Sunday, February 16, 2020

Week 36: Frontrunner Sanders

At the founding of our nation, when Jefferson wrote about the unalienable rights of man: including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and when Gouverneur Morris and the constitutional Committee on Style wrote about justice, domestic tranquility, common defence, the general welfare and the blessings of liberty, they were rejecting the early colonial socialist experiments from a century before and the contemporary totalitarian reality they were experiencing under the rule of George III. The United States of America, as conceived in the latter part of the eighteenth century, was a revolution against oppressive government control and a revolution for individual liberty.

Approximately 230 year later, we Americans find ourselves in a Presidential election season in which one party is embracing the very socialistic and tyrannical ideas that our form of government was designed to mitigate. The Democrat primaries – at least to date – appear to be a show of support for Senator Bernie Sanders and his policies, which he himself describes as socialist.

Sanders is quoted in the past as saying, “The U.S. Constitution is an extraordinary document. In my view, it should not be amended often.” Looking at Sanders’ official election Web site, one may be inclined to wonder if he meant the U.S. constitution or that of the USSR. On his site, he calls for “a wholesale transformation of our society.” If the U.S. Constitution is the social contract that lays the foundation of our society, these two statements would seem to be at odds.

The U.S. Constitution is a document that is deliberately designed to limit the role of government vis-à-vis the citizens. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights enumerates specific rights that the government cannot violate, as well as a general protection of rights not listed in the document itself. The message is clear, the people of the United States are inherently free, and the sole purpose of government is to protect each citizen’s individual liberty.

I challenge anyone to visit Sanders’ Web site and find any policy proposal that is congruent with the national ethos fostered by the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. I dare say, it cannot be done.

Let us look, instead, to the constitution of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (aka the Soviet Union), and for our purposes we shall examine the 1936 version. The congruence of Sanders’ policies with the articles set forth in Chapter I of Soviet constitution, a chapter that lays out how society will be organized, is readily apparent.

Article 1 of the Soviet constitution states that the nation is a state of workers and peasants. As one reads through the planks of Sanders’ plan for America, each proposal involves the transfer of power from capitalists to workers, from bourgeoisie to proletariat. His proposals are based on the false belief that work and wealth, power and success are zero-sum games. If one person does well, it must be at the expense of another. Therefore, the government’s role in Sanders’ America is to forcibly redistribute work, wealth, power and success, based on his conception of justice. In the articles that follow, you, kind reader, will see just a sampling of Sanders’ proposals for our nation, one that aims to tear down some so that others may be raised up.

Article 2 promotes the overthrow of landlords and capitalists. At this point, Sanders is not proposing that the government forcibly take the land and business of landlords and capitalists, but he does propose in his “Corporate Accountability and Democracy” plan to require companies that meet certain size requirements to be 20-percent owned (in terms of stock ownership) by its workers. The plan also calls for 45 percent of such companies’ boards of directors be elected by the workers of the company. The next step is to transfer ownership of private companies to the workers, not through force but through re-education. He proposes that retiring business owners would go to Worker Ownership Centers to be educated on the benefits of employee ownership of companies. Such re-education would endeavor to compel people to turn their businesses over to the collective of the workers, as opposed, for example, to passing them on to their children or other heirs of their choosing. In Sanders’ “Workplace Democracy Plan,” he denies federal contracts to any companies that “outsource jobs overseas, pay workers less than $15 an hour without benefits, refuse to remain neutral in union organizing efforts, pay executives over 150 times more than average workers, hire workers to replace striking workers, or close businesses after workers vote to unionize.” Effectively, his plan overthrows the direction and control that a capitalist has over the business he or she has created.

Article 3 gives power to the so-called working people, which implies that those who do not labor in factories or on farms are not working people. Sanders’ “Workplace Democracy Plan” significantly increases the power that unions have in the workplace. Remember that there is, indeed, a difference in the goals and objectives of a union and those of its members. The cautionary tale of being careful for what one wishes may be apropos to workers as they weight this plan. His plan also limits an employer’s right and ability to fire its employees.

Article 4 transfers the means of production to the state in an effort to forbid the exploitation of man by man. This article is closely tied to Article 2 in that stock ownership and board representation requirements effectively shift the control of the means of production to workers, who in Sanders’ America would be unionized and, therefore, a de facto organ of the state. This should beg an important question for each worker. Are they trading one exploiter for another? When “exploited” by a business owner, it is easier to walk into his or her office to discuss concerns. It will be much more difficult when the exploiter sits in a paneled office on the Hill in Washington, D.C.

Article 5 divides all property into that owned by the state or by collectives. Although Sanders still allows for the private ownership of property, his “Housing for All” policy states that his administration will use the power of the federal government to “combat gentrification, exclusionary zoning, segregation and speculation.” To be sure, exclusionary practices and segregation, historically both tactics of the left, are repugnant to equality and dignity, but our system of government empowers state and local governments to address such issues. This plan is a transfer of power from our local representatives to bureaucrats in Washington. As part of his plan, Sanders’ proposes to build 10 million housing units to end the housing shortage.

Article 6 transfers ownership of all resources to the state, which purports to mean all people. Through government-funded programs in his “Green New Deal,” Sanders proposes that people use their lawns for farming to meet their own immediate food needs and that communities collectivize grocery stores and return food processing, slaughterhouses and dairies to local communities. There is no comment on what this would do in terms of economies of scale, efficiency and cost to the consumer. Additionally, the “Green New Deal” expands the government’s ownership of land, and it proposes that land be worked through a “reimagined” Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  The CCC under Roosevelt was designed to put unemployed people to work, given the fact that so many were out of work during the Depression, and to build job skills. With employment at historically high levels, it is less clear what the purpose of Sanders’ CCC would be.

