The Campaign Needs A Radical, But Sanders Isn’t It

We could use a radical in the presidential race — someone who really challenges the status quo — but Bernie Sanders isn’t it. Sanders of course calls himself a democratic socialist, but that tell us almost nothing. One gets the impression the socialist label was pinned on him and, after resisting it, decided socialist sounded romantic and embraced it.

Nevertheless, whether you like socialism or not, Sanders is not a socialist: he calls neither for nationalizing the means of production nor for replacing the market economy with central planning. Yet that is what socialism came to mean in the mid-20th century. Democratic socialism meant that socialism would be achieved through the ballot box.

It is worth noting that in late 19th- and early 20th-century America, socialism was an umbrella term that was also used by radical free-market, or individualist, anarchists like Benjamin R. Tucker and Francis Dashwood Tandy, who called his 1896 book Voluntary Socialism. A socialist then was anyone who objected that workers were cheated out of their full reward and that prices of goods were fixed above the cost of production; in contrast to state socialists, free-market socialists attributed these evils to “capitalism,” by which they meant the system of government privileges for well-connected owners of capital.

What Sanders favors is an expanded welfare/regulatory state, i.e., more of what we have. When asked about socialism, he praises Medicare. Medicare, however, is not socialism, nor would single-payer for all be socialism. Under state-socialized medicine, government would own and operate the hospitals, and doctors and nurses would be government employees — like the post office without competition. Under single-payer, government would pay the bills for private-sector medical care and impose controls that powerful interests would inevitably manipulate to their advantage. Sound familiar?

The welfare state was established by western ruling classes to tamp down discontent among the powerless that had the potential to turn revolutionary. The father of the modern welfare state, Otto von Bismarck, intended government-administered social insurance to keep the Prussian working class loyal to the regime and out of the Marxist and liberal (libertarian) camps. In England, workers initially resisted the welfare state because it was seen as a move by the aristocracy to co-opt the labor movement, which sought to redress its grievances directly.

Sometimes Sanders says that being a socialist means merely that he’s neither a Democrat or a Republican. That’s not terribly informative. At other times, he says it signifies concern about gross income disparities, the high cost of college, and the lack of access to medical care. Again, this doesn’t tell us much since radical libertarians share those concerns. What matters are the solutions. Two people can look at the same social problem and argue over whether the best approach is more government, less government, or no government at all. Sanders’s preference, more government, would mean expanded bureaucratic control and special-interest “capture,” i.e., more of what already ails us.

In 1986, Sanders said, “All that socialism means to me, to be very frank with you, is democracy with a small ‘d.’ I believe in democracy, and by democracy I mean that, to as great an extent as possible, human beings have the right to control their own lives.” Considering that Sanders’s program would empower bureaucrats rather than people, one could consistently endorse Sanders’s objective while opposing his proposals. (See my “Free-Market Socialism.”)

He also said, “What being a socialist means is … that you hold out … a vision of society where poverty is absolutely unnecessary, where international relations are not based on greed … but on cooperation … where human beings can own the means of production and work together rather than having to work as semi-slaves to other people who can hire and fire.”

Again, these are objectives that any radical free-market libertarian could embrace. Where Sanders goes wrong is in aiming to empower bureaucrats and politicians.

Sanders cannot or will not see that expanding the welfare/regulatory bureaucracy would not help those outside the ruling elite. Beefing up the state won’t liberate us. Despite his intentions, Sanders is an unwitting defender of the status quo.

Where is the radical who will make the case for individual liberation and purely voluntary social cooperation through freed markets?

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today!

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Why We Need Private Property To Deal With Scarce Resources

Scarcity of resources exists in many forms and is the problem in economics. If resources were not scarce, there would be no need to economize. The existence of scarcity is true of all resources (such as time, human energy, and natural resources). However, it is not necessarily intuitive that allowing scarce resources to be owned privately is the solution to this problem.

Consequently, socialism appears attractive to many, and they turn to having all resources owned collectively for the “common good.” Unfortunately, a society which spurns private property — and hands resources over to government planners instead — often learns the terrible lessons of central planning and the tragedy of the commons (i.e., commonly held resources will be plundered to extinction).

