Top Stories

Bernie Sanders and the ‘Revolutionary’ Whitewashing of Communist Tyranny

As Bernie Sanders’ American presidential hopes fade amid Joe Biden’s march to victory in the Democratic primaries, so, too, does his dream of a people’s “revolution” in the United States. The R-word has popped up frequently at Sanders rallies. Indeed, Our Revolution is both the title of the book Sanders wrote in 2016, as well as the name of the political-action organization his campaign inspired. The revolution that Sanders speaks of is a democratic, populist process leading to (as his book’s subtitle had it) “a future to believe in.” But Sanders’ own personal history shows that he was, and remains, naively sympathetic to some of the most ruthless revolutionary movements of the 20th century.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that in the late 1980s, while mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Sanders made friendly overtures to his counterpart in the Russian city of Yaroslavl. According to Soviet-era documents inspected by the Times, this outreach was leveraged by Soviet officials to further a propaganda campaign intended to “reveal American imperialism as the main source of the danger of war.” After returning from a trip to Yaroslavl, Sanders praised the Soviet healthcare system and subway infrastructure. This was 1988, just three years before the USSR collapsed, by which time even most Russians had stopped believing their own government’s propaganda.

It’s part of a larger pattern. “We are very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba,” said Sanders in a 60 Minutes interview last month. “But, you know, it’s unfair to simply say ‘everything is bad.’ When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?”

Uproar predictably followed in the Cuban-American community. “I’m totally disgusted and insulted,” said the president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus in Broward County (comprising a large portion of the Miami metro area). “Maybe this will open people’s eyes to how super, super liberal and radical Bernie is. I’m not going to defend him anymore. I’m over it.”

The Western Left’s ill-informed romanticizing of Cuba’s communist dictatorship goes back generations, of course. Ever since Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s gleeful visit to Cuba in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution of the 1950s—during which they took boat trips with Castro and posed for pictures with Che Guevara—many far-leftists have depicted the island as a case study in enlightened education and health-care policy, while studiously ignoring or downplaying the regime’s bloody history and ruthless political methods. The Cuban government, which expropriated all significant forms of private property during the 1950s and 1960s, even banned Christmas for 30 years. And in more modern times, it’s been widely denounced by organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (hardly conservative mouthpieces) for blatant violations of human rights, including forced labor camps and arbitrary detention. The NGO Archivo Cuba estimates that the Castro regime executed about 4,000 people between 1958 and 2016. To this day, the face of Che Guevara remains a favored staple on posters and T-shirts in the West. Yet along with Castro and other Marxists, all the Argentinian revolutionary did was effectively replace Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship with a bloodier one.

Did Castro, as Sanders claims, really create a massively successful literacy program? According to UNESCO figures, 76 percent of Cuba’s population over the age of 10 was literate when Castro ousted dictator Batista in 1958 (then one of the highest rates in Latin America). Following on his 1957 manifesto, Castro sought to improve literacy, and launched a program to that effect in 1961, which lasted about eight months. Hundreds of thousands of young volunteers travelled to the countryside, where they taught villagers how to read at a basic level. And the World Bank now estimates Cuba’s adult literacy at 99.8 percent. But as pointed out by Andy Gomez, professor emeritus of Cuban studies at the University of Miami, this literacy campaign was used as a vehicle for ideological indoctrination and the creation of a pro-Castro cult among Cuban youth. Similarly, Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago recounts how, despite her outstanding grades at a Cuban elementary school, she was removed from her class’s top rank for refusing to wear the mandated Communist Party red scarf. Her family members were called gusanos (worms) for seeking to emigrate, and her mother had to quit her teaching position for speaking out against Castro.

Sanders’ attitudes date at least as far back as the 1980s, when he traveled to Cuba on a trip organized by the New York-based pro-Castro Center for Cuban Studies. In the Burlington Free Press, Sanders reported that Cuba had made “enormous progress,” and had “solved important problems” such as hunger and homelessness. In an interview, he granted that Cuba wasn’t a “perfect society,” but praised its health system, while remarking that the revolution “is only 30 years old. It may get even better.”