Article 7 describes land use and ownership in collective farms and cooperative organizations. Buried in his “Green New Deal,” the last bullet item in the detailed description of Sanders’ plan promotes the collective ownership of farmlands. This final point follows proposals like price setting, regulatory oversight regimes, and all sorts of government penalties and restrictions that limit free trade.

Article 8 guarantees the people’s occupation of collective farms in perpetuity and without charge. Sanders’ “Housing for All” policy seeks to implement national rent control, like that of New York City, which has so perverted the housing market, making it one of the more costly places to live in the United States. His policy also makes it increasingly difficult for landlords to evict people from buildings they own.

Article 9 allows for a limited private market for peasants and craftsmen. While Sanders’ plans do not directly address this issue, his “Workplace Democracy” plan does limit a worker’s right to pursue his own objectives in that Sanders’ administration would require workers to pay union dues, even if they do not want to be part of the union, ending the right-to-work movement that has freed so many workers from their union masters. He would also eliminate the ability of workers to obtain permanent employment with an employer if they cross picket lines to work for that employer during a strike.

Article 10 permits the people to keep the income and personal property (e.g., clothing, utensils, furniture) they earn, and it guarantees the transfer of such property as inheritance. Surprisingly, this is one area in which Americans would be better off under the Soviet system. Sanders proposes a 99.8 percent inheritance tax. Granted, it’s a tax on the wealthy, but it is a tax that would encourage the wealthy to dispose of their wealth in frivolous spending and extravagant living, as opposed to passing it on for useful purposes and capital investment by their heirs. Under Sanders’ plan, clothing, utensils and a few sticks of furniture are all that one could pass on to their descendants.

Article 11 directs the state control of economic life as a way to increase public wealth and supposedly to improve the working people’s material conditions, as well as their cultural level. Sanders’ "sectoral collective bargaining system," part of his “Workplace Democracy Plan,” will set wages for all industries, as opposed to wages being tied to what the market dictates. His “Medicare for All” proposal will eliminate private insurance, including plans for unionized workers, and it will require that all citizens be subject to a federal healthcare system. Regarding education, one can only imagine what sort of propaganda and indoctrination that Sanders’ “Education for All” plan will embed in public schools. Just look at the arrangement between the New York Times Magazine and the public-school system in which the magazine’s 1619 project is revising the history of slavery in this country to achieve the left’s ends of political correctness and to veil the promulgation of its own racist policies. Additionally, Sanders calls for greater federal control of schools, starting with attacks on charter schools. Given that, it seems likely that parochial and other private schools could be targeted next for removal to the dustbin of history under a Sanders’ administration.

Article 12 mandates work, stating, “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.” Sanders addresses this concept through his “Jobs for All” policy. Under Sanders, everyone is assured a job at a living wage. He stops short of saying that a job will be required for every citizen. Might that notion be implied? I cannot say, but given the similarities between Sanders’ plans and the Soviet constitution, it seems like a safe inference. Interestingly, this is the least detailed part of Sanders’ plan.

Sanders, Warren and those of their ilk, who long for a socialist state, try to convince us that happiness and misery are the ingredients of a finite pie. For me to be happy, I must cause you misery. They do not believe – or rather the do not want us to believe – that we can all be happy.

The collapse of the Soviet Union came in 1991, just 29 years ago. Their experiment in socialism is not ancient history. Lenin, Stalin and their many successors decimated their economy, obliterated their culture, and caused the death of millions of their citizens, all in the pursuit of some idealized utopia. Let us recall the Greek etymology of “utopia.” It means “not place” or in other words, a place that does not or cannot exist. Every attempt in history – ancient, modern and contemporary – to achieve utopia results in dystopia, or a bad or abnormal place. Both utopia and dystopia require the extinguishing of human individualism and spirit at the altar of the collective. There is a reason that the Soviet Union no longer exists, that free thinkers in Cuba are imprisoned, and that the good people of Venezuela are starving and dying despite living in a resource-abundant land. The reason is that socialism is tyranny, and Liberty is anathema to tyranny. Liberty must be crushed or tyranny must implode. Socialism, which requires tyranny to function, results in human misery. It always has and always will. It cannot otherwise exist.

Sanders and his comrades tell you and me that we are slaves to our corporate masters. For a moment, let us suppose that we are. In a capitalist system, each of us has the freedom to leave that so-called master and find a better one. In a socialist system, we trade a thousand masters (some good, some bad) for one master: the state. There is no alternative. There is no freedom to choose something better for oneself. It is that choice, the ability of the worker to choose, that keeps their masters in check. Without that choice, that check, the worker is truly oppressed. Such oppression is only possible when the state is supreme.

Look at the mechanisms of control described above. Better yet, go to Sanders’ election site and read it for yourself. This, in itself, is an interesting proposition. Each plank of his plan includes a handful of high-level, easy-to-find bullet points that may sound, to some, like noble aspirations. However, as they say, the devil is in the detail. To find the detail, one must dig. It’s almost as if the details are intentionally hidden from the casual reader. After reading his proposals, reflect on how his plans might advance liberty and happiness. If you can figure that out, let me know!

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