The thinking espoused by Bernie Sanders and his many Millennial Bern Victims goes something like this: The political system is rigged to favor well-heeled special interests. There is too much power in the hands of a few. Regular citizens seldom get a say in the distribution of spoils, and insiders clean up at the expense of the rest of us.
I agree. Yes. Yes. And, yes. You have correctly analyzed the way our political system operates, and I wholeheartedly endorse your diagnosis of the problem. I, too, have been fighting against powerful insiders in Washington – their snouts in the public trough, their clutching hands on your wallet – the ones that have sought to disenfranchise citizens looking for more accountability and a fair shake from government.
So let’s give the Washington Machine more money, more control over our lives. Let’s concentrate power in the hands of an elite few and trust them to act in our best interests, to choose a better distribution of winners and losers.
Bernie’s is an emotional appeal for revolution, the desire to tear down a corrupt system, and I respect his sincerity. In some ways he is the Democratic Donald Trump, except that I think he actually, sincerely, believes this stuff. With a few exceptions he’s been singing the same song since he was a young Socialist apparatchik in Burlington, Vermont. Bernie Sanders is undeniably authentic, and that’s a big part of his appeal. He’s the real deal in an era of photo-shopped politics, where everything said is calculated, tested, and totally insincere. Think Hillary. Everything about her smacks of artifice. She’s a total phony, a creature of Washington, and a puppet for the status quo. I get it. So do all of the young people flocking to Bernie.
Conservatively speaking, the body count from socialism easily tops 100 million.
But it’s time for a reality check: Socialism is not cool. Socialism kills. Concentrated power is the problem. Concentrated power is dangerous. Socialism, under any plausible definition, requires tremendous power concentrated in the hands of a very few. At best, this means that the same powerful interests that now collude with big government will become even more powerful. They will get to the negotiating table first; they will cut a better deal. Think about how health insurance interests carved up the Affordable Care Act, or how the big investment banks—the ones caught with too many toxic mortgage assets on their books—only grew bigger after Bernie Sanders and other anti-Wall Street warriors imposed more “accountability.” The real welfare state is the permanent class of middlemen who exploit big government, and it feeds off of concentrated power like a parasite feeds off its host.
This inherent cronyism is the best-case scenario. Socialism, the polar opposite of freedom and cooperation and the decentralization of power, requires absolute compliance with the goals of the collective will. The powerful, of course, define the “collective will.” Dissent is never tolerated, because the grand plan always comes first. Historically, the lofty goals of socialism give way to a heartless, brutal reality. Growing citizen disaffection with the poor results of socialism in practice is inevitable. Clinging to power, sticking to the plan, government power mongers do what is necessary “for the greater good.”
Conservatively speaking, the body count from socialism easily tops 100 million. Think about that number as more than just an abstraction for a minute. The corpses of the victims of 20th Century socialist regimes, lined head to toe, one after the next, would circle the globe almost four times. 100,000,000 innocents murdered by bad political ideology, murdered because absolute power always corrupts absolutely.
I know. You don’t believe me. You think I’m being dramatic. You think I’m demagoguing the good intentions of Bernie Sander’s democratic socialism. Well, here’s your reading assignment: Check out the scholarly work of R.J. Rummel, who spent his career as an academic trying to document the senseless slaughter of innocents under un-tethered government. His book, “Death By Government,” documents the bloody legacy of socialism and other tyrannical experiments in citizen compliance with well-meaning intentions and “the greater good.”
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was by far the most efficient killing machine in history, slaughtering some 62 million people in the quest to establish a truly socialist nation state. The Great Terror under Joseph Stalin was intended to squash political dissent, and his secret police, the NKVD, worked hard to meet assigned kill quotas. “But murder and arrest quotas did not work well,” writes Rummel.
Mao Zedong purposefully starved 38,000,000 in the name of the People’s Republic of China. Under Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, two million died. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam killed 1.7 million, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) murdered another 1.7 million. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia slaughtered some 1.1 million.
That gets us to 105 million dead souls butchered by the practice of socialism. And I have not included Nazi Germany (The National Socialist German Workers’ Party) yet, or the 21 million men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust by Adolph Hitler and his Nazi killing machine. The totals above, as sickening as they are, also do not include causalities of war, although Rummel sees a direct link between the big governments and their propensity to wage war.
As George Santayana predicted in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” History teaches us that socialism kills. It would be utterly crazy to keep trying to get socialism right, over and over, expecting a different result next time.