Peter Ross, from what I can gather from his profile,—he “deconstructs the psychology and philosophy of the business world, careers and every day life,” whatever that means”—is an “ivory tower intellectual” living in Australia. Nonetheless, he penned an op-ed to explain “the Thing so Many Americans Can’t Grasp About Bernie Sanders.”
The “many Americans,” of course, are Sanders’ opponents. We just don’t understand Sanders, lectures Ross. Let’s see about that.
Ross plugs Bernie Sanders as representing “a point on the political spectrum that is mildly left of centre.” As if that tells you anything substantive. He doesn’t even define political Left and Right, so how are we to know what he means by “center?”
But, okay, few pundits actually define their terms. Be that as it may, what we can decipher is that Ross is an unabashed statist who apparently believes that all good comes from government coercion. He condemns American culture—we are all miserably unhappy, he asserts, without explanation—but forgets to tell you that the world's welfare states are on the verge of collapse, or that America’s Poor Are Richer Than Europe’s Middle Class, or that America’s allegedly oversized military budget has been the shield protecting Western Civilization from barbarians for the last 100 years, including Australia from the Japanese Empire in World War II and Red Chinese aggression after that and Western Europe from fascist and Soviet aggression on the other side of the globe, allowing our allies to get away with spending less on defense than they should.
But that and other stuff aside, Ross’s whole article is easily refuted. I won’t refute it all in this post, although I have addressed most of his claims elsewhere. For now, let’s address just a couple of his points:
[M]ore government programs means more jobs for people. Considering government jobs usually come with pretty decent conditions, that’s undoubtedly a good thing.
[B]ut are these value-adding jobs? The easiest thing in the world to do is make out-of-context assertions. But economic analysis 101 demands much more. Ignoring Frédéric Bastiat’s age-old observation about the difference between a bad economist and a good one—“The bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen”—Ross ignores what is not seen; he ignores consequences, while focussing only on the immediately perceivable. In classic Leftist style, Ross ignores the many more private sector jobs that are destroyed or don’t come into existence because of resources sucked by force out of the private economy to support the government jobs. Sure, the government can create plenty of “jobs”—it can pay people to dig and refill holes all day—because all it has to do is confiscate taxpayers money at gunpoint to pay for it. Private businesses, the real job creators, have to rely on voluntary consent of consumers to survive. We are all poorer for government programs because the people who fill the related government jobs are not productive, just redistributing what others have produced—i.e., they’re just digging and refilling holes. The destructive economics of government “safety net” programs—which are only made possible by taxing private enterprise in a market economy—is not the worst of it, though. They are immoral because based on armed aggression by government officials that deny people the right to spend their own money on their own lives as they judge best. The last thing that Ross, Sanders, or their supporters can claim is concern for the well-being of their fellow man.
That’s just one point. The article is full of fallacies. Everything Ross says can be refuted by logic, facts, context, and morality.
But let’s move on to fundamentals. Here, Ross gets to the crux of the matter:
Here’s the big thing about Bernie that makes so much sense to the rest of the world, but not to a lot of you. Our earliest ancestors formed tribes so we could hunt more efficiently and protect one another. We moved on to villages, then cities and finally nations for mutual benefit. We can do more together than alone, and when we band together we can put safety nets in place so if people are unlucky and get struck down, we can all help them back up. That way no one has to live in fear of losing out in the lottery of life. That’s what social democracy is, and those of us who live in them recognize that what we have is pretty damn great.
This paragraph strips away the pretense, and gets to the gruesome heart of the matter. Yes, socialism, however it manifests—full or partial, democratic or coup-d'etat—is a regression to primitive tribalism. America is the first country to explicitly reject, in its Founding philosophy, the tribal premise, establishing instead a country based on the freedom and sovereignty of the individual to rise as far as his ability, ambition, and personal circumstances will carry him—and to keep the product of his own labor as a matter of inalienable right. This feature powered America, in barely a century, from a mere colony to the most powerful economic and military power the world had ever seen. Tribal reactionaries, led by ivory tower intellectuals, have been fighting back against American individualism and self-responsibility ever since. Bernie Sanders is no progressive. He is one of the reactionaries.
