"We're not going to throw out capitalism," Bloomberg said. "We tried. Other countries tried that. It was called communism, and it just didn't work."
I'm unclear on when "we" -- as in
"Let's talk about democratic socialism. Not communism,
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has a point. It's unfair to use the label "communist" to describe countries that adhere to social democracy (another way of saying democratic socialism, though there are ideological debates about whether the terms are interchangeable).
That's because the defining feature of social democracy (or democratic socialism) is democracy. Not only do social democratic nations hold elections, they abide by them. Moreover, democracies worthy of the name adhere to things like constitutional rights and human rights -- including property rights -- and the rule of law.
None of these things apply to communist countries such as
This, by the way, is an important point, since if the
Still, there are some problems with Sanders' answer -- an answer he has used in various forms for years.
First, while it's true that Sanders does not advocate communism, it's also true that when communism was still a live proposition in the
Sanders supported a Marxist-Leninist party that backed the Iranian Revolution and the hostage-taking of Americans. In 1985, he supported the effort by
In 2016, when this record started to catch up to him, Sanders said: "When I talk about democratic socialism, I'm not talking about
But just as
Sanders, who favors single-payer health care, routinely says we should follow the example of Scandinavian and other countries. He recently tweeted a list of 27 nations with universal health care. But
It's true that the Nordic countries used to be closer to what Sanders has in mind. But that was decades ago -- back when Bernie was heaping praise on communist countries. Those governments recognized that such policies were bad for the economy as a whole, and for the people too.
Sure, some European countries have more generous welfare states and more progressive taxation than we do. Most also have much worse unemployment and economic growth. But all of that is grist for a different argument than the one Sanders offers. He has an impressive record of seeing only what he wants to see rather than what is -- at home and abroad.
And it doesn't seem like a cheap shot to me to point out that Sanders got the reality of communism wrong in the past and the rest of the world wrong in the present.
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