by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
Last year Roy Cordato wrote in RealClearPolicy about how the Democratic Party’s self-described socialists aren’t actually socialists at all. Yesterday Sen. Bernie Sanders said something no true socialist could have.
In an interview with The New York Times, Sanders “acknowledged that he has joined the ranks of the millionaires he has denounced for years,” and when pressed on that, he “did not shirk from the description” but said,
I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.
See? This principle — If you produce a good highly desired by consumers, you can be wealthy, too — that’s not socialism. That isn’t even “you didn’t build that.” In fact, it’d be great for American enterprise if self-described “socialists” applied that principle universally.
So what gives? Cordato explained:
If the self-proclaimed socialists of the Democratic Party are not socialists, what are they? First and foremost, they are unshackled welfare statists, directed by a morality that values, above all, a form of outcome-based egalitarianism. … But note that none of their proposed programs seeks to nationalize any industries. What they do seek is to equalize the benefits these industries provide through one or another kind of government payment scheme.
In the area of economic policy, these self-proclaimed socialists embrace, not socialism, but what is called “dirigisme”…. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Dirigiste policies often include centralized economic planning, directing investment, controlling wages and prices, and supervising labour markets.”
[Dirigisme is] an ideologically neutral economic system, allowing those in power to advance whatever goals they happen to have. What needs to be emphasized is that dirigisme is neither socialism nor capitalism. It is a system where industry is privately held but governmentally directed to advance the interests and goals of the state, regardless of what those goals might be.