Saturday, January 23, 2016


        In the idealistic world of Horatio Alger one can strive and succeed. That’s the theoretical advantage of our capitalistic free enterprise system.
        Because competition is an essential part of the system, there will inevitably be losers as well as winners. When the winners become so successful and powerful that they can stifle competition, restrain trade, and control the system to the detriment of consumers, then the Federal government steps in and passes regulatory legislation like the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the Federal Trade Commission act of 1914, and the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.
        Under the communistic system free enterprise is abolished and the government controls and runs everything. In between these two diametrically opposed economic systems there is socialism, which is characterized by "the collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods" (Merriam-Webster). Those who are alarmed by the exigencies of the capitalistic system might find some aspects of socialism attractive.
        Bernie Sanders has called himself a Socialist, more recently a Democratic Socialist. He has struck a nerve with younger voters in his narrowly focused campaign diatribe against “Wall Street” and the wealthiest 1% of Americans. In every speech he hammers on the same theme, and in every debate he manages somehow to work that theme into his response, no matter what the question. There is no doubt his message has caught hold, because his campaign is surging, according to the latest polls. Americans should indeed be concerned about the disappearance of the middle class and the growing gap between the ultra wealthy and the swelling millions who fall below the poverty line. 
        Senator Sanders has yet to spell out the concrete details of how he expects to achieve his idealistic goals, however, other than his general promise to make the wealthy and major corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Tax reform is desperately needed, but shouting for it and actually achieving it are not at all the same. Supporters of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, are quick to point to her ability to get things done. So it comes down to a choice between an angry idealist and a determined pragmatist, a dreamer and a doer.
        As the debate continues, here is a question Senator Sanders should be asked: “Do you, as a socialist, believe in the free enterprise system?” Voters should be interested in his reply! A negative response would spark a firestorm among those who view free enterprise as a sacred part of the American heritage. On the other hand, even a qualified affirmative reply would force him to deal with the paradoxical nature of success (its limitations and its excesses) in a competitive economic world.
        Capitalism has its flaws, but is Sen. Sanders ready to replace it with his own socialistic economic system?  And do his idealistic but perhaps naive adherents realize what they are really supporting? They had better take a closer look at the emperor’s new clothes!

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