Bernie Sanders: Right Problem, Wrong Solution

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is getting a lot of attention for his impassioned speech about the war on the middle class.  For those of you who do not know, Sanders is the Senate’s first proclaimed socialist–ever.  While I deplore socialism in all its forms, I have to admire a man who at least admits that he is one.

Sanders’ speech decries the concentration of money in the hands of America’s richest.  He is right to do so, but for all the wrong reasons.  Sanders, along with many other “progressives,” find it abhorrent that so much wealth is concentrated in so small a sliver of society.  What he does not ask, and does not appear to understand, is how such a concentration of wealth occurs.

Conspicuously absent from Sanders’ speech is any mention of the government’s contribution to this alleged injustice.  I say “alleged” because in the absence of government interference in the economy, such inequalities would be entirely just.  They would also be narrower and less sustainable.  It is Wall Street snuggling up to his compatriots in Congress that makes it possible for the mega-rich to get mega-richer and stay that way.

A market entrepreneur earns his/her wealth justly–by providing something of benefit to others.  A political entrepreneur garners wealth by the strength of his/her political pull.  The middle class is getting pounded, all right.  They are getting pounded by a legislature that rewards political entrepreneurs.  Small business owners get crushed by useless regulations and bailouts while larger companies sanctimoniously urge Congress on in the name of “public safety” and a “saving the economy.”  They cannot do it alone.  Some set of thugs must provide the muscle.  Enter government.

If Sanders really wants to punish Big Business and Wall Street, he should make them earn money honestly in the market rather than looting by decree.  Take away their power to coerce money from others and see how fast the gap narrows.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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