by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
My American friends keep telling me that Bernie Sanders is a left-wing crackpot. “If he’s what passes for a crackpot in your country,” I reply, “I’d gladly swap our socialists for yours.” If the Vermont senator were running for office in Europe, he’d be howled down as some sort of conservative shill.
You think I’m exaggerating? Consider the man who, according to the polls, is set to be the next leader of Britain’s Labor Party.
Jeremy Corbyn was a keen supporter of Castro’s Cuba and Chavez’s Venezuela. He refers to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” and backed the IRA throughout its terrorist campaign. He regularly quotes Karl Marx, believes that capitalism is doomed and, I’m pretty sure, privately regrets the outcome of the Cold War.
Corbyn is a kind of karaoke communist — you know what he’s going to say before he says it. …
… No, the rise of Corbyn should be seen as part of the same phenomenon that has seen Syriza become the dominant party of Greece, Podemos surge in Spain, the SNP win power in Scotland and even — in a diluted form — old Bernie enjoy his moment in the United States. What we’re witnessing, I’m afraid, is a delayed response to the bank bailouts.
When governments across the Western world decided to rescue wealthy bankers and bondholders from the consequences of their own mistakes, they undermined the legitimacy of capitalism. Free markets had enjoyed a broad consensus since the fall of the Berlin Wall because they were seen as both efficient and meritocratic. Sure, some people started with more advantages than others, but anyone who worked hard enough could reasonably hope to prosper.
The far Left always argued that it was all a crock, a racket in which the rich rigged the rules in their own favor. When the bailouts were decreed despite huge public opposition, that view seemed to have been validated. Wealthy people got to keep the profits when things went well, but to help themselves to subsidies when they didn’t. Quantitative Easing saw a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. The entire Western system of government turned out to be a lot more oligarchic than most of us had imagined.
A small number of people understood that the bailouts were an affront to free markets. Such people tended to be concentrated in the United States, and sympathized with Tea Party. But many more believed that the veil had been torn away, revealing a scam. Such people were found all over the world, and sympathized with the Occupy Movement. Unlike the Tea Partiers, they were able to find political parties to put their ideas into action.