As Michael Moynihan noted in a 2016 piece for the Daily Beast, Sanders also repeatedly praised the Soviet- and Cuban-backed Sandinistas of Nicaragua. About 2,000 citizens were executed in the Sandinistas’ first six months in power, and 3,000 people simply disappeared. By 1999, the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (often referred to as the CPDH) had documented about 14,000 cases of rape, torture, mutilations, executions, and kidnappings. The Sandinistas also mistreated the country’s Miskito indigenous population, forcibly relocating 8,500 of them, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

“Is [the Sandinistas’] crime that they have built new health clinics, schools, and distributed land to the peasants? Is their crime that they have given equal rights to women? Or that they are moving forward to wipe out illiteracy?” said Sanders in 1985 while reflecting on his tour of Nicaragua. “No, their crime in [Ronald] Reagan’s eyes and the eyes of the corporations and billionaires that determined American foreign policy is that they have refused to be a puppet and banana republic to American corporate interests.” In another interview from the period, Sanders mentioned Nicaraguan bread lines as “a good thing,” because “in other countries people don’t line up for food: The rich get the food and the poor starve to death.” When pressed by a Vermont reporter on the issue of mistreatment of Indigenous people in Nicaragua, Sanders responded testily, “I really don’t think the people of Rutland are staying up nights worrying about this.”

Sanders’ appraisal of Latin America’s left-wing dictatorships didn’t change much over the next 30 years, and seems to have survived the fall of the Berlin Wall entirely unscathed. In 2016, during a primary Democrat debate in Miami hosted by Univision, Sanders was shown a 1985 video in which he had talked enthusiastically about Castro’s policies. While Sanders acknowledged that Cuba was an “authoritarian, undemocratic country,” he repeated his praise for the Castro regime’s “advances in health care.” A few days later, Anderson Cooper asked him if the Cuban revolution had indeed benefited the Cuban people. Sanders dismissed the question by talking about the history of American imperialism.

Sanders’ 60 Minutes comments on Cuba have been defended by some prominent progressives. “It’s funny how folks never talk about what Cuba was like before Castro, particularly if you were black,” opined New York Times’ 1619 Project contributor Nikole Hannah-Jones. When her comments attracted criticism, Hannah-Jones repeated the Sanders tactic of seeking to deflect the conversation by launching a broad indictment of the United States, Tweeting that “the people lecturing me in Cuba right now clearly do not know anything about what it is like to be poor and black in the richest nation in the world. You want to talk about extreme poverty? Surveillance? Incarceration? Human rights violations? Police abuse? Hunger? Let’s go.”

Both Sanders and Hannah-Jones are beset by what Venezuelan psychologist Cristal Palacios Yumar calls “peace privilege”—by which people living in peaceful, prosperous countries simply have “no real clue about what it means to survive” in a dictatorship. Hannah-Jones, in particular, seems ignorant of the institutional racism that has suffused communist Cuba—a country ruled by a mainly white gerontocracy. Afro-Cuban prisoner of conscience Óscar Elías Biscet reported in 1999 that Afro-Cubans “have very low political, economic and judicial representation” within the country. And Afro-Cuban human rights activist Jorge Luis García Pérez recounted how during a trial that would lead to a 17-year prison term in Cuba, “the color of my skin aggravated the situation. Later when I was mistreated in prison by guards, they always referred to me as being black.”

Unlike many other Democrats, Sanders has been ambivalent in regard to both the dictatorship that rules Venezuela and the humanitarian crisis that its policies have unleashed. Sanders’ particular infatuation with Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” dates to 2011, when he used his official Senate webpage to promote an editorial board’s claim that “These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger.” Sanders has since distanced himself from “that specific claim.” Yet, by 2011, Venezuela’s government already had resorted to imprisoning dissidents, undermining the Supreme Court and closing down opposition media.

Hugo Chávez has been dead since 2013. But Nicolás Maduro, his successor, has presided over a continuing national meltdown, with malaria, diphtheria, and yellow fever reappearing after being eradicated from the country. Almost half of Venezuelans reported not eating three times per day, and around five million people—almost 20 percent of the population—have simply left the country. Military courts have prosecuted civilians for crimes against the regime, while security forces have committed summary beatings, electrocutions, asphyxiations, and rapes of detainees. According to Human Rights Watch, Maduro’s forces have executed 18,000 people since 2016. Yet Sanders refuses to even call Maduro a dictator. Sanders has even hired, as a speechwriter, David Sirota, a known Chávez apologist who once described Chávez’s legacy as an “economic miracle.”

