Bernie Sanders has become a household name, given his rise to prominence after his near Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election and current lead in the Democratic primaries. However, as Bernie has said multiple times, his campaign is a grassroots movement, propped up solely by individual contributors.
What was once unfathomable and taboo has become the gold standard for many liberals in the country in this election cycle; this unprecedented success for a “Democratic Socialist” clearly implies a farther leftward shift in the Democratic axis. Bernie has once again made socialism a cool, radical chance for breakout from the Democratic establishment, proposing ideas well beyond the norm.
Those ideas included a single-payer health insurance system, free tuition for all college students, a federal minimum wage of $15-per-hour and a more staunchly progressive tax system that confiscates wealth from the richest 1% and redistributes it to everyone else. Such proposals are particularly popular with younger Americans.
According to a 2018 Harvard Institute of Politics poll, a majority of young Americans support a $15-an-hour federal job guarantee, free college tuition and Medicare-for-All. In a Harris Poll from 2019, about half of the Millennial and Gen Z respondents said they would prefer to live in a socialist country. While Americans overall have a much more favorable view of capitalism than socialism, Americans aged between 18 and 24 do not: 61% have a positive reaction to the word socialism, compared to only 58% for capitalism.
This growing youth support for socialism should be of the utmost concern. The Socialist ideology calls for public ownership of the means of production and thus to have freedom stripped away from the free market. This creed manifests itself clearly in Democratic Socialism, hiding behind the adjective “Democratic” to make the idea more palatable to our country.
A single-payer health system would topple the private insurance industry. If Medicare-for-All was introduced, the path many Americans would take would be to drop private insurance since they would already pay for government-sponsored healthcare through taxes. This would make insurance companies compensate for the loss of customers by raising insurance premiums, indirectly removing the choice of private versus public insurance from Americans. Unless Americans would like to wait 140 days to see a specialist in overcrowded hospitals with medical equipment in disrepair as in Canada, we are better off having the freedom to continue to choose our own insurers in a non-socialized healthcare system.
As for free college tuition, taxpayers, including those who never went to college themselves, currently spend more than $150 billion per year on federal student loans and programs for the benefit of the higher education system. The true problem with college tuition is its astronomical price tag; however, when the government readily provides loans, universities have no incentive to keep their prices low. Under a fully financed government system, colleges would simply pass the bill to Washington. Considering the increased burdens placed on taxpayers, significant overcrowding and lessening of education quality and the high dropout rates, all as seen in Europe’s failed attempts, free college tuition is highly unfeasible.
While it may be compassionate to want to have what is called a “living wage” of fifteen dollars per hour for minimum wage, this demand is simply unfeasible. According to a study conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, raising the minimum wage from seven dollars to ten dollars would result in the loss of 500,000 jobs nationwide. An increased minimum wage is unsustainable for the typical small business, as no one can stay in business if a worker can only produce $10 an hour of value, but the government forces them to pay their workers $15 an hour.
America was founded on the lifeblood of personal freedom — “No taxation without representation,” “Give me liberty or give me death” and “Don’t tread on me” were the signs of the times. The era of tyranny was no longer welcome; the people had the individual right to their labor and the fruits of it. Government was not invented to take away our property in favor of the so-called “common good” but rather to protect it, as the esteemed philosopher John Locke argued in the “Two Treatises of Government,” from which the Founding Fathers took inspiration for their vision for America. Socialism takes these rights straight from the hands of the people, and yet, these same people are the first to advocate for it. What sounds good in theory does not always pan out well in a country of over 330 million people, and electing a Socialist to the highest office in the country may lead to disastrous consequences for our flourishing democracy-enthused capitalist nation.