Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Wanted 'Public Ownership of the Major Means of Production' in 1976

There's a word for that….


||| Reason

We have long known that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has bad economic ideas, which have sadly been mainstreamed within the modern Democratic Party. We have further known that the democratic socialist at the outset of his political career in the 1970s had some, ah, unusual enthusiasms, ranging from widening freeway on-ramps for hitchhikers to the "abolition of all laws which interfere with the Constitutional right of citizens to bear arms"(!). Sanders described himself in 1976 as "clearly anti-capitalistic," and was prone that decade and others hence to embarrassing apologia for communist countries.

Still, reading today's tranche of '70s Bernie-brainfartery from CNN outrage-archeologists Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott is a striking reminder, against our current backdrop of Green-New-Deal-progressive-one-upsmanship, that the foundation of Sanders's political thinking is a pile of truly garbage economics that he refuses to disavow even while distancing himself from some of its particulars.

"I favor the public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries," Sanders told the Burlington Free Press in October 1976, at age 35, while making the last of four failed runs for office that decade. "There is a handful of people sitting at the head of the main banks controlling the destiny of underprivileged nations, the country as well as Vermont's economy. That is not tolerable. That control cannot be held by them. We need public control over capital; and the capital must be put to use for public need not for the advancement of those who made the investments."

When pointed out by the interviewer that "That is Socialism," Sanders replied "Of course. But that word has so many connotations—like 'capitalism'—that it has almost ceased to mean anything."

Well, yes and no. Pretty much every definition you can find of socialism, then as now, involves public ownership of the means of production. Which is precisely what 1976 Bernie was advocating.

"We have got to begin to deal with the fact that corporations do not have the god-given right to disrupt the lives of their workers or the economic foundation of their towns simply because they wish to move elsewhere to earn a higher rate of profit," he said in a CNN-unearthed press release in August 1976. "In the long run, the problem of the fleeing corporations must be dealt with on the national level by legislation which will bring about the public ownership of the major means of production and their conversion into worker-controlled enterprises."

Bolding mine, to emphasize #Socialism.

It is true, and important, that contemporary Sanders and his emulators have long since discarded the general means-of-production bit, though occasionally they have to confront the fact that their vast economic wishlists will replace entire industries with a single government provider. But the most damning of the CNN findings is actually the freshest of the quotes, from campaign spokesman Josh Orton:

Throughout his career, Bernie has fought on the side of working people and against the influence of both the powerful ultra-rich and giant corporations who seek only to further their own greed. The record shows that from the very beginning, Bernie anticipated and worked to combat the rise of a billionaire ruling class and the exploding power of Wall Street and multinational corporations. Whether fighting to lower energy prices or expand access to capital for local development, Bernie's first priority has always been—and will always be—defending the interests of working people across the country.

That's a funny way of saying I was wrong.

Look, there's no sugarcoating a basic fact of the last 100 years of human existence: Public ownership of the means of production has been one of the most wicked, misery inducing, environment-poisoning, dictator-enabling, freedom-destroying Frankenstein experiments ever inflicted on humankind. This was evident not just in the mid-1970s, but by the late 1930s, among anyone who cared enough to read widely available non-propaganda on the subject. Imagine being so blinkered by your wrongheaded economic priors that you travel to its most imperial practitioner, in its waning days, and laud the "cultural programs that go far beyond what we do in this country":

The adult thing to do when the world demonstrably proves the monstrousness produced by the same ideas and regimes that you recently issued qualified praise for, is to take a step back, stock up on the new information, adapt your ideas accordingly, and if appropriate, apologize. It is not to quietly discard some of the excesses and otherwise insist that you've been with the proletariat all along. No. Really existing socialism makes workers poorer and less free, as predictably as night follows day.

Something reasonably close to the inverse happens as well: When you move toward private ownership and free trade, you get such results as the modern miracle of one billion people lifted out of extreme poverty since Bernie's last visit to the Soviet Union. (This hasn't led to as much political freedom as one would hope, particularly in China, but citizens there have considerably more latitude than in 1989.) As Bono knows, but Bernie (and the Pope!) refuse to believe, entrepreneurial capitalism, and the kind of mutual tariff-reduction Sanders has opposed at every opportunity during his long career, have been the primary engines fueling global anti-poverty.

So yeah, we knew Sanders had some weird—including some good!—ideas in the 1970s, and '80s, and even to this day. He is right about wanting to roll back both the Drug War and our Forever War. His spinoff from Seinfeld sure has been funny. But as Glenn Garvin pointed out in a great Reason profile from 2016, Bernie has been yammering about "oligarchy" and clamoring for "worker-owned businesses" for going on a half-century now, with little evident sign of self-reflection as the world disproved socialism on his watch. As pretty much the only alternative to the unlovable power-politician Hillary Clinton, Sanders was able to easily absorb flak about his past errors of judgment. But in a crowded Democratic field that includes at least some token self-described "capitalists," Bernie's bad ideas, past and present, are likely to get a far more thorough examination.

