Libertarians and Bernie Sanders

I don’t understand self-proclaimed libertarians who are rooting for Bernie Sanders. Granted, they are only a subset of libertarians as a whole, but they are quite vocal. When asked about specific libertarian issues, they usually have no response other than "but he’s libertarian on social issues." Let’s look at the definition of libertarian. The simplest and broadest definition is probably the following "someone who ​believes that ​people should have ​complete ​freedom of ​thought and ​action" (source). However you apply this belief, it is at the absolute core of libertarianism. Free will. Freedom. The right to make your own choices and to do with your body, possessions, money, etc. as you choose so long as you are not harming anyone. Does Bernie Sanders believe in this type of freedom? In any way at all? Let’s look at the top 10 issues from his OWN WEBSITE!!!

Income Inequality

I won’t bore you with the details, because you’ve heard it all before. He states unequivocally he wants to raise taxes on the entire country in order to redistribute wealth. This is theft by the definition listed in any English dictionary in the world. In this country and others we have been trying this "rob from the rich to give to the poor" approach to income inequality for generations. It has only made things worse, but he thinks that’s because we need more of the same apparently. By the way, one thing he doesn’t mention is the USA has the highest corporate tax of any OECD country in the world (only arguably behind New Zealand when all deductions are taken into account)! So we are already taxing the biggest earners (corporations) in this country higher than virtually any other nation on the planet and he thinks even higher taxes will solve income inequality? Does he not see that such policies are the cause rather than the solution?

"Free" College

Sounds great doesn’t it? It is free! Who can argue with that? But wait… who pays for it? I suppose all these universities will magically offer free education right? Their professors will work for free. They will take a loss on the costs of building maintenance, etc. Hmmmm… that doesn’t make much sense does it? Would you work as a professor for free? No income whatsoever? I know I wouldn’t. I have to pay bills. So the only way he can provide this "free" service is by once again, stealing money from someone. Theft is not conducive to freedom. According to his site, this would be paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculators. Who would qualify as a speculator under this plan? Anyone with a retirement portfolio? So little old grandma gets her retirement money stolen from her to pay for this "free" tuition?

Getting big money out of politics

On the surface, I can’t argue with this one. We all hate how corporations and unions are… wait, what? Sanders is not against unions donating millions of dollars without the consent of their union members? In fact, he’s all for it??? You mean, he’s lying when he says he wants big money out of politics? He only wants big money out of politics when that money comes from donors ideologically opposed to him? Damn. Sounds like any other politician doesn’t he? More on point, I’m a libertarian and not an anarchist. If we need any law on this issue it should be simply one which requires any publicly traded corporation (or union which requires dues) to disclose its political contributions to its stockholders (or members in the case of unions). I agree that if you own part of a company you should be aware of how their money is being spent. But, oh wait, they already must disclose that information! So what exactly is Sanders advocating for here? Simple. He wants to kill donations on the part of any company which opposes his political ideology. That’s it. He wants to use the strong arm of government to silence those he disagrees with. How is this conducive to freedom?

Creating Jobs

The fact that he even lists this just makes me laugh. And laugh and laugh and laugh some more. Using government money to invest in infrastructure in order to create jobs. Either he thinks the American people are too stupid to remember, or he doesn’t care. But Barack Obama said this exact same thing in 2008. Remember? The whole shovel-ready jobs promise? What happened to that program? How did it work out? I really can’t do a better job at pointing out how ludicrous this program was than Tim Worstall did on Forbes in this article. If you think Forbes is too conservative, check out this liberal perspective on why this never worked out from the New York Times. In any case, the bottom line is we borrowed $800 billion… yes, that’s billion… to create no jobs whatsoever that anyone has been able to account for. It turns out that the simple economic principle of supply-and-demand is correct! Jobs are created when there is demand for those jobs; not by arbitrarily spending tax money the government doesn’t even have to try to make up jobs. Sanders is now saying he wants to try the same thing again (stealing from taxpayers to pay for jobs that don’t exist), because it worked so well the last time.

Living Wage

Who doesn’t want more money? I do. We all do. For anyone making less than $15/hr, such a minimum wage sounds like a god-send. An instant overnight bonus. Suddenly all our troubles will be solved. We will never have to worry about money again! If this were a Utopian world, this might be true. I won’t go into the various issues related to the real-world economic impact of doubling the minimum wage at the federal level (you can read more about it here). But even if you are one of those extreme liberal economists who thinks that a doubling of the minimum wage overnight will have no effect on inflation or employment, you still can’t deny that this is still theft, and thus anti-libertarian.

Climate Initiative

Who isn’t concerned about the environment? We all are. Some of us are old enough to have seen the improvements made over the last few decades in terms of littering and water pollution. Some on the left say that anyone who opposes massive government environmental regulation are all "climate change deniers." This is too complex an issue to get into succinctly, so I shall only speak for myself. I don’t deny climate change. It happens for any of a thousand factors and has happened thousands of times in the past, mostly before industrialization. But that doesn’t mean I discount that human development has had an impact, even the biggest impact, on climate change over the last century. In short, I am not a "denier" by any definition whatsoever. It is the "solutions" that I question. Even the most liberal of scientists in the field all agree that the greatest polluter in the world is China. The United States is 2nd overall, but per capita we are somewhere between #8 and #12 (depending on which data you look at), with countries such as Qatar, Trinidad, and Kuwait surpassing our own CO2 emissions by over 100% (source). According to most data, the United States produces roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide per capita as Australia and Canada. Even if you believe that government regulation of emissions will prevent an ecological disaster as the result of climate change, it is only reasonable that such a policy would encompass those nations which pollute the environment far more than we do. Sanders has proposed absolutely no policy which would place equal restrictions on other high-pollution nations. Which begs the question, is he just ignorant of the facts, or does he have some desire to impose unequal environmental restrictions on US industries? If he is that ignorant, he doesn’t deserve to be President. If, as I suspect, the latter is the case, one has to wonder why. In either case, the fact remains that he is seeking theft once again, by removing assets that others have earned. Again, not a libertarian policy.

