should be pursued by any means necessary; and
  • government should attempt to engineer equality of outcomes.

These ideas, and the people who hold them, are not outliers in America. There are millions of rank and file progressives, mostly registered Democrats, who believe exactly as Bernie believes.

Political elections are not marketplaces that determine the legitimacy of ideologies. They incentive people to vote in ways that take away from others to give to themselves. If someone offers to give you free stuff, paid for by someone else, as opposed to someone who offers nothing but freedom, which will the common person choose? Does that make the one idea better because it’s more popular?

People today want to be taken care of. Sanders and others like him are offering to do that without taking a penny from their own wealth to finance it.

I wholly agree with Deist on what libertarians must do: steer clear of elections and focus on educating. Your support should be for ideas, not people.

Once people know you’re not simply making arguments to support “your guy” — or any guy — they tend to view you more impartially and hence more favorably.

I enjoy watching the spectacle that is the presidential election and any harm to the process a candidate can bring, but it can also be used as an opportunity to discuss libertarian ideas with people, which are virtually unrepresented. The most “libertarian” candidate, for example, would not pardon Snowden for exposing the corruption of the federal government rather than be given a Medal of Freedom.

I don’t expect to convert many to the cause. But it’s better than in my youth when I defended the integrity of some guy I had never met before was better to run my life and insult another man I had never met, either. Now I just insult all.

Keep your expectations low and your enthusiasm high.

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