If society spurns allowing private ownership of resources, it must find some other means to prevent the tragedy of the commons and to allocate goods. Historically, the means chosen is the use of force and central planning. Throughout history, most of mankind has been divided into a hierarchical system of masters and slaves with some gradations between the two extremes. The masters (pharaohs, emperors, kings, sultans, warlords, etc.) devised complex rules-based systems for resource distribution that were decided by a small number of people and not by markets. And ultimately, these plans depended upon pure terror for enforcement. But this so-called solution to the problem of scarcity — restricting the people’s liberty through the use of force — does not work.

Problem 1: We Can’t Economize Without Effectively Ordering Our Preferences First

The gradual growth in the understanding of what we now regard as basic economics eventually ended thousands of years of subsistence existence for the masses in the West. Modern economics explained that without private ownership of resources, there was no mechanism for observing or acting on ordinal preferences in which persons prioritize desires from highest to lowest. Without a way to allocate goods according to ordinal preferences, there is no rational means to economize for the betterment of society.

In other words, without markets and prices, there is no way to know what people really want or need, so the masters never really knew what to order the slaves to produce, what technical means to use, what alternative materials to use, the quality desired, or how much to produce. Thus, the commissars of the Soviet Union ordered the production of inefficiently produced, shoddy goods. The Soviet empire collapsed, despite the fact that Russia is blessed with vast natural resources and an industrious population.

Problem 2: Few Raw Materials Are Ready to Consume

A second fatal problem with common/government ownership of resources is that few readily available, consumable resources actually exist. There are no resources on the planet that do not require at least a minimum of effort to transform into a consumable product. Even edible berries growing in the wild must be harvested, meaning that someone must transport himself to the berries’ location and pull them from the bush at just the proper time. The cost of doing so is the value one places on forfeiting his leisure. Of course, other natural resources require much more effort to convert to consumable products, passing through many stages of production.

For example, timber and minerals must be extracted, harvested, etc. and then molded into something that can be consumed. Consider a hiker lost in the wild. It matters not at all to him that great stands of timber lie within easy reach or that valuable minerals lie under foot. These natural resources require great effort over very long time periods to be converted into something consumable, as is the case with converting timber into a shelter or crude oil into gasoline. A lost hiker does not have the knowledge, time, or previously produced means to convert these basic resources into consumable products to ensure his survival. All this is far beyond anyone’s autarkic abilities.

Now let us assume that someone did harvest trees by felling them, transporting them to a lumber mill, milling them, storing them in a ventilated and dry place for many months before kiln-drying them (all processes that are required to turn trees into useable lumber), advertising their availability to contractors, keeping sales records, sending out bills, and collecting the bills, only to have a socialist call him a plunderer and confiscate his lumber for free distribution to whomever the masters deemed to be politically advantageous to their continued privileged position. No one other than the favored cronies of government would ever harvest another tree. In other words, production of usable lumber would be monopolized; and as with all cases of monopolies, prices would increase and quality would decline. Moreover, with no voluntary market at work in timber and forest land, there would be no means of knowing if these resources were being used in a way valued by those who valued them most.

At the same time, the central planners could not let just anyone harvest the trees or access the land. If the trees had no owners, great forests would be denuded in short order because there would be no social mechanism to prevent what would amount to a tragedy of the commons by order of the state.

Problem 3: We Need Private Property to Build Capital

Without the ability to profit from privately owned property, there would be no incentive to provide or withhold capital for any endeavor. Also, a system of private ownership is necessary to determine if that capital is being used in a way the consumers value. The consequences of ignoring this fact of economic science is most evident today in China’s ghost cities, where resources, both natural and human, have been expended for no observable benefit except to advance the careers of politicians who can claim to have met the requirements of the latest Five Year Plan. Timber and other resources were provided to build ghost cities, not because the owners of the resources sought to be economical with their resources, but because government edicts required that timber, concrete, gasoline, and more be used to produce what are now empty cities.

