Bernie Sanders’ recent hiring of David Sirota as his campaign speechwriter is another sign that socialism is becoming more normalized in the United States.
Most of us forget that Sirota was one of the most vocal proponents of Hugo Chavez’s socialist experiment in Venezuela. To the speechwriter, the Chavista model was an alternative that defied the international capitalist order and basic economics.
As a writer for Salon, Sirota claimed Chavez’s “brand of socialism achieved real economic gains,” viewing it as an “economic miracle.” At the time, it was easy to talk about Venezuela breaking the mold when petrodollars were coming in by the billions.
But once oil prices plummeted and the Venezuelan government’s interventions took their toll on the economy, the country began to unravel in 2014. Now, the Venezuela before us is the poster child of socialist collapse with hyperinflation hovering around 60,324 percent and rampant shortages of basic goods.
The high oil prices of yesteryear were a facade that hid a rotting economic foundation. Still, many analysts overlook that the Venezuelan economy has been slowly declining for multiple decades largely due to socialist policies that gradually chipped away at its productive capacity.
In the end, the so-called “economic miracle” was a fleeting mirage at best.
Since Venezuela imploded, the left pulled a Casper the Friendly Ghost, completely dodging the issue. They either refuse to acknowledge the clear damage socialist policies have done to Venezuela by blaming corruption or by labeling it “not real socialism.”
Sanders very likely won’t win the Democratic nomination, but the ideas his campaign is normalizing are toxic. In fact, ideas go beyond presidential campaigns. Progressives have learned this well over the past century, running numerous losing campaigns on issues such as welfare and income taxation, to later see their ideas politically implemented throughout the 20th century.
Eventually, Sanders will be out of the political picture, but his ideas will undoubtedly live through younger elected officials such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who is already saying that capitalism is “irredeemable”.
In Economic Policy, Ludwig von Mises recognized the importance of ideas:
“Everything that happens in the social world in our time is the result of ideas. Good things and bad things. What is needed is to fight bad ideas. We must oppose the confiscation of property, the control of prices, inflation, and all those evils from which we suffer.”
The hiring of Sirota, a commentator who has nonchalantly talked about socialism, is to be expected from the Sanders campaign. Ever since he ran for president in 2016, Sanders has made considerable strides in making socialism appear chic to the masses. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to defeat these ideas.
We can scoff at socialist ideas as crazy fantasies, but they can turn into real life nightmares if we don’t take them seriously and stop them before they take off.