Is Bernie Sanders a Socialist?

I have only one thing to say about Paul Krugman’s full-throated defense of Bernie Sanders in his New York Times column:

The thing is, Bernie Sanders isn’t actually a socialist in any normal sense of the term. He doesn’t want to nationalize our major industries and replace markets with central planning; he has expressed admiration, not for Venezuela, but for Denmark. He’s basically what Europeans would call a social democrat — and social democracies like Denmark are, in fact, quite nice places to live, with societies that are, if anything, freer than our own.

He’s wrong. Nearly everything he said is wrong.


Back in the 70s Bernie Sanders advocated the nationalization of energy companies, factories, and banks. More recently his Medicare for All proposal effectively nationalizes health care insurance.

He has advocated public ownership of the means of production. Money is the most important means of production and that is already nationalized.

He’s actually a lot like the old Fabian socialists.

Centralized Planning

His identification of democracy with public ownership and his advocacy of worker ownership of companies are at odds. Public ownership means centralized planning. I’m more sympathetic with worker ownership but the reality is that workers don’t really want to own the companies they work for. If they wanted to they could.

Praise for Venezuela and Cuba

In 2011 Bernie Sanders spoke in praise of Venezuela, a position he has tried to walk back. Back in the 80s he praised Castro, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. Famously, he honeymooned in the Soviet Union.

Praise for Denmark

His praise for Denmark has been focused on the most socialistic aspects of Danish society not the most capitalistic. I think he’s mistaking “democratic socialism” for Scandinavian ethnic cohesion and Lutheran social doctrine. I agree that the Danes and Swedes are probably freer than we are. The Danes aren’t socialists; they’re Lutherans, at least culturally.

As far as I’m concerned Sen. Sanders is an old-fashioned parlor pink and Dr. Krugman’s column is yet another attempt at sanitizing the senator’s record, something I suspect we will be seeing a lot of from the media in days to come.

3 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    Yep. Just read his website and the DSA itself, which supports Sanders, openly calls him a socialist.

  • jan Link

    The problem is that socially progressive democrats are sliding closer to the doctrines of socialism than what this country was originally founded – small government and individual freedom. Consequently Sanders is not really that far off from the direction Democrats have been heading in, especially following the transformational platform of the Obama Administration.

    Here in CA, for instance, Gov. Newsom has toyed with the idea of nationalizing PG&E. There is also a bill circulating that would mandate people to vote – subject to a penalty if they didn’t. This thinking mirrors the ACA with the healthcare mandate, which also punished people for not getting health insurance. In fact, much of the Democrat policy incentives are driven by force, punitive measures, and unequal justice for those not complying with their agenda. To me that sounds more and more like the iron hand of socialism, which then goes hand-in-hand with greater privileges and wealth for government officials, who increasingly rule with intolerance stances towards the common citizen.

  • TarsTarkas Link

    Sometimes I think the NYT keeps Krugman around to give the other editorialists a classic example of a lying sycophantish ad hominem slinging jackass of a columnist who’s been more wrong about economic policy than Joe Biden has been about foreign policy. Sometimes I think the NYT staff hangs on every pronouncement of his. He has taken his faux Nobel prize (which really wasn’t much an accomplishment if you read his ‘bombshell’ of a paper) and flogged it mercilessly to fame and fortune, egged on by enablers and acolytes. I literally can’t read more than a paragraph or two of any column of his without screaming in rage at his lies, slanders, and BS.

    Bernie Sanders is a bit more honest than the other Democratic candidates about socialism and communism, but even he is bright enough to realizing that Pol Potting the entire country, especially considering how armed it is, ain’t gonna fly. So he lies and dissembles about his ultimate goals. The DNC nomenklatura is scared of him because he is threatening their pig trough (he wouldn’t end it, actually, just shove the old guard aside), but they’re aging out while his supporters are aging in.

    Watching the transformation of the Democratic Party from the Party of the People into the Party of the Secret Police is like watching a film version of a slow-motion transformation of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde. Fascinating but horrifying. And a whole lot of young people are buying into it. IMO if AOC were running for President now she’d get upwards of 40% of the vote. It’ll be higher in 2024 when she does run. And as I think you have pointed out in earlier threads, Dave, they all seem to think that their lifestyle and the whole fabrication of American society and culture won’t change once they were in charge. Because living in the richest country in the world with all the devices and pleasures at hand is the natural order of things. The delusion of MMT has actually emboldened them.

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