Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Democratic presidential hopeful, is apparently doing the formal announcement of his candidacy (a 'political revolution'!) this afternoon in Burlington, the city the socialist once ruled as mayor in the 1980s. Although Sanders bemoaned the choice of dozens of spray deodorants and sneakers when children are going hungry, it's not stopping him from getting Vermont ice cream company Ben & Jerry's involved in today's event. It's no Baskin-Robbins, Ben & Jerry's offers more than twice as many as the 31 at Baskin-Robbins. It takes its flavors seriously, even putting them in a graveyard for possible future resurrection. Why can't you enjoy dozens of varieties of ice cream—or pop-tarts, deodorant, sneakers, or toilet paper—on the way to a granola-munching socialist utopia? Not all socialists are as enamored by Ben & Jerry's socially-conscious corporate style as Sanders—the Socialist Worker doesn't think the ice cream company, owned by Unilever, has the politically correct stance on Israel and Palestine.
Sanders' embrace of Ben & Jerry's shouldn't be surprising. As he suggested this weekend, the mega-rich can empathize with the poor—presumably they show as much by supporting candidates like Sanders, a neat self-serving set-up. Ben & Jerry's flavors, too, are a sign of the economic prosperity enjoyed in a society. As David Simpson explained in The Rediscovery of Classical Economics, the wealth and economic well-being of a society can be measured more accurately when taking into account how many different goods and services are on offer. Such measurements show a hundred-million fold difference in the wealth of contemporary New York and a society existing 15,000 years ago, writes Simpson, but they still "hardly convey the sheer speed and vibrancy of the rate of change of modern economic life."
Insomuch as Bernie Sanders represents a position outside the mainstream of Democrat thought (debatable) he offers more choice at the ballot box. How much pressure he creates for other Democratic candidates (and perhaps Republicans) to adopt populist rhetoric could become a sobering barometer for how popular such economically ignorant, harmful to the poor, and bankrupt policy positions actually are.