The opposite case of resource waste comes from special interest groups who capture the political apparatus of the state and prohibit exploitation of resources by private individuals. In the name of protecting Mother Gaia from being plundered, modern environmentalists have convinced the political class that most progress is unsustainable, dangerous to our health, or any number of other specious claims. Society is prevented from benefiting from their conversion to consumable products. The poor suffer the most from these policies as the prices of raw materials — and thus finished consumer goods — are driven up.

Private ownership insures that valuable resources will never be plundered to extinction, because their value will have been capitalized. Instead, private owners will seek to make resources as widely available as possible without endangering the long-term prospects for future harvesting of resources. The process of determining a resource’s capitalized value is impossible absent free-market capitalism with strict defenses of property rights.

Despite both the theoretical and empirical evidence to the contrary, socialists tell us the opposite; i.e., that state ownership of all resources will prevent their plunder and ensure prosperity for all. As Ludwig von Mises explained, though, socialism is not an alternative economic system of production. It is a system of consumption only, and a system of economic ignorance and economic plunder.

This commentary originally appeared at and is reprinted here under a Creative Commons license

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Rush Just Revealed The ‘Over-The-Top Unbelievable’ News That Took Him To ‘Twilight Zone Territory’

On Monday, Rush Limbaugh discussed Microsoft’s founder and his recent comments on climate change.

Limbaugh was very clear that there was madness in Bill Gates’ recent pronouncement that capitalism cannot save the world from climate change. He was also clear that there are ulterior motives beneath Gates’ words.

“This is one of the craziest, nonsensical things I have ever in my life heard,” Limbaugh said. “I understand why he said it. But it is just over-the-top unbelievable. Bill Gates says that capitalism cannot save us from climate change. Bill Gates says that socialism is the only thing that can save us from climate change.”

Limbaugh also quoted Gates as saying, “Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area. The private sector is in general inept.”

“This is just mind-boggling to me,” Limbaugh said. “This is Twilight Zone territory for me. This is surreal.”

Limbaugh went on to explain the evidence linking the most polluted nations with socialist governments.

The talk show host said be believed that for Gates it was not about global warming but money. He noted that as long as there have been men with riches, those men have feared having their money taken away. “Gee, I hope the peasants with pitchforks leave me alone and don’t storm my castle,” Limbaugh said.

To avert that, some super-billionaires embrace feel-good causes, Limbaugh said.

“It is that belief of mine, that theory, which I have come up with to explain why people like Gates and Buffett and a number of these other super billionaires talk like Marxist liberals all the time. It is to keep people away from their money,” Limbaugh said.

He said that Gates and others seek to manipulate public opinion.

“Get the geek, nerd crew on your side loving you and supporting you, it’s a bunch of Millennial young leftists and then keep the peasants with pitchforks away from you by removing your billions as a threat to them ’cause you’re a good guy,” he said.

“It is to send the message, ‘Hey, we don’t threaten you, leave me alone. I’m spending all my money on philanthropy. I’m giving money to AIDS. I’m giving money to Africa. I’m giving money to global warming. I’m giving money to the arts. I’m giving money to support gay marriage and transgenders. Leave me alone,’” Limbaugh said.

h/t: TheBlaze

Economic Freedom, Not Egalitarianism, Builds Prosperity And Reduces Poverty

America was intended to be a “shining city on a hill” of freedom, individual liberty, and unlimited opportunity. She was never intended to be a socialist state. Socialistic egalitarianism is strikingly antithetical to the American paradigm.

Founded in individual liberty, America has always been the one nation under heaven where equality of opportunity has taken precedence over equality of outcome. The whole concept of the “American Dream” is based on the individual freedom to become, to achieve, to build, sell, and succeed. This requires individual freedom (which is diminished proportionate to expanded governmental power), and a free market economy (not centralized planning, or government control over the means of production). Consequently, socialism in any of its iterations (communism, national socialism, fascism, and democratic-socialism) is philosophically, morally, and pragmatically contrary to the principles upon which the republic was founded. Consequently, it is deductively anti-American.

To socialism, equality is paramount, rather than achievement and excellence. It ascribes value to workers not based upon their production and performance, but by the amount of time they put in. The net result is the rewarding of mediocrity rather than excellence.

