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Lots of people  are lining up behind Bernie Sanders. His advocacy for democratic socialism has broad appeal and many young people don’t see how this can be seen as a ‘bad’ thing. I would submit that it’s a very bad thing, and while it has an appealing veneer, it disguises an ugly core principle; elite control of the population for the benefit of a chosen few.

Bernie reveals his socialist bent in this revealing quote:

You can’t just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on.

His quote presupposes that we only need one kind of sneaker and one kind of deodorant. You can assume he thinks one deodorant and one sneaker manufacturer would be more efficient and therefore cost effective. That’s the surface appeal, isnt’ it? Surely one big deodorant plant in Burlington would realize cost efficiencies! But would it?

Productivity and efficiency are logarithmic. If you stuff your toothpaste tubes by hand by spooning (little tiny spoons) into the tubes your brother makes out in the garage, there is immense opportunity in buying the Acme 3000 automated tube stuffer machine for $250,000. Once you have one you’ll be stuffing 20,000 tubes per hour while you sit in your office drinking latte. You’ll scream up the efficiency curve, past the knee, into your capacity limit. So you buy another Acme 3000. The problem here is that your capacity goes up, and your efficiency stays the same.

If Bernie manages to combine all the deodorant companies into one. There is no cost savings to be had in manufacturing. All is not lost though. You would no longer need 23 marketing organizations competing for your deodorant dollar. In fact there wouldn’t be any marketing at all. Every consumer gets the same product.

This is the ugly core. See, the reason there are 23 deodorant companies is that consumers value the differences they are able to choose from in the free deodorant marketplace. Each manufacturer has figured out, independently, how to efficiently make deodorant, and each presents a different value proposition to their customers. If their value doesn’t cut it they go out of business.

In Bernie’s’ world, you don’t get a choice. You get Burlington Deodorant. OK, maybe it would be Chappaqua Deodorant, but you get the idea. Somebody, a bureaucrat for example, picks out your deodorant for you. Stick or gel, flower scent or sweat, 6 oz. or 24 oz., long lasting or short, all these choices are made for you. On the margins then, there is money to be saved in marketing, but the cost of this is your freedom to choose what you want.

Socialists believe bigger is better, you’re too stupid to make your own decisions, and only the government can marshal the resources to deliver the correct manufacturing size, place, and content. This is a fallacy promulgated by people who don’t have a clue how business works. Big is not always better. Bigness increases risk. Bigness requires big bureaucracies to function. Big bureaucracies are easily corrupted, error prone, stagnant, and devoid of the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that drives constant improvement.

This is not a new concept. It’s been tried in various incarnations, from Bolsheviks, to communists, to fascists, and Naziis. All are based on the same ugly core principle that bureaucracies are smarter than you. Every time it has ever been tried it has failed, dismally. Every time it has been tried, the leadership devolves into tyrannical dictatorship. Every time it has been tried the economic life of the country gets snuffed out.

Of course Bernie is smart enough to make it look like he’ll only dabble around the margins of socialism. The favorite socialist programs for now are free stuff for all. Democratic socialism is his way to get enough people on board to start the ball rolling. Well it always starts this way. At its height, the Naziis never had more than 33% support. That’s all it takes to take over. They didn’t start out by proclaiming their desire to kill all the Jews, increase industrial efficiency with slave labor, and start a world war but they got there soon enough.

Read about the rise of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Each was a charismatic leader who rose to power on the back of desperate economic conditions. Each promised their share of free stuff and national pride.

If you don’t think it can happen here, be careful and read some history. Bernie, the socialist, enjoys about 50% support from Democrats. Donald, the fascist, enjoys about 35% support from Rebublicans. Each has more support right now than any of the dictators above  had at the height of their power.