I like Bernie Sanders, and I’m really happy he is running for president. He brings a breath of fresh air to a country where the conversation has sometimes swung way too far to the right.
But the debate last night highlighted why I would rather he not win the presidency. He conflates two things that I think are important to distinguish from each other: equality and opportunity.
The Declaration of Independence famously asserted that everyone has the inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and that governments should protect those rights. It did not say that we should be given happiness, just that we should have the opportunity to pursue our happiness.
And that’s what I believe. Everyone should have an equal opportunity at success (however they define it, such as getting rich if that’s what they want), as long as it doesn’t trample on other people’s rights. America became great because we were the land of opportunity. To regain that, we must have a level playing field. When people believe they have an fair chance at success, they will try harder.
But Sanders keeps harping on inequality. He is in favor of massive government job creation programs, which I think is unwise. Even socialist countries failed at that. He attacks the rich, seemingly just for the offense of being rich. I have no problem with people being rich, as long as they actually earned it. What bothers me is people who get richer from government corporate welfare, like hedge fund managers who take advantage of insane tax breaks, bankers who throw lavish parties for themselves using bailout money, or CEOs who cash in their golden parachutes after destroying the companies they were supposed to lead.
People who earned their wealth also know that the same opportunities they received must be available to everyone. That’s why they don’t mind paying their fair share back.
Sanders also attacks capitalism as a problem, deriding the “casino capitalist system“. As I’ve said many times, the problem is not capitalism, it is what wrongly passes for capitalism in this country. When we extend protectionist things like copyrights beyond the lifetime of the creator, we no longer have a capitalistic free market. When we bail out large companies (including banks) we no longer have a a market-based system. What we need is capitalism where everyone has equal opportunity to create and succeed at their own business. Not a system like socialism where everyone is guaranteed success.