The political crisis in Venezuela intensified in 2019 when Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly, was named the country’s interim president in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution’s provisions regarding a power vacuum. (Maduro’s de jure term ended in January 2019, following 2018 elections widely denounced as a fraud.) Guaidó was recognized as the legitimate president by most governments in Latin America and Europe, and by Washington. Most Democrat leaders followed suit, but Sanders shocked fellow party members by telling Mexican-American journalist Jorge Ramos he didn’t consider Guaidó to be the legitimate Venezuelan leader.

Sanders is hardly the only American politician to ingratiate himself to autocrats. President Donald Trump does this regularly. But Sanders’ position is exceptional in that it flies in the face of both mainstream Democrats and Republicans, including even fellow progressive leftist Elizabeth Warren. In December, the New York Times asked Sanders if it was “appropriate for the United States to provide non-military support for regime-change efforts” in Venezuela. “No,” Sanders replied.

Sanders is not completely alone, admittedly. When Guaidó was proclaimed interim president in 2019, far-left Democrat Ilhan Omar, a House member from Minnesota, called the situation “a U.S.-backed coup” on behalf of “a far-right opposition.” (In fact, Guaidó, along with most opposition leaders, hails from a social-democrat background. His party, Voluntad Popular, is even a member of the Socialist International.) Later, in May, Omar blamed the United States for supposedly contributing to “devastation in Venezuela.”

Similarly, Green Party perennial candidate Jill Stein has framed the Venezuelan conflict as a racial narrative, alleging that the Bolivarian Revolution had “empowered long-oppressed Black Venezuelans for the first time,” while the “right wing” opposition is known “for brutally lynching Black people in the street to ‘send a message’” (a completely unfounded claim). She also Tweeted two pictures of the Chavista Constituent Assembly and the oppositional National Assembly, which had been hue-adjusted to highlight a supposed distinction in racial composition (a Photoshop effect that is obvious when you compare the color of the same wall in the background of each picture).

Such talking points also have been amplified by celebrities such as Roger Waters, Boots Riley, and Pamela Anderson, as well as by the Anglo-American lobbyist movement Hands Off Venezuela; and the far-left activist group Code Pink, whose co-founder, Jodie Evans, endorsed Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016.

Hands Off Venezuela is particularly notorious among Venezuelans for trolling critics of Maduro (who’s supported by only about a fifth of the Venezuelan population, according to statistical firm Datanálisis). Its members’ signature tactic is to “explain” Venezuelan history and Venezuelan living conditions to Venezuelans. These activists also use the aforementioned epithet gusano (worm) against diaspora Venezuelans, just as Fidel Castro used it to vilify Cuban émigrés. The situation has become so common that the term “venezuelasplaining” has become recognizable slang word in Venezuelan online communities. In March 2019, when NGO Code Pink occupied the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. in support of Maduro, actual Venezuelans in Washington established themselves outside to protest the occupation. This led to confrontations between the (American) activists occupying the embassy and (Venezuelan) protestors.

The American far Left’s narrative on Venezuela is essentially a Latin-inflected version of the noble-savage archetype, presenting Latin Americans as people incapable of committing evil without being prompted to do so by evil foreigners. And the paternalistic white saviors who populate Code Pink and Hands Off Venezuela see themselves as noble allies, or even noble revolutionaries. Sanders has used his political stature to encourage this propagandistic and ignorant way of thinking in certain leftist circles for years. While his presidential run seems to be over, the pernicious effect of his words will linger long after November’s ballots are counted.


Tony Frangie Mawad Tweets at @TonyFrangieM and writes at

Featured image: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Fidel Castro, in 1960.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article referred to Nikole Hannah-Jones by her Twitter moniker. Apologies for the error.


  1. Just a few thoughts:-

    “But Sanders’ own personal history shows that he was, and remains, naively sympathetic to some of the most ruthless revolutionary movements of the 20th century.”

    “The Western Left’s ill-informed romanticizing of Cuba’s communist dictatorship goes back generations, of course.”