By robbing Peter to pay Paul, the redistributive policies of socialism punish the producers, and reward the non-producers. By so doing, not only is the heart and soul of a society inflicted with a loss of appetite for proactivity, creation, and production, but it becomes afflicted with an entitlement mentality of what the government, at the expense of the producers, can do for “me.” This makes individuals dependent on the state and the diminishing number of producers, since the government has nothing but what it takes from its citizens. This dependency can be for everything from food and energy to health care. In short, it strives for egalitarianism by debasing and defalcating from the successful, rather than providing means for elevating the disadvantaged.

As Danish author Mikkel Nissen explains, “Society becomes more and more deprived (in lack of ambition) and grows reliant upon the perfectly steady increase in entitlement benefits solidified through learned helplessness, successfully blinding society to the rapidly increasing collective oppression. This precise process of ambient socialism has taken place in the United States during the end of the twentieth century and continues to transpire ever more rapidly in the twenty-first century.”

Winston Churchill captured the essence of the failed and debilitating ideology: “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Logically then, it seems that those most ardent in their aspiration for egalitarianism seek not the elevation of a society, or a nation, but the demise thereof, by elevation of mediocrity over excellence; governmental thralldom over individual freedom; common misery over hope and the human spirit; and micromanagement of the soul of man by the body politik over personal responsibility and accountability.

If America ever devolves completely to the democratic-socialist level, it will constitute an abject rejection of the classical-liberal ideals upon which the republic was founded, placing foremost among those life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For nowhere in our founding documents is there even an utterance of socialist egalitarianism; for the concept is diametrically opposed to the American dream and spirit.

The greatest evil inflicted upon mankind was done in the name of egalitarianism, and the “common good” for the “working man,” and is responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths, all sacrificed at the altar of equality. Any form of socialism or collectivism is destructive to the human spirit which yearns to be free. This societal degradation advances until fully contaminated with the lower denominator of mediocrity. The purported elevation of the impoverished is promised, yet never fully delivered, by centralized control.

The freedom, and concomitant free markets, which made America great and so economically viable has done more to elevate the disadvantaged than any iteration of socialism has even dreamed of. Free market capitalism is the heart and soul of individual freedom, for without financial freedom, most other forms have little pertinence.

The Economist recently reported that the global poverty rate has shrunk 50 percent in the past two decades: “The world has lately been making extraordinary progress in lifting people out of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2010, their number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21% — a reduction of almost 1 billion people.” And what is it that has elevated the quality of living throughout the globe? Nothing but the proliferation of free-market capitalism. “The biggest poverty-reduction measure of all is liberalizing markets to let poor people get richer. That means freeing trade between countries (Africa is still cruelly punished by tariffs) and within them (China’s real great leap forward occurred because it allowed private business to grow),” the Economist explains.

What worked in America is now working across the globe. Our efforts to incorporate even diluted elements of the failed ideology are ineffectual, as evidenced by the fact that our poverty rate is virtually the same now as it was when LBJ’s “Great Society” social programs were launched 50 years ago.

The ideological cadre of progressives who embrace the pernicious doctrines so antithetical to America’s soul are advocating, in short, principles that are anathema and perhaps traitorous to the nation. We can only hope, pray, and work to ensure that the next eight years, at least, feature a leadership that is dedicated to America and our founding principles, to hopefully unravel so much of the damage inflicted in recent years, and return to those precepts that made America great.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

America Should Not Emulate Denmark

At the Democrat presidential debate two weeks ago, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said we “should look to countries like Denmark…and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.” The good senator should either rephrase his statement, or look more closely at the data. Democratic-socialism may work in some places in Europe, but was never intended, nor can it work, in the United States of America.

Another of Sanders’ erroneous statements regarding Denmark was when he claimed that Denmark’s economic model “provides extraordinary security and opportunity.” It does provide security, but little opportunity, economic or otherwise.

Democratic socialism is a political ideology which juxtaposes a democratic political system, (popular elections) with a socialist economic system. As such, it involves a combination of political democracy (usually multi-party democracy) with “social ownership of the means of production.” Consequently, it can be somewhat characterized as a less tyrannical and totalitarian form of socialism, since the masses are voting for the cadre that will separate them from the fruits of their labors. And while it may not abolish private property ownership, as its more draconian sibling communism does, it taxes income, and inflates prices sufficiently, so that private property ownership is severely limited.

