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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 10/17/15

Is Sanders' democratic socialism compatible with capitalism?

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There's some confusion about whether Bernie Sanders supports capitalism.

During the first Democratic debate, correspondent Anderson Cooper asked Sanders, "You don't consider yourself a capitalist, though?" Sanders replied, "Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street's greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don't."

That didn't bother me, because my reading was that Sanders wasn't saying he opposes all capitalism. It's just casino capitalism that he opposes.

Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders
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But there is evidence that Sanders doesn't consider himself to be a capitalist at all. According to Bernie Sanders Isn't Socialist Enough for Many Socialists, which appeared on

On Meet the Press on Sunday, the Democratic presidential candidate was asked by host Chuck Todd whether he was a capitalist.

"No," Sanders responded. "I'm a democratic socialist."

But then the article goes on to record the laments of socialists such as Stephen Durham, of the Freedom Socialist Party, who said, "He isn't an anti-capitalist! He is for reforming capitalism, not changing capitalism." That's what I thought Sanders wanted, and I'd approve of that: reforming capitalism.

Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post also refers to Sanders' declaration on Meet the Press that he is not a capitalist. She says in The Sanders-Trump magical mystery tour,

That Sanders is a socialist [sic -- he's a democratic socialist] is no secret. He has said so often enough, and his proposed policies aimed at worker- and consumer-owned economic institutions confirm as much.

His answer was shocking, nevertheless, because surely no one hoping to become president would dare admit wanting to fundamentally change the nation's economic system. A few regulations here and there, sure. But wholesale socialism, albeit alongside a political democracy, however that works?

This isn't quite right either. Sanders isn't a "wholesale socialist." He's a democratic socialist. But Parker's point about "a few regulations here and there" -- or a lot of regulations -- is what I was expecting.

In short, I wish Sanders had said during the debate and on Meet the Press, "I believe in capitalism, provided it's well regulated and fairly taxed. Unconstrained capitalism is brutal."

After all, democratic socialist countries like those in Scandinavia have corporations, private wealth, and a market economy. Nokia is Finnish. Volvo is Swedish. But in Scandinavia the corporations are well regulated, and corporations are highly taxed. That's precisely what we need for a humane, innovative, fair society.

For I am a progressive Democrat, not a Socialist. I believe corporations should be regulated and taxed, not destroyed. Corporations are often efficient at innovating and at producing quality products.

What is democratic socialism? According to the wikipedia article, "Democratic socialism is a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy (usually multi-party democracy) with social ownership of the means of production."

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Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, activist, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my (more...)

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