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Bernie Sanders’s Upside-Down Concept of “Morality”

Summary:
Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign has served to once again confirm that his — and those of the “democratic socialist” and “progressive” movements — vision for society endorses an aggressive threat of violence against innocent individuals, and seeks to negate morality itself. While often declaring goods like health care and day care “rights,” Sanders also insists that political solutions, rather than voluntary charity, are the only truly moral means of achieving justice. For instance, Sanders recently tweeted that his Medicare for All plan is “the moral thing to do.” Compare this to Sanders’s longstanding aversion to private charity. Despite his status as a millionaire, Sanders is notoriously stingy in giving to charity, and has a past of being downright hostile to it. ”I don’t

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Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign has served to once again confirm that his — and those of the “democratic socialist” and “progressive” movements — vision for society endorses an aggressive threat of violence against innocent individuals, and seeks to negate morality itself.

While often declaring goods like health care and day care “rights,” Sanders also insists that political solutions, rather than voluntary charity, are the only truly moral means of achieving justice.

For instance, Sanders recently tweeted that his Medicare for All plan is “the moral thing to do.”

Bernie Sanders’s Upside-Down Concept of “Morality”

Compare this to Sanders’s longstanding aversion to private charity. Despite his status as a millionaire, Sanders is notoriously stingy in giving to charity, and has a past of being downright hostile to it.

”I don’t believe in charities,” Sanders told a crowd gathered at a local 1981 United Way fundraiser, when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont. According the New York Times, Sanders “went on to question the ‘fundamental concepts on which charities are based’ and contended that government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for social programs.”

In other words, Sanders would have us believe the only moral avenue to help the needy is through political means. Somehow the “fundamental concepts” of private charities are not sufficient in Sanders’s view.

To evaluate these claims, we can compare the two institutional frameworks constituting the hero and villain in Sanders’s narrative: government programs versus voluntary, private charity.

The use of force backed by the threat of violence is the bedrock upon which all government programs are built. Their very existence relies on compelling citizens to pay their taxes lest they be punished for their resistance. And to be clear, such threats are not leveled against the perpetrators of any crime, but rather against innocent victims who have aggressed against no one.

By contrast, private charity programs rely on peaceful, voluntary donations for their existence. Donors are free to refrain from turning over their money to an organization which they object to the goods or services being provided, or feel the organization is not effectively using funds to benefit those in need.

Contrast that with how the government would react if you decided to stop paying taxes because you don’t like the services it offers and provides in return. Agents of the government would descend upon you and threaten fines and imprisonment — resorting to physical assault if necessary — if you didn’t obey.

So, without you having threatened or aggressed against anyone, but merely by boycotting the submission of your property (via taxes) to the government, this organization would not stop short of invading your property and initiating violence against you.

Such is the true nature of how to achieve Sanders’s “moral code” of “economic rights.” This is what progressives often refer to as “social justice.”

I prefer the definition of justice offered by economist Walter Williams: “What’s just has been debated for centuries but let me offer you my definition of social justice: ‘I keep what I earn, and you keep what you earn.’ Do you disagree? Well, then, tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you — and why.”

Finally, Sanders’s brand of “morality” not only extols the use of aggressive violence against innocents, it would run the risk of extinguishing the ability of individuals to exercise moral judgment, thus negating real morality. True morality and charity for those in need is housed in the hearts of individuals expressing their own compassion, not in response to political orders.

As Friedrich A. Hayek stated, “Responsibility, not to a superior, but to one’s own conscience, the awareness of duty not exacted by compulsion, but the necessity to decide which of the things one values are to be sacrificed to others, and bear the consequences of one’s own decision, are the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.”

Or, as Murray Rothbard so succinctly wrote: “No action can be virtuous unless it is freely chosen.”

Humans act in accordance with their own judgment. This includes judgment about helping others in need, as determined by one’s own conscience. Government, however, interferes with the connection between judgment and action. As the state forcibly outsources the exercise of moral compassion, individuals’ ability to do so atrophies.

Sanders’s and other progressives’ blustering about “morality” is really a smokescreen designed to distract from their vision of a society organized around the threat of government aggression against innocents and devoid of the exercise of individuals freely expressing true moral acts.

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The Mises Institute, founded in 1982, teaches the scholarship of Austrian economics, freedom, and peace. The liberal intellectual tradition of Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) and Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995) guides us. Accordingly, we seek a profound and radical shift in the intellectual climate: away from statism and toward a private property order.

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