Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sanders and His Followers Are Not Outliers

By Jeff Deist

Depending on one’s point of view, Bernie Sanders either held his own or boosted his chances against perceived front-runner Hillary Clinton in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate. His message clearly resonated with the live audience, particularly his statements about raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, global warming, and government-mandated paid childcare leave.
Progressives are emboldened by Sanders, who reportedly draws upward of 20,000 people at events. He inspires them with his attacks on capitalism, happily calling himself a “Democratic Socialist.” And his economic plans, while a mess, appeal to their radical (and disastrous) notions of egalitarianism.
Happily, there are murmurs of discontent — progressives like to eat their own. His crowds skew overwhelmingly white and older, leading to allegations that Sanders suffers from a whiteness problem. His home state of Vermont is laughably un-diverse and prosperous, home to woodsy limousine liberals who like the idea of urban living more than the reality. But nobody ever lost a political race purely for hypocrisy — and while Bernie’s brand of socialism might fade with the Birkenstock Boomer crowd, Occupy Wall Street millennials stand waiting.
Regardless of whether Sanders ultimately secures the nomination, the size and energy of the Bernie phenomenon should not be underestimated. If anything, libertarians consistently misjudge the degree to which socialist thought is deeply rooted in the American psyche.
Like Sanders, millions of American progressives hold these deeply statist and authoritarian beliefs:
  • changes in climate threaten human extinction;
  • fossil fuels should be banned, and alternative fuels should be mandated;
  • wealth and income should be forcibly redistributed;
  • no individual should earn more than a set amount of money each year;
  • welfare and entitlement programs should be vastly increased;
  • whole industries (healthcare, education) should be nationalized, while others (energy, banking) should be regulated to the point of de facto nationalization;
  • some form of global government should be installed;
  • a global wealth tax should be implemented;
  • private ownership of firearms should be banned;
  • anti-discrimination legislation should be applied to private religious organizations;
  • racial, gender, and sexual orientation quotas should be mandated on both public and private employers;
  • certain types of speech should be criminalized;
  • certain criminals should be subjected to greater penalties if motivated by “hate”;
  • social justice should be pursued by any means necessary; and
  • government should attempt to engineer equality of outcomes.
These ideas, and the people who hold them, are not outliers in America. There are millions of rank and file progressives, mostly registered Democrats, who believe exactly as Bernie believes. They may prefer to vote for Hillary Clinton purely as a tactical matter because they are unsure the country is “ready” for full socialism, or because they think Hillary has a better chance of beating the hated Republicans in the general election.
But average progressives and Democrats agree with Bernie Sanders across the board, whether they plan to vote for him or not.
Do average Republicans and conservatives agree with Ron Paul? Do most registered Republicans really advocate eliminating income taxes, abolishing entire federal agencies, repealing the Federal Reserve Act, ending all foreign interventions, and drastically downsizing the US military? Are most conservatives, in their hearts, radically anti-state? The answer is no. Most conservatives are only nominally less statist, often more corporatist, and almost invariably more militarist than progressives.
The reason is simple, though we tend to forget it: the twentieth century was a radically progressive century. Income taxes, central banking, social insurance schemes, demand-side Keynesian economics, and Wilsonian internationalism — all radical ideas — have become entrenched articles of faith over the past 100 years. When we talk about politics or economics today, we do so within a thoroughly progressive framework.
The entire progressive agenda of the last century, which would have sounded outrageous to the libertarian-tinged ear of the average American in 1900, is now merely the baseline from which all government action originates.
That’s why abolitionist libertarians are on the defensive in modern political discourse, while grandiose progressives are on the attack: the default position in American politics is for government to do something.
So we shouldn’t downplay or minimize the success of progressives in shifting the landscape dramatically in favor of the state over the past century. Progressives never went away, despite the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan or Milton Friedman or Bill Clinton. The era of big government is still here, and it always was.
So what should libertarians do, in an absurd progressive world obsessed with supposed global warming, inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and privilege, ad nauseam?
The answer could fill a book, but let me suggest we start by freeing ourselves of the burdens of politics. Our battle is for hearts and minds, not votes. While Democrats and Republicans fixate on candidates and their supposed policies, libertarians are free to remain psychologically and emotionally detached from the whole sordid process.
And with that detachment comes freedom: the freedom to inspire, educate, and influence other people of good will without the divisive cloud of partisan politics creating suspicion and distrust. Once people know you’re not simply making arguments to support “your guy” — or any guy — they tend to view you more impartially and hence more favorably.
A new era of liberty, peace, and prosperity will not be won at the ballot box. It will be won at ground level, individual by individual, as progressive ideas crumble in the face of unsustainable government debts, unsustainable government wars, and unsustainable government entitlements.

The above originally appeared at


  1. Pointing guns and innocent people via the thugs of the state is pretty much the mainstream and not the outline sadly

    "Most conservatives are only nominally less statist, often more corporatist, and almost invariably more militarist than progressives."


