When asked in a recent townhall by a Harvard student whose family fled Soviet Russia why he embraced the same type of socialist policies that had failed there and worldwide, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., did what he always does. He deflected.
According to Sanders, he isn't advocating for that kind of socialism. No, he has dressed his philosophy up with a fancy moniker called "democratic socialism." It’s a phrase that many on the far left have embraced as they push anti-free market propaganda and policies that seek to concentrate more power within the hands of a few political elites.
They can call it "democratic socialism," but socialism is so awful and flawed that no modifier can make it palatable — garbage by any other name still stinks. In fact, adding “democratic” to socialism is basically the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig.
Socialism is a system set up for failure by design. The true definition of socialism is the government owning the means of production and having a few people — those aforementioned political elite- decide what’s in everyone else’s best interest. It stands in stark contrast to free markets, which give everyone individual choice and free choice to make those decisions for themselves.
Supposing you had the smartest people around (which is not usually something associated with politicians) with perfect and trustworthy moral intent (also not something associated with politicians), the structure of having a small number of people decide how to allocate resources is still an impossible task. Even with the assistance of AI models or other technology, no group of people have the right incentives and knowledge to replicate the complex yet elegant work of the free market to efficiently and effectively allocate resources.
With hundreds of thousands or even millions of products and services in the U.S., the task of allocating the right amount of resources and deciding how much of each good or service to create at any one time, who should create them, how they should be created, how they should reach potential consumers, pricing and other market factors is impossible for any group of planners. It’s why countries like India have seen famines during times where they had plenty of food in the country; they lacked the right incentives to get the product to the people who needed it.
It’s also why pure socialism has failed every single time it has been tried with horrific consequences and isn’t known for amazing innovations, either.
In his quest to soften socialism, Sanders has tweeted that "Democratic Socialism means democracy." But, the "democracy" descriptor is no picnic either. Our founding fathers intentionally created a federal republic (or constitutional republic or whatever similar phrase you prefer) and not a democracy, because of democracy’s inherent flaws. As Ben Franklin so aptly described it, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” Mob rule doesn’t make something a good, right or moral idea. Good intentions often lead to poor outcomes.
We must come together to reject socialism by any name — in whole or in part — and work to find advocates who will undertake the difficult task of taking away power, decisions and actions from the elites in government and returning it to the people and the markets where it rightly belongs.
Additionally, when the democratic label is invoked, it’s often a neon sign advertising that something is amiss. What we all know as “North Korea” brands itself as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (which also boldly claims on its website is where “all the people are completely liberated from exploitation and oppression”). Similarly, East Germany prior to German reunification was known as the German Democratic Republic. Though I can’t speak for Sanders, hopefully, the rest of us can all agree these are not exactly the types of regimes we want to be emulating.
So, if throwing “democratic” in front of socialism given the other countries who have used that over time doesn’t scare you enough, the concept of any degree of socialism should. We have let too much of that central type of planning seep into our system. And, when Sanders tweets, "My definition of democratic socialism is creating a government that works for all of us, not just a handful of people on top," what he is advocating for is exactly that type of control where “what is in everyone’s best interests” is decided by the handful of elite politicians that comprise our government.
Our country was founded on the concept of individual rights, including property rights and freedom. The government’s job was to protect those rights and our freedoms; and that’s it.
Over time, that has begun to erode. The government has not only infringed upon our rights but also exceeded their powers by becoming intermediaries in markets and redistributors of wealth. From education to health care to retirement planning, whether by cronyism, nationalization or regulation, more government intervention has taken hold. And, everywhere the government has done so, costs have gone up and quality has gone down. Because whether you have a full socialist system, a mixed system or a democratic socialist system, interference by government will always produce inferior outcomes than in a free market, in whole or in part.
Movement towards free markets creates prosperity and movement towards socialism thwarts it.
We must come together to reject socialism by any name — in whole or in part — and work to find advocates who will undertake the difficult task of taking away power, decisions and actions from the elites in government and returning it to the people and the markets where it rightly belongs. Sanders and his ilk are dead wrong and as history demonstrates, any socialism — democratic or otherwise — will be entirely at our own loss.
No amount of lipstick can make that pig of socialism attractive.