Less than three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, socialism seems to be undergoing something of a revival.
A self-professed “democratic socialist” is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he is running neck and neck with a party icon. Polls show that more than a quarter of Americans have a favorable opinion of socialism, which might not sound so bad until you learn that that includes 43 percent of those under age 30, and 42 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile, barely half of Americans have a favorable view of capitalism. Democrats, in fact, are as likely to view socialism positively as they are capitalism.
What accounts for this collective historical amnesia?
Perhaps people can be forgiven for having come to the belief that capitalism is synonymous with Wall Street shenanigans or bank bailouts. That’s what politicians, academics, and the media have pounded into us for years. When was the last time you saw a movie where businessmen weren’t greedy and evil, if not outright murderers. Perhaps we need to be reminded of what free-market capitalism really is, and how much better it has made our lives.
After all, if one looks at the long course of human history, our existence was pretty much hand to mouth for most of it. All that began to change in the 1700s with the development of modern — that is, capitalist — economics.
But one doesn’t have to go back 300 years to see the advantages of free-market capitalism. Consider that in the last 25 years, a period during which much of the world has embraced free markets, a billion people have been lifted out of poverty, and the global poverty rate has been slashed from more than 37 percent to less than 10 percent.
It’s not just the decline in poverty that tracks with the adoption of free markets and capitalism. Literacy rates increase and infant mortality declines as countries adopt market-based economies. Life expectancy rises, and people’s health improves. Even the environment gets cleaner.
And opportunities open up for women and minorities. Indeed, nothing challenges entrenched elites like the “creative destruction” of free-market capitalism.
It is free-market capitalism that provides the innovation and opportunity that leads to the increase in choices we have today. Choices in where we work, how we live, and, yes, the products we buy. From new drugs that save lives to labor-saving devices that reduce the drudgery of household work to the device you are reading this essay on, capitalism drove these developments each step along the way.
There was a reason, after all, why West Germany built the Mercedes-Benz, while East Germany produced the Trabant.
Bernie Sanders may think it’s terrible that we have a choice of deodorants, but most Americans would rather not shop in a Venezuelan supermarket.
Need more? According to the Human Freedom Index, more economic freedom correlates with more personal freedom. Just consider countries with state-controlled economies and how little personal freedom they allow. On the other hand, countries with free-market economies tend to be free in other ways, too.
Of course, when Bernie and his followers talk about socialism, they don’t really want to turn the U.S. into Venezuela or Cuba. They want to have socialism while keeping all the benefits of capitalism — having their cake and eating it too.
Odd that Michael Tanner asks the right question then gives only a partial answer:
Bernie Sanders has helped design a redistribution system that, not only forces any middle-class students who chose to go to college to support Leftist professors on into retirement, it also opens those same students to brainwashing by those Leftists.
But let’s look at the tuition situation.
In 2006, just 20% of tuition went to pay pensions.
Now pensions are the main driver of tuition increases.
In fact, in Illinois, 50% of tuition goes to pensions.
Meanwhile SEIU, AFCSME, the National Education Association, and the American Federal of Teachers give 99% of their money only to Democrats.
Lovely redistribution of wealth from a more-or-less conservative Middle-class to the uber-left.
And no end in sight.
If anything, Bernie wants to perpetuate and grow this system by making tuition FREE.