The march of civilization is the transition from tribalism (these days usually referred to as collectivism) toward individualism. Collectivism holds that the group is the focus of moral concern. Under collectivism, the individual is subordinate to the group and can be sacrificed at any time and in any way, if the group deems such sacrifice to be to its good (the “public good,” the “good of society,” the “national interest,” the “common good,” etc.). Individualism holds that the focus of moral concern is the individual. Under individualism, individuals have inalienable rights to his life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of personal goals, values, and happiness, so long as the individual respects the same rights of others, and pursues his goals through his own effort and in voluntary, mutually consensual trade, association, and cooperation with others. No other humans, including government officials, whether acting alone or as a group (e.g., street gang or voting majority) may interfere in the individual’s pursuits. Collectivism (not to be confused with cooperation) fails because a group or collective is not an entity but an abstraction, so the practice of collectivism is always omnipotent government. Individualism succeeds because the individual is an actual entity, the only human entity that exists—the only entity that thinks, feels, values, judges, chooses, and acts. Collectivism leads to socialism, which is based on armed aggression. Individualism leads to capitalism, which is based on peaceful co-existence. Any subordination of the individual to the collective is barbaric and inhumane, as any ideology that repudiates the moral value of individual human beings must.
For example, as to the question of doing things “together,” the issue Ross evades is what he actually means by “together.” When Ross speaks of “do more together” or “band together,” he speaks of the togetherness of a chain gang built on aggressive physical force under a tribal central planner. Private individuals are capable of and do work together in myriad ways, without government coercion. But leaving people free to voluntarily act together, or not, is not Ross’s concern. The individual, in Ross’s collectivist world, is of no moral consideration—and this lack of consideration comes across loud and clear in his whole article. Ross blurs the moral difference between forced collectivization and voluntary cooperation, which is a black and white as you can get. If we accept Ross’s premise that “doing things together” means government forcing us to do things together, then there’s no area of our lives that is safe from collective aggression. This moral blurring is typical of people who want to enslave you to the tribe.
The only just and moral way of acting together is voluntary cooperation to mutual advantage, such as private business concerns or unions, clubs, private schools, charitable organizations (private “safety net”), sports teams, and the like. In an individualist—i.e., free—society, every individual is free NOT to participate. Try NOT participating in one of Sanders’s government programs—you’ll be assaulted by armed government agents, arrested, and thrown into a cage. But the people who do not want to participate in and pay for the government programs are not the concern of Ross, or of Sanders: Dissenters are, after all, individuals, and individuals are granted no moral consideration in the collectivist worldview. Collectivism is a slave culture—probably worse that ancient tribalism. Individualism is a free, progressive market culture.
Finally, in his conclusion, Ross writes:
And all of this ignores the massive, massive elephant in the room: that your corporations, banks and politicians have no qualms about being socialist when it suits them. They’ll happily put their hands out for subsidies that they don’t need to make billions more that won’t be taxed—or when they tank your economy and the rest of the world’s economy they’ll complain that they’re too big to fail before taking all your hard earned money.
True: The crony mixed economy, or mixture of socialism and capitalism, of controls and freedom, is certainly what we have now—and is precisely what Sanders wants to expand upon! More government taxing, spending, and government control of our lives only increases the incentive for people to want to influence the government officials doing the taxing, spending, and controlling; which, in turn, means more favor-seeking economic factions, and fewer free market economic factions. The housing boom-and-bust, and related 2008-09 financial crisis and Great Recession, is precisely what you get from the Sanders economy. Sanders wants to fatten up, not slim down, this “massive elephant in the room.” We need the separation of economics and state—laissez-faire capitalism—not more political corruption of the economy, which is Sanders’ immediate goal.
I say immediate goal, because Sanders’ long-term goal is anything but the “tweaking” of the status quo. It’s true that Sanders advocates more of the same of what we have now—a move further Left, but not a full socialist in the sense of government ownership of the means of production. But his ultimate goal is totalitarian socialism—not communism, but fascism, which is backdoor socialism. He’ll move us toward that goal by virtue of whatever socialist steps he can get away with. Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist, a convergence of two totalitarian systems. The problem with Sanders is not as much his immediate policies, economically bad and ethically immoral as they are, but their direction and intention—to pave the way for continued regression toward his ultimate goal, much as Obama's goal was to pave the way for a Sanders, and Johnson’s goal was to pave the way for Obama, and FDR’s goal was to pave the way for Johnson, and Wilson’s goal was to pave the way for FDR. And all along the way, they blame private enterprise capitalism for the problems their government policies cause.
I consider Sanders to be the most evil and dangerous major politician in America, for reasons I stated here. Oh yes, Mr. Ross, we liberty-loving Americans understand Bernie Sanders quite well.
Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism is Totalitarian—George Reisman for the Mises
Brazil’s Giant Problem—JOHN LYONS and DAVID LUHNOW