There is an outfit called Join the Coffee Party Movement. The Coffee Party, probably inspired by Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy, stands for Democratic Socialism and invites people to join up. This image is displayed on its Facebook page:
An accompanying explanatory statement, lifted from Wikipedia, reads:
Democratic socialism is a political ideology advocating a democratic political system ALONGSIDE a socialist economic system, involving a COMBINATION of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production. Although sometimes used synonymously with "socialism", the adjective "democratic" is often added to distinguish itself from the Marxist–Leninist brand of socialism, which is widely viewed as being non-democratic.
Socialism is now in full bloom in American politics. The era of Democrats pushing socialism along bit by bit while simultaneously denying they are socialists has come to an end. Thank you, Bernie Sanders. A debate involving three protagonists—defenders of socialism, of our mixed economy status quo, and of capitalism—is now part of the 2016 presidential campaign.
The definition above, I think, accurately describes the basic macro elements of Bernie Sanders-style democratic socialism. On the surface, it looks like more mixed economy, with statism increasing and liberty decreasing. But make no mistake, “a COMBINATION of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production” is a totalitarian state. Democratic socialism merely replaces single party rule with a system of rotating elected dictatorships. Either way, there’s no room for individual rights. Rather than being at the mercy of a “non-democratic” absolute state, your life will be at the mercy of majoritarian absolutism.
Anyone who has a reasonably good understanding of liberty can see through the catch phrases and recognize that democratic socialism is just another manifestation of totalitarianism. A democratic socialist is a totalitarian who sugar-coats his agenda with “democracy,” as if the right to vote is all that freedom is about. Most people wrongly associate democracy with a free society in which the political leaders are elected. But that’s really a constitutionally limited republic. Democracy unconstrained by the principle of individual rights embodied in a proper constitution is a totalitarian state. Without economic freedom, you can’t have political freedom. After all, economics—the field of production and trade—is the field in which people act to transform their values into material form. The freedom to pursue one’s happiness without having control of the productive means to achieve happiness is to leave every individual locked up inside of his own mind, which is precisely the plight of the individual in the totalitarian state. Anyone who controls the means of production, has the individual by the throat.
The Democratic Socialist movement spawned by Sanders’ candidacy reminds me of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, in which the humans who run the farm are thrown out and replaced with an even worse, brutal animal dictatorship. Animal Farm has been judged to have an anti-capitalist element. This is not surprising, since Orwell was a socialist. His book supposedly depicts the capitalists (the humans) thrown out and replaced by communism, which ends up to be worse than capitalism. My analogy is with the aftermath of the rebellion against the humans.
In Orwell’s saga, the pigs orchestrate a revolution among the animals to overthrow the humans, promising a better life for the formerly enslaved animals after they take control of their farm. After the revolution, it turns out that the pigs have garnered control, to the initial glee of the animals. But the animals soon begin to sense that they are worse off than under the humans, but are too clueless to understand why. Meanwhile, the pigs rewrite history over and over, while all the time blaming the increasing hardship on the humans and their corrupt animal sympathizers. The pigs promise equality, having adopted a 7-part constitution. But in the end, the constitution is eroded and ultimately revoked, and the pigs, led by Napoleon, end up as brutal tyrants who run the farm under the single slogan, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
In their real-life animal farm vision, the Democratic Socialists want to gull we the people with promises of empowerment through more democratic control of the economy, “the means of production.” Similar to the pigs of Animal Farm, the Democratic Socialists promise prosperity for all through a slew of handouts. Like Animal Farm, the Democratic Socialists tempt us with vague promises of economic “equality.” The Democratic Socialists propose to create a socialist democracy for the benefit of the people by convincing us to relinquish by vote the haggard remnants of our individual freedom embedded in the mixed economy. Under the current state of affairs, according to the Democratic Socialists, the economy is run for the benefit of “the 1%”—the Democratic Socialists’ version of Orwell’s humans—at the expense of the people (the Animal Farm inhabitants). Once “the people” gain control of the means of production, wealth will flow freely and more abundantly to the people. Similar to Orwell's farm animal population, we will wake up to realize that we have traded a semi-free mixed economy for a tyranny run by the socialists’ version of the pigs—a bunch of Ivy Starneses. And like the hapless inhabitants of Animal Farm, we will have a vague memory of better times past, without realizing why we once had it better and how we came to our new, decadent state.
That’s why we who value freedom and prosperity must not let people forget what socialism, our current mixed economy, and capitalism really are. Unfortunately, the newly emerging debate is dominated by the Democratic Socialists and defenders of the mixed economy status quo. The voices of capitalism are not engaged, at least not in the campaign arena. That must change, or the Democratic Socialists will surely win by default.
As with other forms of statism, such as fascism, communism, and any mixture of those with freedom, the opposite of Democratic Socialism is capitalism. Fascism, communism, Nazism (a form of fascism), and Democratic Socialism are all variants of socialism. Sanders and his Coffee Party offspring provides a good opportunity for capitalists to contrast their vision with the socialists. Socialism can be contrasted with capitalism on many levels, including the social, political, economic, and moral levels. All of the comparisons favor capitalism.
One way to contrast the two systems is to ask, what would it be like for socialists to live under capitalism, and vice-versa? I’ll give my thoughts on that social question in my next post.
China’s Recovery from Socialism vs. Bernie Sanders, The Most Evil Politician in America