Friday, February 12, 2016

The Libertarian Case for Bernie Sanders

The Libertarian Case for Bernie Sanders, from Will Wilkinson at the Niskanen Center. Yes, Denmark scores much above the US on ease of doing business indices. An interesting case. A welfare state is not necessarily a politicized regulatory state, with strong two-way political-industry capture. The latter may be more dangerous economically.  Those who wish to eat golden eggs have an incentive to let the Goose grow fat.

Update: Megan McArdle brilliantly demolishes the case.  "It's fun, but not convincing." My view as well.


  1. From the article:

    "The lesson Bernie Sanders needs to learn is that you cannot finance a Danish-style welfare state without free markets and large tax increases on the middle class. If you want Danish levels of social spending, you need Danish middle-class tax rates and a relatively unfettered capitalist economy."

    Large tax increases = more economic freedom

    Who knew?

  2. The only real question anymore, is how is the Onion going to stay in business?

  3. The libertarian case for Donald Trump is much more serious.

    "The libertarian case for Bernie Sanders is simply that Bernie Sanders wants to make America more like Denmark, Canada, or Sweden"

    -He doesn't. His actual policy stances indicate he wants to make America more like Argentina or Venezuela.

    Finland is overrated. It has hate speech laws and military conscription, as well as high prices, massive government spending and high unemployment.

    1. Good points. It's also worth noting that the Nordic countries were already among the richest in the world prior to the existence of their large welfare states. At least from what I've seen, there doesn't appear to be anything particularly impressive about their performance in recent decades.

      As for Finland,their growth numbers for the last several years look absolutely horrendous.

    2. Zack - there are different possible measures of success. Average GDP per capita is not necessarily the best. The Nordic countries rank well ahead of the United States in "happiness".

    3. Happiness? Wow! Must be a new concept that can be measured now. So the per capita happiness of Nordic country is 2x united States? 3x? 1000000x? Is the standard unit of measuring happiness millifeelz or kilofeelz? Smh

    4. I would agree that there are always other metrics to consider, but I don't think trying to quantify "happiness" is one of them. Ultimately, I think GDP per capita is the best measure of economic performance we have, even if it isn't perfect.

  4. The Danes benefit from being a small, relatively homogeneous, Protestant country which values rationality and views most emotional outbursts as a sign of weakness.

    When you have a homogeneous country where institutions are smaller and there are probably not more than two degrees of separation between any two Danes, heavy handed regulation is both less necessary and less likely to be tolerated than in the United States.

  5. Well, Bernie Sanders is a socialist and says he is a socialist.

    The other candidates say various things, but they are national socialists.

    Rand Paul was an interesting candidate, undone by media obtuseness and his own arrogance.

    1. "they are national socialists"

      Do you understand what "national socialism" is a historical reference to???

    2. Well, as Scott Sumner points out, Sanders has this going for him: Sanders =/= Trump. Here's Scott:


      Anyone is better than Trump
      Sanders is anyone.
      Ergo, Sanders is better than Trump.

      Heck he might be better than any other candidate, now that Rand Paul is out of the race."

      I'm not trying to promote Sanders... but he has a point: Sanders =/= Trump is a pretty good argument. I am surprised that Scott goes on to say that he may be the best of the bunch remaining.

      Although I think I'll vote Trump in the primary: I want to see the GOP split in two for good... and if Trump goes in with the most delegates, but they "do him wrong" by nominating someone else at the convention, I'd like to see Trump take his rabble and start a new party. Or perhaps, leave Trump the GOP and (as Scott has suggested) bring back the Whigs. I might vote Whig: but I'm not doing GOP again: not until they boot the anti-science theocrats and commit to secular government. That and stop with the endless conspiracy theories and race baiting, ... and that looks like that's not going to happen any time soon. Either that or they can pick a state (Texas?) and secede from the Union. I'd be fine with that.

    3. Nothing says anti science like global warming "consensus".

  6. You don't want Danish style tax levels and government spending on a level like that. Trust me - I'm living here!!! The only thing keeping us afloat is the relative freedom of doing business. But that's also under pressure from the government and will increasingly be so. Get Rand Paul back in the race, that would be the clever move....
    The Dane

  7. I am having trouble reconciling myself with the survey's criteria of "economic freedom."

    Apparently, it allows for working full-time for the central government. The Danish minimum income tax rate is 40%; if one earned $80,000 the rate is 68%. The national sales tax is 25%. The tax on a car is 180%. A car that would cost $20,000 in the US would run $50,000 after Dane taxes.

    Danes carry the highest personal debt on the planet and the suicide rate is twice that of the US.

    What do Danes get for working for the government? University is free . . . for the minority that early-on are judged qualified to follow that route. Health care is free if you can get it when you are sick and in pain.

    I did not need additional evidence to have little respect libertarians.

    Agree with above. Sanders =/= Clinton who should be in prison. Except, there is no justice.

  8. Like many commenters have pointed out, relative Nordic success predates their welfare state. And Nordic-descended immigrants in the US do better than their homeland cousins. Folks hint at concerns arising from demographic differences, but let's bring it to the fore: Socialism in Sweden operates within a society quite different than socialism in Zimbabwe. The US has demographic characteristics that span both (eg, Minnesota and Detroit, respectively).

  9. Ah yes, the homogenous Scandinavians are a prime example to compare the dynamic American culture to. I have spent some time in Denmark, and Copenhagen still ranks as one of my all time favorite visits for the charm and warmth of its citizens, so I will be careful not to criticize too much. I do believe Scandinavian countries have established a rare feat of big but mostly non-corrupt government. This seems to be more luck than skill though. I will side with Adam Smith who said something to the effect of the need to devise a system that even bad men could not screw up. One often unnoticed area is that the Scandinavian culture is one that is complacent and stultifyingly stifling and slow. One might call it boring, Although my visit to Denmark was a grand experience, I had to wonder how I would like it living there in the long run. The people all look and act remarkably similar. The food in the restaurants was all remarkably the same bland baked fish that was common in every place I ate. I was there on business, but found the business pace to be very slow and can't fathom how the Danes could ever produce anything like our Silicon Valley. That may produce happiness in a sense for those entrenched in it, but it certainly does not produce dynamic business or the types of innovations that create high paying jobs, and it certainly is not anything that they can export in the way America can when we assimilate millions of immigrants into our more open and dynamic society. That would be an interesting study, to see how much happiness countries have actually exported or imported. The Danes I spoke with were proud of their state-funded secondary education systems, but can you tell me a single Denmark University of any well repute? Plus, their robust welfare state leads them to be completely unwelcoming to outsiders and immigrants - witness the recent decision by their government to confiscate assets from Syrian refugees upon entry. When you generate a giant welfare state, you hate it when others from the outside come in to take what you think is rightfully yours. This leads to a complacent, languid, non-dynamic society. I will take America with all of its mess and apparent lack of freedom and happiness relative to Denmark any day.

  10. Will's article is really an argument for considering whether less regulation is more important that less spending/taxation. As Pithom points out (and Will tacitly acknowledges on Twitter) Bernie is running on more of both.


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