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Issues & Insights

Bernie Sanders’ Road to Serfdom … And Corruption

Front-runner Bernie Sanders portrays himself as the antidote to corruption in Washington. But his own policies guarantee it will vastly increase.

“We will transform our political system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money,” Sanders said when he released his sweeping anti-corruption plan last fall. It includes such things as bans on lobbying, mandatory taxpayer financing of elections and a constitutional amendment restricting free speech.

But at the same time, Sanders’ spending spree would more than double the size of the federal government. He’s proposed free health care, free college, free daycare, guaranteed jobs, a “green new deal.”

When we added up the proposals he’d made, it came to almost $6 trillion in new spending each year. That was as of last August. Sanders has added to his spending plans since then.

Sanders would more than double the size of the federal government when it comes to spending. On Monday, he released some details on where he’d get the money, which include gargantuan tax hikes on everyone, including the middle class. There’s no telling what he’d do to expand the federal government’s regulatory state, but his ambitions there seem limitless.

The result would be to strip Americans of many of the freedoms we currently enjoy in the name of “fairness,” while turning millions into wards of the state.

His policies would also explode the amount of corruption in this country, no matter how many new rules he tries to impose on lobbyists or how many free speech rights he takes away from campaign contributors.

If there’s one thing that should be clear to clean government zealots, it’s that the bigger the government, the greater the corruption.

As we noted in this space recently, there are a number of studies making this connection. One found that the size of government “does indeed have a strong positive influence on corruption.”

Harvard law professor Matthew Stephenson looked at several others and found that “Within the U.S., when controlling for a number of other economic and demographic factors, states with larger public sectors seem to have higher corruption.”

We also pointed out that there is a nearly exact correlation between spending by the federal government and spending by lobbyists. (See the chart below.)

You simply can’t have more spending without generating more lobbying, for the simple reason that the bigger the government, the bigger the return for lobbyists who win government favors.

Conversely, the more economic freedom a country enjoys, the less corruption exists.

Writing in Forbes, Alejandro Chafuen plotted countries in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which measures 180 countries across several measures of economic freedom, from labor laws, tax rates, trade, property rights, national debt, and so on. Chafuen then did the same with Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, which ranks countries based on “perceived levels of public sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.”

Chafuen found that the correlation between freedom and corruption is “strong and significant.” The greater the economic freedom, the lower the corruption. Less economic freedom – the kind that Sanders is eager to impose in the U.S. – the greater the corruption.

“Economic freedom is a major deterrent to corruption,” says Chafuen, who has been studying this relationship for decades.

“Based on the study results over the last 25 years, I feel confident concluding that leaders who fight corruption with more regulations rather than with true economic freedom are comparable to those who want to fight fires with gasoline: purposefully ignorant or willful accomplices.”

Sanders should know this connection exists from personal experience. As Peter Schweizer details in his new book – “Profiles in Corruption” – Sanders has been using his position as a “public servant” to funnel money to his family and friends.

“There are various ways taxpayer money, school money, other things that have flowed to the family and have made the Sanders family very, very wealthy,” he told Fox News.

The Heritage index meanwhile, shows a direct correlation between economic freedom and prosperity.

“The ideals of economic freedom are strongly associated with healthier societies, cleaner environments, greater per capita wealth, human development, democracy, and poverty elimination,” the report says.

In other words, everything that Sanders says he wants to achieve would be undermined by his socialist policies. There would be less prosperity, more poverty, a worse environment, less democracy … and far more corruption. Don’t believe so? Take a trip to Venezuela and see for yourself.

— Written by John Merline


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2 comments

  • “We also pointed out that there is a nearly exact correlation between spending by the federal government and spending by lobbyists. (See the chart below.)”.

    You just made his case for him. Willie denied he said it but when asked by a reporter why he robbed banks Willie Sutton reputedly said “That’s where the money is.” Stop lobbying and you stop thieves. While we’re at it, stop sole source procurement and we might slow thievery by the Beltway Bandits.

  • “Take a trip to Venezuela and see for yourself” e.g. socialism.
    Take a trip to Denmark and see for yourself.

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Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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