NEXT: Arkansas Legislature Effectively Votes To Abolish Civil Asset Forfeiture

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  1. “There’s a word for that…”
    Sharing? Community organizing? State capitalism?

    1. “idiot”, “moron”, “thief”, “psychopath”?

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        HERE? ?

      2. I prefer “power-hungry commie bastard”.


    2. Communists should be on blacklists. Not in congress.

      1. ^EXACTLY….

      2. Frankly anyone who professes an ideology harmful to the state should be blacklisted.

        1. Hey… This nation isn’t a “Democracy”! It has a Constitution that deprives government of infringing human rights such as Individual rights to Life, Liberty and Property. If you’re in Congress; you have made a SWORN OATH to uphold that Constitution. Ideology in the practice of legislation that dismissing the ‘inalienable’ individual rights of the Constitution isn’t “Free Speech” its Treason.

        2. 0x1000= statist the troll

    3. Fascism?

  2. Slavery. The correct word for Socialism is Slavery, and it needs to be referenced more often. Socialism means not owning the fruits of your own labor, which is Slavery

    1. I like to think of the income tax as part-time slavery. For a fraction of the year, I am forced to give up the product of my labor as a condition of working at all.

      The slave owner is the one who gets to say “you work, I eat”.

    2. The maybe communism is for you, where you really get to own the fruit of your labor, hard.

      1. Maybe UP is DOWN and LEFT is RIGHT.. Maybe nothing means anything at all. Leftist “educational superiority” on full display.

  3. Democratic Socialist are literally just communists who are too lazy to throw a revolution.

    1. To me, they should be correctly called Socialist Democrats. Democratic Socialists implies that they in democracy which they as Socialism can only “work” with authoritarianism.

      1. Should be “it implies that they believe in democracy” and “which they know Socialism”

        1. They believe in democracy as far as it gets them into power. After that, not so much.

          1. +100

          2. But see, Bernie is not ultra rich. He’s only rich. That makes it all O.K.

      2. Social Democracy is already a thing – the centrally organized welfare state.
        It’s a type of progressivism.
        Democratic Socialism, allied with Communism, defeated Fascism in World War II – giving birth to Social Democracy in the aftermath.
        All are types of progressivism

        1. *organized/planned

        2. All should be expunged from this world.

    2. And too stupid not to use the word socialist to describe themselves.

      1. Yeah, they should lie about it like you.

    3. Or they know they’ll lose.


  4. Besides the fact that he’s a straight white cis-male, Sanders’ economic ideas are a big part of the reason he’s not my first choice for the Democratic nomination. Nevertheless, I’d support him over any Republican because his Supreme Court picks would be so much better.

  5. “There’s a word for that?.”

    “Stupid” comes to mind.

  6. Don’t lump the weirdo socialist in with us executive socialists.

    1. And it all comes down to executions.

      1. But one execution comes with free healthcare.

  7. I used to know a Bernie bro who considered himself pretty intelligent and tried to look for explanations as to why I and a couple of other people might express views he couldn’t abide. He’d asked questions like,
    “have you been watching some gross right wing propaganda!?”, and “Planned Parenthood is some people’s only access to healthcare, and all the negative stuff and horrifying pictures are fake and made up by right wing pro life crazy Christians.” He also once emphatically exclaimed “FUCK CAPITALISM”. Up to a certain point he seemed like a reasonable man with a pretty good sense of humor, but then something snapped and it was like he’d been brainwashed into the cult of Democratic Socialism.

    Speaking of beautifully eloquent and cogent expressions of polticial insight, did anyone see the onslaught of vitriolic tweets against Peggy Noonan? It’s miserable and pretty depressing to be reminded of how many people out their are so full of hate and completely oblivious to how ridiculous they are. “FUCK OFF AND DIE NOONE LIEKS [sic] WHAT YOU ARE SAYING”, etc. She was brilliant in her dry responses to people who likely didn’t even know who she was other than someone to admonish and threaten on twatter. I imagine it does take a toll after a while. Go Peggy.

    1. Bernie bros are a cult, and that makes them dangerous in a field of 20 candidates splitting up votes.

      What did Pegglingdish Noonington say this time? It’s usually something really stupid and out of touch.

      1. If Beto gets done with his VisionQuest on time for 2020, he’s a shoo-in.

      2. Tony and his Executive socialists really believe that they are NOT in a cult of slavers.

        1. All of them need to go.

      3. Bernie bros are low IQ ignorants. Thousands showed up for his visit to my town during the last election.

        Their comments on social media and to the MSM that covered it were telling. They were all inspired by “free shit for everyone” and could care less where it came from. They assumed they were just going to get slices of the pie that “the rich” were holding onto.

