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Bernie Sanders Wants the U.S. to Become More Neoliberal and Perhaps More Unequal

October 14, 2015

By Tim Worstall

At least that’s what [Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders] actually said in the debate last night. For he did say that he would like the United States to be more like, or at least learn from, countries like Denmark and Sweden in how to create the good society. He calls this democratic socialism but over here we call it something different: social democracy. Because socialism is, over here in Europe, about who owns the productive assets: the capitalists or not? And Denmark and Sweden and so on are most definitely capitalist societies. So, we don’t call what they do socialism. But English and American are slightly different languages so of course Bernie Sanders can describe his economic views however he likes. However, Bernie should actually understand the arrangements that produce the societies he admires. And the thing is, the Nordics are possibly more capitalist than the US, they’re certainly more free market than the US and at least one of them has more wealth inequality than the US.

So, you really could say, as I have, that if you want the US to be more like Denmark and Sweden then you are arguing that America should become more neoliberal and possibly even more unequal.

Here’s what Bernie said in the debate:

COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?

SANDERS: Well, we’re going to win because first, we’re going to explain what democratic socialism is.

And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent — almost — own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not going to separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have — we are going to have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.

Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.

And the interesting thing is that these countries are distinctly more neoliberal than the United States is. There’s a nice paper on this subject by Scott Sumner:

 At the risk of oversimplification, it may be useful to distinguish between three forms of economic liberalism. Classical liberals favored free markets and small government. During much of the 20th century, American liberals and European socialists favored income redistribution and interventionist (or statist) economic policies. Neoliberalism is then a post-modern hybrid of laissez-faire capitalism and socialism—what Tony Blair called “the third way.” I hope to show that neoliberal policy regimes are now most likely to occur in countries that have highly liberal values—defined as including (among other things) a strong commitment to promoting the common good. Almost all countries moved at least slightly in the direction of free markets during the 1980s and 1990s, but the changes were most effective when not resisted by selfish special interest groups. The title refers to the fact that Denmark leads the world in an amazing number of categories, including liberalism. We will see that by several different metrics the Danes have an unusually strong sense of civic responsibility and also have the most neoliberal economy in the world.

We can also see this in the usual measurements of the Economic Freedom report. The US, Sweden, Denmark and Norway (which is a special case as it sits on an ocean of oil, not something every country can manage). If you actually study those rankings you’ll see that the US is only just behind Denmark in overall economic freedom and ahead of the other two. But when you look at the details you’ll see that the US does very well by having a relatively small government: and the others do well by having a classically liberal economy to offset their large government shares of GDP. That is, the Nordics regulate the economy much less than the US does, while they tax everyone much more than the US does.

Read the full article at Forbes.com: Bernie Sanders Wants The US To Become More Neoliberal And Perhaps More Unequal

Issue Categories : Bernie Sanders, Regulations, Taxes