Bernie’s socialism vs. capitalism: a debate for Vermont

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of our Debate for Vermont Series.

By Jay Eshelman

In a recent VTDigger column (“Improbably, socialism gains ground in Trump’s America”), political columnist Jon Margolis sees renewed interest in socialism around the nation. He notes that the phenomenon is linked in part to Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified “democratic socialist.”

Yet as Margolis points out, defining socialism, and identifying appealing models of it around the world, is tricky, and a source of much debate:

Socialists do face one powerful argument against their system: It does not exist anywhere. If it’s a good idea, why haven’t the people of any country freely decided to adopt it? In what professor Schwartz conceded was ‘something of a problem,’ no democracy has chosen socialism. They all prefer a market economy dominated by private enterprise. Does this prove that socialism is either impractical or undesirable? Probably, at least for now.

The column is stimulating debate about socialism versus free market capitalism — a worthy debate for Vermont, which often is viewed as socialistic in its policies.

In the comments section of the column, Jay Eshelman, an active commenter and business owner from Vermont, writes:

The leopard is trying to change his spots again. … Capitalism, free market capitalism, isn’t a ‘belief’, it’s a description, a reflection, if you will, of human nature and interaction. What is ‘wide open, libertarian, laissez faire, Ayn Rand style capitalism’, if not free market capitalism?

One commenter, perhaps inadvertently, raises the most interesting point with her reference to David Floyd’s missive on the difference between Socialism and Communism.

It wasn’t Premier Nikita Krushchev who declared that the Soviet state had begun ‘withering away’, it was Marx and Engels who argued that following a period of transition, the government would fade away, as workers built a classless society and an economy based on common ownership. Production and consumption would reach an equilibrium: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Unfortunately, Marx and Engels stopped there. They either couldn’t, or chose not to, describe what this classless society looked like or how it operated. And, curiously, ironically, ‘early versions of socialist thought were articulated by Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825), who was himself an admirer of capitalist Adam Smith’.

Think about it. True free market capitalism promotes the ‘sovereign consumer’ and ‘market equilibrium’. The U.S. Constitution is the foremost social construct ever devised that recognizes free markets and, with the Bill of Rights, the propensity of even a democratic state to become oppressive through the tyranny of its majority. It is precisely that, ‘wide open, libertarian, laissez faire, Ayn Rand style capitalism’ where Marx and Engels were heading. Unfortunately, crony capitalism and its government enablers (i.e. socialists and communists) are proving to be a tenacious malevolence in this world.

What do you think, True North readers? Is socialism on the rise in the U.S., or is free market capitalism where we are heading? The answer has broad implications for a range of issues in Vermont, from education to health care. Sound off with your own comments below.

Jay Eshelman is a former school board director and business owner living in Vermont.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/DonkeyHotey
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11 thoughts on “Bernie’s socialism vs. capitalism: a debate for Vermont

  1. In Vermont, with a near-zero, real-growth economy, carbon tax revenues would be used to create even more government programs for more social engineering purposes, to create beneficiaries who will vote for the program creators.

    It is a form of socialism.

    Here is what Putin has to say about socialism:

    Putin warned the Obama administration against adopting further socialism, saying Russian history clearly proves it is a recipe for failure.

    “Any fourth grade history student knows socialism has failed in every country, at every time in history,” said Putin. “President Obama and his fellow Democrats are either idiots or deliberately trying to destroy their own economy.”

    Economists say Putin’s comments serve to illustrate how worldwide markets have made even economic adversaries dependent on each other’s financial stability.

    Various spokes people, including democrat-Socialist Sanders, dismissed Putin’s claim, saying, “We’re going to do socialism better.”

    Now that is pure gutzpah. I have a bridge……..

    • Re: “Any fourth grade history student knows socialism has failed in every country, at every time in history,” said Putin. “President Obama and his fellow Democrats are either idiots or deliberately trying to destroy their own economy.”

      Willem: you’ve inadvertently touched on the problem creating the recent trends toward socialism. Specifically, not only do fourth graders not know that socialism is a continuing failure, most students (K-12 thru college) aren’t learning about free markets. I noticed the trend almost 50 years ago when I attended college and watched the continuation of the propaganda as my children went through school.

      “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
      George Orwell

      • Jay,

        To short-circuit the socialist, big-government mantras spouted by teachers, it is important for parents to properly instruct their children at home.

        The public schools essentially are mouthpieces for the government, which provides the money and calls the tune.

        Vermont needs more home-schooling, more private schools, more vouchers and allow tuition to be deducted from taxable incomes to break up the public school monopoly, which is as costly as the out-of-control healthcare and defense sectors.

  2. God , please take Bernie and put him in one of the socialist countries that he endears,
    We all need a break from this buffoon. Please!

    • Re: Bernie lauds Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 Economic Bill of Rights, which declared that everyone had a right to “useful and remunerative jobs,” “a decent living,” “adequate medical care,” good education, a decent home, and the “right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.”

      FDR, as well as Marx and Engels, never completed their propositions by describing the ‘devil in the details’. What is the definition of ‘decent’ in the term ‘a decent living’? And who creates the definition? What is the definition of ‘adequate’ in the term ‘adequate medical care? And who defines that?

      When Marx and Engels said “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, what did they mean? How does one judge another’s ‘ability’ or ‘need’? Does every worker make the judgment? Is the decision making process a raffle, or what?

      These questions need to be put to Bernie Sanders and anyone else that uses vague ‘feel-good’ rhetoric to describe their utopian dreams. Because, in the final analysis, we will all realize that Nobel Laureate, Milton Friedman had it right when he said ” The most important single fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”

  3. If I may be so presumptuous as to ask an admittedly rhetorical question: What can be done when the voting majority, who are those relying primarily on publically funded social services for their livelihoods along with those relying on the wages received administering those services, elect Federal, State and Municipal representatives who perpetuate the arrangement in order to be re-elected?

    And before anyone says ‘term limits’, consider that this majority can also elect sympathetic replacements?

  4. Wonder if Bernie and wife would be millionaires today had they lived Bernie’s socialist dream?

  5. There are many examples around the world where socialism has failed. But none where it has succeeded. Economic principles when implemented through a free market prove the success of this system. Centralized planning does not work. The closer the money and power stays local or to home the more efficient the system. As power and money moves away from home and local control more corruption and less efficiency is introduced. Monopolies cause higher prices, less choice/competition therefore decreasing economic growth. Socialism and government control breaks all these rules. It is better to have a million people decide how to spend their hard earned money than one person taking the money and deciding how to spend it.

  6. Why would anybody be dumb enough to think that socialism is a good alternative for America? Bernie Sanders the Fraud? Sanders’ best bud was Hugo Chavez. Sanders stated that Venezula’s government was what WE should be following. Bernie’s heroes are the Castros. And Bernie wants socialism? Granted, there are those Vermonters stupid enough to follow him right over a cliff. But the rest of us ought to remember that Bernie never worked an honest day in his life. Then he became mayor of Burlington (thank you out of state students who fraudulently voted) and the rest is history. He still hasn’t worked a day in his life but his sucking off YOUR tax money has made him a rich man ; just the sort of guy he supposedly despises. Then there is his lovely wife’s real estate swindle…more money in their pocket – not yours. In socialism, as in communism there are only two classes of people…the rich and the poor. Guess what group YOU will be in.

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