Immigration Policy

There are two issues that seem to cause intense debate in libertarian circles. Immigration policy is one of those. I could quote a hundred libertarian sources on this issue and they would all have slightly different nuances of opinion. From the strictest definition of libertarianism, where personal freedom is paramount, we must admit that in principle we are all for immigration. On the other hand, we also believe people have the right to choose what to do with their own money, therefore there should be no subsidization of immigrants on the part of taxpayers. The third issue, of course, is security. A nation, just as a homeowner or a business, has the right to protect its territory (unless you come from the extreme end of the libertarian spectrum which would be pure anarchists). This is where we get into the chicken vs. egg argument. Would our national security be at risk by foreign terrorists (or freedom fighters if you prefer) were it not for our interventionist policies? Or are our interventionist policies necessary to stop such threats? Sanders does get more into that issue further down in his list of initiatives, but I am trying to stick to his "Letterman list" (top ten) here. In any case, the point remains that Sanders is once again calling for additional theft (taxation) in order to pay for more security and future wealth redistribution programs. While his general stance on immigration itself may appear libertarian (promoting freedom), his call for increased federal funding is not.

Racial Justice

Again, an issue which on its surface appears to be libertarian in nature until you read/hear exactly how he plans to address it. Libertarians have been crying out about abuses of power by authorities longer than anyone. Libertarians are the driving force behind every major police monitoring organization out there… not statist social democrats. While in terms of statistics (adjusting for diversity), it is undeniable that authorities are far more likely to kill minorities, I personally feel this cheapens the overall issue to focus solely on this. If a police officer shoots an unarmed white teenager for listening to music on his headphones, is this any less unacceptable than officers giving less than 2 seconds for a black teen time to drop his toy gun before shooting him? Either way it is an atrocity and I vigorously stand by the position that both should have resulted in a grand jury indictment against the officers, but the former involved no guns at all while the latter arguably involved a possible firearm and immediate threat. People like Sanders claim to want equality but they seem to pick and choose which abuses they focus on based solely on skin color (he even singles out which colors of skin he cares about on the website… read the link for yourself). Police brutality and the constant attacks on our constitutional rights by the state must be opposed at every turn. Racism can only be destroyed when we stop making every political issue about skin color. Again, is this libertarian? Do libertarians think police brutality only matters if the victim has a certain skin color? No. We oppose it at every turn. Unlike liberals, we are truly about equality because your skin color doesn’t matter. While some of the solutions Sanders offers (like demilitarization of LEOs) are libertarian, others (like all the programs he calls for federal funding for) are clearly not libertarian at all.

Women’s Rights

Again he speaks of rights and equality. Sounds very libertarian doesn’t it? That’s what libertarians want most of all. Equal rights for all, regardless of skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Some of this touches on the abortion issue, the second of those issues which cause intense debate in libertarian circles. I don’t know that there are any hard statistics, but I would say most libertarians are not extremely pro-life or pro-choice, and the split is almost 50/50 on which direction they lean. The issue comes down to liberty vs. NAP and where each kicks in and takes precedence over the other. So let’s put the issue of abortion aside as it cannot be clearly defined as libertarian in either direction (except insomuch as most libertarians agree it should not be an issue regulated by the federal government, which Sanders obviously disagrees with, once more showing he is not libertarian in the slightest). Let’s also ignore the minimum wage issues he lists here as we discussed those previously (as well as the single-payer healthcare system which is about as anti-libertarian as you can get). The main issue he addresses is gender wage discrepancy. Of course, such discrepancy would have to legitimately exist for this to be a serious issue worthy of federal intervention. The only evidence of this on his site is a graph which compares overall minority women’s wages with white male wages as a whole. It does not account for age, occupation, years of service, etc. If I compared maids in hotels to CEOs of major corporations, would you expect their wages to be even close to identical? You have to account for these factors in any genuinely fair analysis. One of the best non-political analyses of this issue I’ve seen is here. As you can see, there is a small margin of difference between men and women in the same field, but when adjusted for age, even that difference seems to disappear altogether. Short version: there is no gender wage discrepancy today in America that anyone has ever been able to prove. The only difference occurs when you ignore such important factors as age and occupation. So unless you are advocating that women working at the drive-thru at Taco Bell should make the same as a male surgeon, Sanders is just being an idiot on this point. And again anti-libertarian because he opposes free markets.

LGBT Equality

Of his top ten list, this issue provides probably the fewest details, so it is hard to say whether this stance is genuinely libertarian or authoritarian. Any real libertarian is for equality of all people, regardless of gender, race, orientation, etc. While in principle no libertarian would be opposed to the idea that people of any gender or orientation should be treated equally, we automatically are wary when a politician uses the threat of the federal government to enforce that "equality." Centuries of evidence have shown that the federal government never stops at simply ensuring equality. It always pushes the boundaries of its power until it subjugates the citizens under the guise of "fairness." Of all the top ten list, this is probably the closest to being libertarian, except many of us would prefer these changes occur at the state and local level.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.