        It’s actually kind of scary. Mob rule always is.

      4. What did [Peggy Noonan] say this time? It’s usually something really stupid and out of touch.

        Clickety-click (WSJ article).

  8. Bernie Sanders can eat a dick.

  9. I knew some Russians and Belarusians who were kids during Soviet times and they did say that one of the good parts of communism was the shit they got to do after school. They did all kinds of stuff that usually only well off families would do in more capitalist countries, like sailing and horse type things. And they did a lot of dance, music, and theater, which usually doesn’t take a shitload of money anyway though.

    1. And I know some Russians and Ukrainians who got to play the “how do we get out of the country before the secret police shoot us” game! They also had “where will my next meal come from”, and the ever popular “what can I use to bribe the authorities so that I am not randomly victimized today” activities. These are also activities not generally available to common folk in capitalist countries. But, ponies are nice, too.

  10. Public ownership of the means of production is just another version of Lord of the Flies.

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  12. “Bernie Sanders Wanted ‘Public Ownership of the Major Means of Production’ in 1976”

    So Bernie favors public corporations? Shocking.

    1. Socialism.

      Capitalism is privately owned public companies.

  13. But now he has a 29 year old econ major/bartender sidekick who’s the boss and like literally knows everything about anything so socialism will like really, really work this time

  14. Fucking commie should have his Jew ass thrown in Guantanamo with no outside visitors.

    1. Yikes

    2. Funny, with an ethnic slur and support for a concentration camp, I’m surprised you’re not on the commie’s side. FOS.

    3. Fuck off, Adolf.


  15. “I favor the public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries” — Oh yes, there it is; just as figured. Bernie isn’t for “breaking” up the banking monopolies and the Federal Reserve powers that creates them.

    He’s for The Federal Reserve 2.0 in which Government OWNS all the money, banks, and transactions. An even more stringent MONOPOLY of the BANKING industry. Yep, that’s communism USSR style. I still cannot fathom how American “voters” elect such imbeciles to destroy this country founded on a Individual Rights / Freedoms that are utterly under attack.

    1. Oh, he’s not against monopolistic control, he’s against OTHER people having that control.

      He’s fine controlling everything in your life as long as he’s doing it.

      Actually, this is all very “Road to Serfdom” and “The Fatal Conceit”.

  16. “We have got to begin to deal with the fact that corporations do not have the god-given right to disrupt the lives of their workers or the economic foundation of their towns simply because they wish to move elsewhere to earn a higher rate of profit.”

    Hey, if it looks like they’re going to escape, that’s what the Stasi are for, right?

  17. Bernie received kid glove treatment in ’16 because Hillary was viewed as the sure thing in a rigged primary. His past will surface now.

    1. Also because he agreed to STFU and be a good little Hillary-fluffer once they sat him down and showed him the oppo research they had on him.

      Not surprising of course, there’s never been any such thing as a commie with any integrity.


    2. He’s also not alone promising to be Santa Claus, and he’s an old white guy.

  18. Socialism assumes wealth creation in the absence of incentives.
    Capitalism assumes people respond to incentives.
    It is this simple yet some want to ignore human nature.

  19. “I favor the public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries.”

    Only a hardened idiot could be a 35 year old in 1976 and genuine have that position. He owes his political career to being able to obscurely fester in Vermont.

  20. I get paid over $180 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I just got paid $ 8550 in my previous month It Sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it.
    ?????AND GOOD LUCK?????

  21. I get paid over $180 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I just got paid $ 8550 in my previous month It Sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it.
    ?????AND GOOD LUCK?????

  22. “(This hasn’t led to as much political freedom as one would hope, particularly in China, but citizens there have considerably more latitude than in 1989.)”

    This is intellectually lazy. This cannot just be hand waved away no matter how much you would like it to. China is increasingly proving that “free trade” (if you can describe what China does as anything approaching free trade) does not necessarily go hand in hand with political or personal freedom. You cannot claim the good (poverty reduction) of your narrative then throw out the bad (wholesale imprisonment of minorities, a massive police state that cannot be described as anything less than dystopian).

  23. Public ownership of the major means of production is one of the defining aspects of fascism.

  24. Owners sometimes suffer losses. Unless the workers are subjected to the downturns of businesses, I say, no. Share in the RISK, then, reap rewards. If the business FAILS, let creditors attach workers assets. Bernie and other Socialists assume that every business is an Amazon or a Microsoft. Total hogwash. He wants a setup where, if the business collapses, the workers just look for another job. The owner loses his shirt (if not his home that he has mortgaged to fund his venture.)

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