Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, is seriously challenging frontrunner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination for president. Sanders is particularly popular among young voters – those we now call “millennials.”
His message is every bit as seductive as it is wrong. Socialism always sounds good – we work according to our abilities and receive according to our needs. It sounds just wonderful.
The trouble is it doesn’t work.
For there to be wealth to share, wealth must first be created. For wealth to be created, risks must be taken and work must be done. The farmer plants his field in the full knowledge that the rains may never come. Absent potential reward, the farmer will do little more than feed his own family. He will risk nothing to feed other families.
The idea that people will take risks and work hard in order to simply surrender the fruits to some grandly conceived collective is fantasy. The pages of history prove it. No socialist society has ever prospered. When tried on a grand scale, such as in the Soviet Union for most of the 20th century, the result was profound and widespread suffering.
Our schools used to teach these things. They don’t so much any more.
Young people today don’t know that for 30 years Germany provided what was possibly the best possible real-time laboratory for comparing free markets and socialism.
Following World War II, the Soviet Union got control of roughly one third of Germany. The Soviets controlled what came to be called East Germany. They ran it as a communist nation.
“West Germany” (officially simply “Germany” for U.S. diplomatic recognition purposes) had regained its pre-war sovereignty. “West” Germany was free, democratic and capitalistic.
The contrast could not have been more stark. To the west, there was prosperity, growth and faith in the future. Literally a few yards away, on the other side of the wall, there was a police state still piled high with war rubble. German citizens who were unfortunate enough to get trapped in East Germany suffered chronic shortages, stagnation and grinding hopelessness. Those who tried to leave were shot.
My social studies teachers – Mrs. Everhart, Miss Campbell and Miss McCormick – taught us these things. Today’s social studies teachers (not all, I admit, but way too many) talk about income inequality, “corporate greed” and the irredeemable flaws baked into America’s DNA at its founding.
Hillary can’t quite close the deal against Bernie Sanders for the simple reason that if he appears on the ballot, there’s a good chance that your kid’s social studies teacher will vote for him. (Don’t bet, however, that he or she taught your kid about the Berlin Wall.)
Each successive generation of kids comes into the world hard-wired to believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and socialism.
They eventually outgrow Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. But because our schools no longer function as they once did, too many of them grow up believing in the likes of Bernie Sanders.