According to a prominent historian who has written a new book in defense of capitalism, Bernie Sanders’ trade policies could have been “even more extreme” than Donald Trump’s had he been elected president.
Rainer Zitelmann is the author of In Defense of Capitalism: Debunking Mythsdescribed by Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of the business magazine that bears his family name, as “one of the most important books in defense of capitalism in recent decades.”
Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in both 2016 and 2020. While he lost to Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden on both occasions, his campaigns sparked a wave of enthusiasm, particularly among young progressives.
Speak with news week As for how a Sanders presidency could have gone, Zitelmann said: “He would have done similar things in trade policy [what] Donald Trump did it, but maybe even more extreme than Trump [has] Completed. In this respect, Bernie Sanders and Trump do not differ that much in terms of trade policy. Of course, the situation is different in tax policy.
“On trade policy, I don’t think they are that different because Trump is ambivalent. In some aspects he was pro-market, in others he was very anti-free market.”
The German historian concluded that Sanders would have “added a lot more state and less market” which would make “a lot of bad things happen” in the long run.
During his presidency, Trump pursued protectionist trade policies, which he said were necessary to support American manufacturing, with tariffs on China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union.
In his 2020 campaign, Sanders pledged to make college tuition free, implement Medicare for all, and raise the top income tax rate to 52 percent for incomes over $10 million. The Vermont senator vowed to “eliminate the incentives” in US trade deals that “encourage multinational corporations to offshore jobs” and to expand the “Buy American” program to boost US jobs.
news week asked Sanders – who has not ruled out running for president again in 2024 – for comment.
Recent polls have indicated changing attitudes toward capitalism and socialism, particularly among young Americans.
A January 2020 Gallup poll found that 76 percent of Democratic voters said they would like to vote for a Socialist candidate, while a June 2021 Momentive poll found that 54 percent of Gen Z Americans have negative views of the had capitalism.
Zitelmann tries to pick up on this trend in his latest book, although his research shows that support for capitalism remains higher in the United States than in most comparable developed countries. The book seeks to address 10 “myths” about capitalism, including that it “leads to growing inequality,” “responsible for environmental degradation,” and “leads to monopoly.”
addressing news week, Zitelmann argued that a misreading of the 2008 financial crisis coupled with under-education about disasters, which he associates with socialism, are behind this rise in anti-capitalism.
He said: “2008 is important, but the interpretation of 2008 is important. And the mainstream interpretation is that this was a crisis of capitalism, and this proves that this was the result of inadequate regulation. I don’t believe in it, on the contrary, it was not the result of too little regulation, but of too much regulation and government intervention.”
Zitelmann also suggested increasing the youth’s support for socialism because they had not experienced its effects firsthand, unlike the experiences of older generations.
He argued: ‘The new generation – if you know anything about socialism it’s from school or from history books. Young people could of course learn that in school, but I have doubts that they learn anything about it in school.
“I have lectures on this topic all over the world – in Asia, Latin America, whether there are hundreds or thousands of people, I always ask a question – which one of you has heard of the greatest socialist experiment in history, that’s Mao around 1958 until 1962 called the “Great Leap Forward” – 45 million people died, something unprecedented in history.
“When I ask that question, very few people raise their hands. Maybe 95 percent have never heard of it in school. At school they hear a lot about the evils of capitalism, but they don’t hear about what socialism did or that more than 100 million people died as a result of socialist experiments throughout history.”
Zitelmann concluded that most people don’t realize how much progress mankind has made in the last few decades, which he attributes to capitalism.
The historian said: “The fact is that 200 years ago, before capitalism, 90 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today it’s less than 10 percent, and half of that decline happened in the last few decades.
“There is a contradiction between perception and reality. If you ask people whether hunger and poverty have increased or decreased in recent decades, the majority will say they have increased. But the reality is just the opposite.”