Bernie Sanders and the illusion of socialism


While driving the other day I saw a bumper sticker for Bernie Sanders, and I was reminded of a campaign rally where I saw him on television speaking before thousands of college students. It dawned on me that Bernie Sanders’ march towards socialism is gaining traction in this country — even in Fayette County, Ga.

In watching Sanders’ rally, I was struck by two things. The first is that as a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, the Vermont Senator never fails to recite things that are wrong with our country, and advocating government providing something, or regulating something, in order to fix it. The second, and probably the more surprising observation to me, is how enthusiastically his rally attendees seem to respond to his message.

But do these attendees really know what socialism is? Do they know it is a system where the government controls a nation’s industries? Do they want the government to control our industries? If the government is the single provider, where is the drive towards lowering the costs of goods and services, or providing better quality or innovation?

Are we to just trust that politicians will make right decisions for us? Haven’t we seen that whether it is in healthcare, or higher education, when the government takes over an industry, or heavily subsidizes it, cost inevitably soars and it can be argued that quality decreases?

Have Sanders’ supporters considered that most strictly socialist countries have been extremely oppressive, evolved to communism (as Marx’s theory purports), and/or bankrupted the society.

Just consider, for example, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. How do they compare to capitalistic countries — much less the U.S.?

By contrast, American capitalism features private industry where the entrepreneurial creativity of multiple providers creates competition to provide better quality service or products at lower costs, for citizens have the ability to choose the products that best suits them. This kind of spirit has led to the U.S. being one of the freest and greatest wealth-building nations in history.

So Sanders is really advocating a shift from a capitalistic society undergirded by individual freedom and Judeo-Christian values. Such a shift would strip away the American ethos that our nation is and has always been – a force for good, and opportunity for all.

This idea seems to stand in stark contrast with many Sanders’ audiences who typically post things about negative views about our country in their social media postings – as if America were an oppressive, malevolent force in the world.

Additionally, Sanders’ march toward socialism seems to fuel sentiments of envy and entitlement within the citizenry, chipping away at our union and capitalizing on resentments that the one who has “more” should not be able to keep what they have and that our economic system needs to be transformed by the government to ensure a comfortable lifestyle for all of its citizens.

However, should this be the responsibility of our government – for a government powerful enough to take assets away from one group of citizens (albeit the “undeservedly wealthy”) can also take away assets of all citizens?

Many within our country are becoming too comfortable turning to government to ensure a desired lifestyle. The illusion is that somehow government can efficiently and effectively provide the fundamental things for life such as quality “healthcare for all,” or “free college educations,” and this will somehow free its citizens to pursue their dreams.

However, the reality is that as industries like healthcare and higher education transform into more socialist constructs, they will be neither efficient nor effective — costs will keep going up because it must support not only its own operating costs but the government bureaucracy that keeps it going.

In an effort to “free” ourselves from paying for these “life necessities,” we enslave ourselves to a government to provide them for us, and we no longer believe in turning to the ones who care the most — our families, our places of worship, or charities.

I predict that as government gets bigger, the stability of our families, places of worship, and charities (not subsidized by government funding) will continue to fracture.

Ultimately, socialism is an illusory, slippery slope. It always points to our burdens and says the government will help us, but it doesn’t. Because in the end, as Margret Thatcher once said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

I hope that Bernie Sanders supporters, will eventually figure this out.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]