I’ve tried. I really have. I even downloaded an app that blocks out any news or posts about the US presidential campaign. I thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. My sister emailed me today asking me to respond to something my cousin had posted – yes, about the ‘paign. It was one of Bernie’s videos in which he lays out his master plan to dump more government intervention on top of an economy already staggering from government intervention. My cousin wrote “I’m more convinced than ever that this is what our next President should look and sound like. Don’t think so? Then take a listen and tell me how you disagree.”

So how could I not?


OK, you asked. (And I even turned off my campaign-blocking app to respond to you, at my sister’s request.) So here goes:

First of all, as you know, I don’t think our next president should look or sound like anything. I think it’s time we stopped believing that we need people to rule over us at all. But I’m guessing you’re not interested in talking about that.

To address Bernie then: His entire position is founded on a belief in class warfare, but without recognizing who the plundering class is. His view pits “the rich” against the rest of us – which I’m sure makes the real oligarchs very happy as it keeps the attention off of them. He correctly says that the middle class is disappearing, but he doesn’t understand why that is. He believes that the financial crisis was caused by “the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street” – but doesn’t stop to ask how it is that the bankers, et al. got away with this behavior.

If he did bother to ask, he would learn the following:

1. That the government’s inflation of the money supply was at the root of the financial crisis, as it has been at the root of every financial crisis since (and including) the Great Depression;

2. That one of the reasons banks and other financial institutions can get away with reckless behavior is something called the FDIC – Federally guaranteed deposit insurance. Prior to the founding of the Federal Reserve and the introduction of FDIC, banks collapsed all the time, and the world didn’t fall apart. That is as it should be – if someone is doing a crappy job of running a bank, they should go out of business and let someone else do it. And no, it doesn’t “bring down the entire economy” to have banks go out of business – other banks or other companies will buy up their assets and take over their business. It’s what happened before the federal govt. got involved and it’s what would happen if it got uninvolved – as it should.

3. That another of the reasons for the banks’ reckless behavior is something called “moral hazard.” It’s what you get when you create a situation where people are not held accountable for their actions. It’s what you get, for instance, when the government has a history of bailing out failing financial institutions, which ours does, and which Bernie, to his credit, opposed the last time around.

4. He would also learn about a thing called the “Community Reinvestment Act”, under which banks and other lending institutions faced severe penalties if they failed to meet racial lending quotas – even when it meant pushing loans on those who really could not afford them.

The financial crisis that we are continuing to live through is not the result of “rich greedy people”, but the direct result of government interference in the economy. Bernie doesn’t see this, and every one of his “solutions” just involves more government interference in the economy. Three guesses as to how that’s going to turn out.

Actually, we don’t have to guess, because we’ve already seen some of the results of policies like increasing the minimum wage – something Bernie supports. Here’s a nice story about a bookstore in San Francisco that will have to close because of the $15/hour minimum wage imposed by the City: http://freebeacon.com/issues/san-francisco-bookstore-closing-due-to-minimum-wage-increase/ – it’s nice because now big corporations like Borders, et al. will have less competition and there will be fewer independent bookstores cluttering up the landscape. But that’s what regulations like this always do – they hit smaller businesses harder than the big corporations, putting some of them out of business. They also put a lot of people out of work, which Bernie says he doesn’t like.

Bernie calls for a “trillion-dollar job program to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.” But how does he know that that’s the best way to spend a trillion dollars? How about a “trillion-dollar job program to create novelty cupcakes”? My point is: How can Bernie, or any other bureaucrat or politician, know what is best for “the economy” or for “the American people”? Only the people themselves can know what is best for them, and the way they express this knowledge, the way they express their preferences, is through markets.

This is what I tried to explain to Russel Brand, here: http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2013/11/an-open-letter-to-russell-brand.html (No, he hasn’t gotten back to me); and what I tried, more recently, to explain to Bernie’s Team of Enthusiasts, here: http://bretigne.typepad.com/on_the_banks/2015/09/bernie-keeps-bugging-me.html and here: http://bretigne.typepad.com/on_the_banks/2015/09/my-correspondence-with-team-bernie-continues.html

If you learned nothing else from the 20th century’s disastrous experiments with socialism, please learn this: CENTRAL PLANNING DOES NOT WORK. And by “does not work” I mean creates poverty, waste and, if allowed to continue long enough, lots and lots of death and destruction. Please stop supporting it.

(MY COUSIN’S NAME), I love you and I know your heart is in the right place with these issues. But I continue to be baffled by your attachment to state violence as a solution to every problem that you see. If you really want to understand why people like me do not support Bernie Sanders – or more importantly, if you really want to help to change things for the better, I would urge you to do some reading outside of the statist mainstream. Look at what I’ve written in the links here for starters, and you know I can recommend more in-depth stuff too if you’re interested. And if you really do care about making things better, you should be interested.