Politics & Policy

What’s So Generous about Spending Other People’s Money?

Bernie Sanders greets supporters at a rally in Santa Monica, Calif., June 2016 (Reuters photo: Mario Anzuoni)
If your boyfriend used your credit card to buy you a gift, you wouldn’t call him compassionate.

The popularity of Democratic Socialism is rising, and more and more people are viewing it as a generous, compassionate alternative to “cruelty” of capitalism. 

As The Week notes, membership in Democratic Socialists of America has more than tripled in the past year, and last week’s conference in Chicago was by far the largest ever. There are many reasons for this — and the “likability” of Bernie Sanders, especially compared with the likability of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, is certainly part of it. 

But another part is the way that progressives routinely portray their economic platform as being morally superior. The holier-than-thou branding is everywhere; just think about how often progressives accuse economic conservatives of wanting to kill sick people, just because they believe that the free market can solve problems. The ultra-liberal are the “generous” ones, the ones who want to “give” you things like health care. The conservatives are the mean, old ogres who want to take those things away. 

The popularity of the Democratic Socialists seems to suggest that these kinds of tactics are working, and I have just one question: Just how in the hell do so many people seem to believe that it’s “generous” to spend other people’s money? 

Let me clear this up for the people who don’t seem to understand: Progressive politicians are not people who are going to “give” you health care, because in order to “give” something, then it has to be yours to give away in the first place. Think about it: If your boyfriend were to surprise you with dinner and a present, then you’d probably be quite happy and thank him for giving you those things. But if you found out that your boyfriend had actually paid for those things using your credit card? Well, then you’d probably think much less of it, and maybe you’d remind him that the only way that that could count as “giving” would be if he were nine and you were his mother. People who advocate for progressive politicians are not advocating gratitude; they’re advocating for big government, plain and simple. 

Believing in the ability of big government to solve problems doesn’t make you any better than the people who believe in shrinking government to solve them; it just means that you have a different view of economics. And the politicians who promise to “give” you health care, welfare, and other benefits in exchange for votes aren’t really promising to “give” those things at all; they’re promising to take resources from others in order to fulfill their promises, without ever having to feel the pinch themselves.

Democratic Socialism is not generosity, it’s a political view — and one that has historically had outcomes more despicable that heartwarming.  

It’s going to be incredibly difficult to find solutions to these sorts of problems unless we all acknowledge that everyone is, in fact, looking for them. There isn’t just one ideological group who wants people to be healthy and prosperous; literally anyone who is not a sociopath wants that. It’s just that one group believes that the best way to do that is to take other people’s money and let the government distribute it. Democratic Socialism is not generosity, it’s a political view — and one that has historically had outcomes more despicable than heartwarming.


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— Katherine Timpf is a National Review Online reporter.


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