    Naively? Or wilfully and maliciously? Ill-informed? Or all too WELL-informed and lying through their teeth?

    “…while studiously ignoring or downplaying the regime’s bloody history and ruthless political methods.”

    That’s more like it! “Studiously” indeed.

    Those who deny or minimize the Left’s murder of tens of millions of people are in precisely the same evil category as those who deny the Holocaust.

    Many thanks for this interesting and informative article.

  2. “We are very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba,” said Sanders in a 60 Minutes interview last month. “But, you know, it’s unfair to simply say ‘everything is bad.’ When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?”
    Okay Bernie, now say something nice about the United States and free markets.

    I dare you.

    Bernie is no socialist. I doubt he really knows what that is. He is nothing more than an aging radical who came of age during the moral giddiness of the counter-culture and has failed to move past it. He is clearly incapable of thinking beyond slogans.

    Being in the opposition is great because your ideas never gets tested. It is far more difficult to implement grand ideas and then have to defend them from the opposition.

  3. Well put.

    What you describe is really all a socialist is. Socialists believe in very little, except a refusal to acknowledge the difference between state and society. The lack of such differentiation means they don’t recognize any limits to state action.

  4. If deflection, then deflection from what? And is not everything relative? If I say your pots are black, is that not an implicit suggestion that my kettles are bright? If we decry the death toll racked up by the commies is there not the suggestion that our death toll has been less? I’ll not listen to a Hitler preaching to me about the evils of communism but I will listen to a centrist preaching about the evils of both.

  5. Ah, national socialism. In religious conflicts they often reserve their harshest critique for those of similar mind. Fascism and socialism are birds of a feather.

  6. IMO, Sanders and those of his activist ilk - Jeremy Corbyn is a brother-in-arms - are authors of their own electoral misfortunes because their chosen ideology lacks the balance required to be palatable to a broad spectrum of voters.
    Successful liberal democracies require a balance of freedom and responsibility applied in equal measure to corporations and individuals.
    Reduce either factor from either group and you get an unbalance that usually manifests itself as some sort of injustice that needs to be addressed .
    This is where centrists live and responsible centrist governments need to be constantly adjusting balance.

    However, remove either factor completely and balance is impossible.
    Of course it never ends well because the only possible outcomes are dictatorship, totalitarianism or anarchy.
    This is where the radicals live and the deluded dreamers like Sanders that insist balance is possible.

  7. I think this is what is wonderful for Jeremy corbyn. He can stand across the dispatch box all day and call people names, and doesn’t really have to take responsibility for what’s going on.

    Also, I happen to think that that the above quote is somewhat incorrect. Someone who is in opposition can have their ideas tested, because history has many episodes where such ideas have been tested. The problem is when you have people who are intellectually somewhat weak.

    I have been corrected on this site before, and will admit to being wrong on occasion. On other occasions I simply avoid being wrong by not sticking my nose into debates where I know I haven’t a clue. Economics is one. Abortion I am very careful about because it’s not a matter of fact there, and so everyone is both right and wrong at the same time because it depends on your moral framing. I tend to stay out of that.

    However, there is another way to avoid being wrong. Blow up at people. Call them names ending in -ist. Accuse them of hate. Accuse them of being bad people and let your emotions rage at them. There are people on here who do that. I have been known to call them on it when it becomes obvious that the tactic is making them unable to debate properly, or have their ideas tested at all. However, this is one of the big things that you see on the fringes of society. If you debate certain people, especially people with far-left radical views, you get accused of all sorts of horrible things. I have noticed this on here, as well as some people who are more on the right or Center doing the same thing, which I find disappointing.

    So my own plea is to try and not let your emotions rule you when you debate. Especially on here. It’s quite toxic for everyone else’s ability to have a good discussion, as well as their own.

    Note: I don’t claim special status on here as far as this goes, either. I will do it too, and I do try to resist it. If I noticed myself doing it in particular ways or discussions, which I have, I then have to deal with it myself, and put in place some kind of way in which I’m going to be able to manage it. There are some who are more reasonable than I, and they’re wonderful, if occasionally wrong. As we all are.

