Posted on November 10, 2015
Smell the Bern
Sanders’ odious deodorant remark
In a May interview with the New York Times, Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said, “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.” To a rational person, this is a non sequitur. Taking a product off the market would do nothing to feed the hungry. If Sanders is so concerned about hungry children, he should just tell Michelle Obama to give them their food back.
This critique of his only rings true if you share his belief that we have a “rigged economy” in which most new wealth “goes to the top one percent.” In truth, the “one percenters” earn about 15 percent of the income in the U.S., while paying 24 percent of all federal taxes. Yet even if Sanders’ figures were anywhere near accurate, the question would be where the wealth “goes” from. He does not consider that the money used to market a product has been earned by the company, or has been successfully raised from investors. No, it must have been “distributed” by some evil entity that rightly should have distributed that same money to the poor.
Don’t waste your time explaining to him that the production, distribution and sales of a new product all employ people. No, the deodorant makers simply consume the money that “goes to” them, without anyone else ever seeing a dime.
This is where Republicans go wrong in praising Sanders for his alleged honesty. Finally, they say, we have a Democrat candidate who admits to being a socialist! However much we may disagree with him, at least he means what he says.
No, he doesn’t.
Socialists are never honest, because they know their argument can’t win if it is presented forthrightly. Just listen to the way that Sanders and other leftists rail against capitalism. Conservatives have no compunction about using the word “capitalism” because we don’t hear any negative connotations in it, but Karl Marx invented it as a pejorative term for the free market. Had he called it by its correct name, he’d have been trying to persuade people to reject the free market in favor of authoritarian control. Instead, he presented “capitalism” as if it were just another top-down manmade system being imposed on the people by some external power.
That’s just how Bernie Sanders talks about it also. He would have us believe that capitalism and socialism are competing models of centrally controlled economies, except that the capitalist central planners are corrupt and mean, whereas the socialists are benevolent, if pungent.
Bernie’s deodorant example presumes the existence of a gigantic reservoir of wealth that has no rightful owner, and a central authority empowered to decide how much “goes to” whom. It can’t be that successful business owners earn their money, and reinvest it to produce a wider array of products to the benefit of the consumer. No, their wealth was distributed to them by some sinister capitalist central planner, who might just as easily have distributed it to starving children, except that he wants them to die!
In the real world, the proliferation of consumer choices improves the general population’s standard of living. In Bernie’s socialist fantasy land, it’s a frivolous waste of money that the central authority could have used more compassionately. This argument would make total sense, if only its ludicrous premise were correct. If wealth came from nowhere, and didn’t have to be earned, then distributing it to the needy, instead of to an already successful corporation, would be an easy call to make.
The problem with assigning honesty to this point-of-view is that everyone knows government is not the source of wealth. If it were, then how could wealth be finite? Why not just continue to generate it until everybody is rich?
Those who are officially categorized as impoverished in the United States have a higher standard of living than middle-income earners in those European socialist democracies about which Sanders romanticizes. You know, the ones that presumably have just as many different kinds of deodorant as Bernie feels they “need.” If wealth were produced by government, those nations would be the more prosperous ones.
If Bernie Sanders were really honest, he’d admit that he dislikes the free market because he doesn’t trust people to be free. Instead, he pretends to simply prefer one redistributionist system over another, on the basis that the latter is wrongly administered. The veracity of that argument doesn’t even pass the smell test.
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