The sheer economies of scale make a comparison between the Scandinavian country and the U.S. impracticable. Denmark, with a landmass of 16,562 square miles, is roughly the size of Maryland, and with a population of 5.6 million has about 1.5% of the U.S. population. Compound that with America’s propensity toward a kakistocracy, as evidenced by the last two presidential election cycles, and democratic-socialism would likely destroy the economy, and the republic.

Danish author Mikkel Clair Nissen has published his own response to Americans who think Denmark’s democratic-socialism is so appealing. “I am a school teacher from Denmark making about $61,000 a year. We get free education. You don’t have to pay for the doctor, the hospital, and students even get paid to study. It all sounds so great…right? However, I forgot to mention that nothing is ever free. The lowest personal income tax in Denmark is minimum 40 percent. Also, we pay a sales tax of 25 percent, and on top of sales tax the government applies further (generally hidden) duties and fees, applied to almost everything, making it really hard for lower class people to get by, causing them to be deeply dependent on government handouts,” she says.

When Senator Sanders refers to “working people,” he likely is referring to the middle class, since that’s the most productive and economically viable demographic. Just as most of the fiscal initiatives of the past seven years have most adversely affected the American middle class, European democratic-socialism virtually plunders theirs. The middle-class in Denmark is taxed at a 60% rate, and that’s just the income tax rate. Yet to pay that rate, all one has to make is $55,000 per year. That means those who, by American standards, are earning a respectable middle-class income of $55k per year only keep $22,000 of their earnings. That’s a relatively paltry $1,833 per month.

Nissen continues: “A gallon of gas is about 10 dollars. Tax on a car is 180 percent, which brings a car valued a bit over $20,000 dollars in the United States (e.g. Honda Accord) up to an astounding $50,000 dollars in Denmark.” No wonder 65% of the travel in the country is by mass transit and bicycle. And not surprisingly, the cost of energy is extremely expensive, as most electricity is produced by “green” sources. The cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity is $.42, compared with an average of $.12 in the United States.

Nissen further explains that because of “excessive taxation, Danes also have the highest private debt in the world. Only few will ever own a car or a house here; banks generally do – hypocritically, the very same banks that the collectivists despise. Anyone who makes over $80,000 annually pays a personal tax of 68 percent. This means that almost all people with higher earnings have either found ways to evade taxes, or have left the country, often bringing their companies with them, making employment scarcely low.”

According to Eurostat, the European Union’s official data reporting service, real unemployment is double what the official figures indicate. By their calculations, Denmark’s real unemployment rate is 14%.

And Nissen provides more insights. “Denmark’s suicide rate has averaged 20.8 per 100,000 during the last five decades, with its highest level of 32. The American suicide rate averaged only 11.1 during the last five decades, and has never exceeded 12.7. Danes are deeply deprived, driven by severe narcissism, and so more than 11 percent of adult Danes – the supposed happiest people in the world – are on antidepressants. Well, of course, Danes are happy; they are medicated to be!”

If Danes are so happy to be economically socialized, why do they take their own lives at three times the American rate, and their anti-depressant dependency exceeds America’s by 40%? Could it be that the cost of freedom is much greater than we assume?

Nissen concludes his missive: “Everyone wants the American dream. In Denmark’s neo-communism, no one will ever own or accomplish anything.”

America was founded on classical-liberal ideals of maximum freedom to facilitate virtually unlimited potential. Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor safety.” And that’s precisely what socialism, in all its iterations, does. It sacrifices individual freedom at the altar of security and egalitarianism

One of the most critical concepts of liberty upon which America was founded is economic freedom. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton championed economic freedom as the foundation for all other liberties. True liberty mandates that private property, and the ability to reap and freely expend the fruits of our labors, is sacrosanct. Nobel economic laureate Milton Friedman declared that property rights are “the most basic of human rights and an essential foundation for other human rights.” Without economic freedom, all else is severely vitiated.

There might be some things America can learn from the Danish economic model, but only if we deny what America was founded and intended to be — the land of the free, dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by