  2. Well Said. To Mr. Deist's last paragraph I would only add that the process is more evolutionary than educational and could take centuries. Detaching from politics and pursuing the peaceful opportunities that human nature's law of association compels can result in personal prosperity and freedom.

    1. "I would only add that the process is more evolutionary than educational and could take centuries."

      The debate always seems to circle back to nature vs. nurture, doesn't it?


    2. It does seem that way but I don't see it as either/or. Its a process of integration of nature and nurture which can only occur on natures timeline.

    3. I think about nature vs. nurture from time to time, having young kids spurs some of that- but I also had a moment in my youth of living in a low income area, that included some potential unfulfillment of Maslow's hierarchy type stuff for a period of time.

      It took me a while to deal with that psychologically, I mention it because the wealth in our nation, the last 60 years especially, has been such that's it not as prevalent an issue for the general population as it might have been 100 years ago(but it obviously still exists) and sometimes I wonder if the nature of man isn't "calmed"(generally) and he's not as predisposed to NAP violations(violence) as prosperity grows and lessens the need for violence(both actually and psychologically via Maslow's fullfillment). It seems that poor societies always have more crime/NAP violations.(but those societies don't have the means to wage war & crime on the scale our rich nation can)

      I turned my period of poverty into drive, but not without some scars along the way and certainly(also unfortunately) I might not have been receptive to the NAP in my early 20's even if I had been exposed to it.

      NAP violations have characterized much of man's interactions over recorded history- but man has had various "pax" periods as well...inherently it would seem that man in general would prefer peace. I see prosperity as the best chance for that.

      Anthropology has a lot to potentially contribute there as well(the whole nature vs. nurture debate)- but I'm way beyond my expertise. As I recall from your previous comments, you seem to be thinking more along those lines which certainly appears to have some merit. I agree with you that nature vs nurture is not an "either/or" proposition. I can see both at work in my kids.

  3. Politics are how we determine the rules of society. We need to engage, not detach.

    1. Politics is simply deciding who gives orders to the men with guns.

    2. Too many people want to live large on minimal effort by stealing and killing. Politics is about getting away with it. The rules of society can only be determined by voluntary association.

  4. It took the Fabian Socialists and their fellow travelers (only?) 100 years to change American society from "libertarian tinged" to what it is today. Do you think that "success" would have been possible had "progressives" eschewed the electoral and governance aspects of politics as recommended to libertarians of today by Mr. Deist?

    1. I can't speak for Mr. Deist but you are making my point. Politicians are followers not leaders. The "progressives" followed the trend of growing numbers of people who wanted to use force against their fellow man to benefit themselves. There were many brilliant writers and thinkers during this time promoting libertarianism to no avail. Politics is about initiating force and coercion and cannot possibly lead to a society of peace and prosperity. Libertarianisms greatest influence occurred when politics was at a low ebb. Only nature and time can move us in that direction.

    2. The "progressives" followed the trend..? Or initiated it? And had "true believers" ready and willing to seek and take elected office in order to capitalize on the trend and expand the influence of progressive ideologies via governance?

      Brilliant writers and thinkers promoting libertarianism to no avail... Kinda sounds like today, especially when libertarians are being implored by their think tanks like the Mises Institute to cede the electoral and governance aspects of politics (there are other aspects of politics, of course, such as the discussion and promotion of ideas and ideologies, etc.) to their opponents. Whose interests are really being served by advocating such a strategy?

      Libertarians seem to be ignoring active, successful spreaders of their ideas like Ron Paul, who engaged in electoral and governance politics for 25+ years, and successful strategies like the one employed by the Fabians in favor of passive strategies like waiting for full scale financial and societal collapse or centuries to pass for education and inspiration to change people's minds.

  5. "Our battle is for hearts and minds, not votes."

    This assumes that there is a mind behind these ideas that can be persuaded through logic and reason. There isn't. The only thing we do have going for us is the fact that your average statist is by and large a coward, which is why they love government. It frees them from the inherent danger of trying to violently rule over others. The only people we have to worry about are the ones that take up arms for these idea, the police and military. Eliminate them and the rest of the herd won't matter.

    1. The coproaches and military wont give up their racket and will go hard after anyone who even attempts to do so. Great examples are found of those who are critical of people such as William Grigg, Laurence Vance and who attack organizations like Antiwar, Photography is Not a Crime and Copblock for example. Then you have their booklickers (aka supporters) still outnumber us despite our efforts. In addition you have people who claim to be against state violence but in reality just want to be in charge of it (Cassandra Fairbanks, Shawn King, etc). Then the bootlickers shine a spot light on those people to get your average statist to believe the entire movement is hypocritical.

  6. The way to help the statists evolve is to step aside and let the lemmings march off the cliff. America is facing a French Revolurion-esque series of calamaties and very few see what's coming. A Sanders presidency will just be tying one more anvil to the ankle before the fall. America will not be saved.

    The future doesn't belong to the winners, it belongs to the survivors.