Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Problem with Bernie Sanders

Here's the thing:

I like everything Bernie Sanders says. Free college? Sounds awesome! $15 minimum wage? Hey, I'll probably have a minimum wage job in the coming months, I'd like that extra cash! Getting big money out of politics? That sounds fair to me. Equality for everyone? Of course I want that.

However, I don't think most people realize what the fundamental issue is behind everything Bernie says. It's not that he's a 'socialist' or that he's old, or that his speculation tax won't work, or whatever.

I propose that in fact, it has nothing to do with his policies at all.

It has to do with worldview.

Okay, into a little background. Last semester, I took a college Introduction to Literature course, in which we read Red Plenty. It is basically a 400 page group of stories about communist Russia, and how the Russian government aspired to an ideal but failed miserably. At the same time, I took an advanced Readings in Theology course. In that, we talked a lot about worldview, and how a messed up worldview can lead to a lot of other issues. In How Now Shall We Live, Chuck Colson suggests that there is a fundamental worldview issue that has invaded our world today. I connected these two classes, and came to a realization about the underlying reasons why communism will always fail, and what this pervasive worldview is.

It has to do with human nature. Today, many people believe that human nature is basically good. As a philosophy, this is generally called Humanism. A lot of this in the modern era started in the 1700's, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. Many people like to think that, as a whole, humans are good, and that they naturally will be good. They believe that society, money, lack of education, or traumatic events are what make them do evil.

Don't agree that this is everywhere? Then ask yourself - why do we always try and explain away the bad? Someone murders? Oh, they had a bad childhood. A father leaves his family? Oh, he had a mental disorder. A gunman shoots up a school? Oh, society failed him. Yet no one tries to explain acts of great goodness! I  mean, why would they? It's human nature, isn't it? No one looks at a person like Mother Theresa and says she has a mental disorder. They say things like, "Faith in humanity restored!" as if it was what all humans were naturally meant to do.

This, in fact, is the philosophy that gives rise to socialism.

Capitalism, and America, is founded on the idea that man is inherently evil. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, which he used to defend the Constitution, "Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without restraint."

Capitalism is built on the idea that people will be greedy, and try and cheat one another. However, under the free market system, the goal is for this cheating to balance out. For example, if one person tries to raise prices to an unfair level, another will lower theirs and benefit.

However, socialism does not conform to this fundamental truth about human nature. Socialism tries to say that, if we just set up society correctly, people will naturally fall in line and work together for the common good. Give them free college, and they'll tackle the big issues. Raise their wages, and they won't waste the money.

This truth can be found in the Bible, but it can also be found in human history. All of human history is plagued by evil. Egypt was screwy, the Greeks were sickening, the Romans watched people get eaten by lions, the Middle Ages were a disaster, the Catholic church started the Crusades, the French Revolution was... revolting... Even America, who some believe to be the greatest country ever, had slaves and destroyed millions of natives.

And Bernie tries to come in and say, "If we just throw off the mantle of the rich oppressors... If we just educate everyone... If we just do this... we will be good!"

I wish it was that easy. I wish, if we just set people up, that they would just do things right. I wish that solving our issues was as easy as educating people. But what do educated people do? They flock to Wall Street. They build the atomic bomb. They scam those who don't know enough to stop them. I'm not saying they always do these things - but education does not make a moral person - just a smart one.

So, in summation:

My problem with Bernie is that his misconception about human nature causes many of his ideas to be flawed, no matter how much I wish they weren't.

Song of the Day: I Will Arise and Go to Jesus - Michael Card's version (I think this is close to the version I recently heard at Bethel University's Bethel service)


  1. There's a lot here that I would be very interested to discuss with you, but I think it all starts with one question: what do you believe is the purpose of government?

    1. Whoops, I never replied to this. I would say that, in very general terms, the Preamble sums it up. "Promote the general Welfare" is probably where the most differences occur. To me, that means empowering people to achieve, not handing out achievements. For instance, I think a much more powerful solution than raising minimum wage would be simply making personal finance a required class throughout every high school in America. That gives people the knowledge to succeed with what they can earn, without handing them money that they may have never learned how to manage.

    2. Oh shoot, I was checking back for a response for awhile but haven't looked since you posted this.

      I suppose the Preamble is as good a place to start as any. Empowering people to achieve is an excellent goal. I have some questions about your proposed solution, though. (I don't care if you answer all of them, or any of them, really; I'd just be very glad if you gave them some serious thought.)

      -Who gets to decide "what [a person] can earn"? What is a just way to assess the financial value of a person's work or other contributions to society, and who's responsible for enforcing that?

      -What about the welfare of people who can't earn at all? Who gets to decide who can't earn?

      -Are there different rules for people who can't earn because of immutable factors that aren't their fault vs. those who have made bad choices? Who gets to make those rules and judge who is and isn't at fault for their circumstances?

      -What about the welfare of people who can earn something, but not enough to live on? Who gets to decide what's enough to live on?

      -What about the welfare of people who can earn enough to live on, but only in ways that make them miserable or destroy their health? Who gets to conduct the cost-benefit analysis of any given job option for any given individual?

      -What happens when people disagree about any of these? Who gains from those disagreements and debates and who suffers from them?

      -Are societies/states "better" in any sense (morally superior, more productive, more conducive to happiness, spend less?) when large portions of the populace are severely financially insecure even though the society/state has more than enough combined resources to resolve the insecurity? Who says? How do we know?

      And my last question, which in some ways is the most important but in other ways isn't even relevant to what I'm trying to get at here: are mandatory personal finance classes a special exception to your assertion that educating people won't solve our issues, and if so, why?

    3. I'll just answer the last one.

      I would say that yes, personal finance classes would be a special exception (as there is at least one for every rule).

      The reason is that personal finance gives skills that apply in every single person's life, that they can choose to use to better their lifestyle -- not simply their income or knowledge, but their very way of life. Chemistry, math, history, and science all give skills that are applicable to some specific jobs that may increase income, but personal finance will result in a better lifestyle --- which is far more important than a higher paying job.

      For example, debt. Decent personal finance should teach that debt is, on the whole, a thing to be avoided. Yet a quick google search reveals that the average household has at least a few thousand dollars worth of debt.

      We could raise people's mininum income -- that would be an immediate 'solution' to an issue that took root during the Great Depression.

      I think, in this case, education is a far better answer. No, it won't help that many people within the next term of the POTUS. But maybe, in the long term, it could be a massive step in the right direction.

      However, I still wouldn't say that education creates a more moral person. A person with personal finance education may still use their knowledge to hoard wealth for themselves, or to manipulate those that don't have the knowledge. They may also use their money to give to charities or serve the poor.