  8. Bernie Sanders has never had a productive job in his entire life. This is typical of the communist wanna-be types that avoid personal responsibility at all costs. This is what communism is, having power but avoiding responsibility. That is why there is no individual under communism or any of the collectivist doctrines. It is either about economic groups under communism, ethnic groups under fascism and now identity groups in the 21st Century. You can blame a group and not take any responsibility. You can justify gaining power without any responsibility. That is the attraction for those that have no knowledge of history.

    Education, run by leftists, may well highlight the 20 million dead caused the Nazi Germany (the National Socialist Party - remember) but it conveniently ignores the 150 million dead caused by communist regimes in the 20th and 21st centuries. This is the evil that is being done and it is being done by people who cannot face up to the responsibility of what this murderous doctrine always results in. I am willing to bet the number of “Bernie bros” that have read “The Gulag Archipelago” can be counted on one hand with fingers left over.

  9. The sanctions are not affecting the people Ray, they are already are under the jackboot of Maduro and the SEBIN; rolling blackouts, and a goddam toilet paper shortage on planet earth.

    Maduro has been responsible for nearly every major corporation from Good-Year tires to Kellogg’s cereals leaving infrastructure and abandoning their assets in Venezuela.

    Sanctions aim to stop his selling those assets on an open world market.

    The sanctions are on government officials, I receive them when they happen and none affect the population, but, the generals and elite and Maduro and his criminal drug selling family who have robbed the country blind. Last year he tried to unload 250 tons of gold to an English bank and was refused, because of sanctions and that gold is owned by the people of Venezuela. Who incidentally appointed Guaido as Interim President until a ‘free’ elections can be held.

    He has been forced by his handlers in the Russian Federation to do business through Russian banks, because of the massive amounts of money he owes Putin and the St Peterburg mob for the weapons and armaments like S-300 and S-400 missile systems.

    The sanctions aim to interfere in massive amounts of cash he is being paid with for Venezuelan oil, which finds it’s way to hidden offshore accounts.

    The “Magnitsky Act” threw a fuck into his pilfering of Venezuelan wealth.

    There is a well-established propaganda machine as well as the left’s fifth column in the west who pump out the lies non-stop about the west, mainly the U.S.

    You speak about Cuba, well Cuba has been aiding Maduro robbing the assets of Venezuela, this usurper has used Cuba as a launch point for the “little green men” and massive amounts of gold and wealth leaving the country…

  10. The key point here is that the Scandinavian countries are actually Social Democracies, rather than Socialist. Yes, they have stronger worker protections and a larger percentage of the working age population employed by the public sector, but in order to pay for it all, they have had to institute an ultra-lean anti-regulatory, free market capitalist approach which commissions as many public services as possible out to the private sector. In Sweden, they have also instituted social security (public pension) reforms that reduce payments to the elderly when the economy is not doing well (making sure that they have enough money in the pot to pay for public programs).

    The burden for Social Democracy is also paid for by the poor and middle classes. With a whopping 25% consumption tax on almost everything you buy, they have gone for a ‘regressive’ tax which offers guaranteed revenue in almost all circumstances, norming out the peaks and troughs of Government borrowing. If you earn 50% or 60% more than the average wage you will pay 60% or 70% of any additional earnings above this amount. Their rates of corporation taxes are low and inheritance tax is non-existent, because they’ve worked out that the money sits offshore if you try to tax death- whereas if there is no inheritance tax then at least the money will be invested at home and you can tax the profits on the investment. They have no wealth taxes- so to say that the rich pay for it all is a fallacy, unless we are talking about total contributions, rather than as a percentage of income.

    America should look at the Scandinavian countries for inspiration- but only as an object lesson in how to run lean, anti-regulatory and non-interventional economies. They backed off from Socialism when it became clear that it was ruining their previously hyper-successful and wealthy systems. By all means, give Americans a choice about whether they want larger social safety nets- but be honest about who will have to pay for it all- taxing the rich never works, because ultimately they are free to retire and take their pot of gold to a place in the sun, they can ease off a 70 hour work week and take it easier with a healthier, lower paid career, and they might just decide that expanding their engineering business from 15 to 50 people isn’t worth the effort, because even before taxation, the benefits from scaling are often not necessarily proportional to the effort involved.


  11. The problem with that dichotomy is that socialism and communism are ghastly. One doesn’t have to be a diehard reactionary to accept that. However, right wing democracy is actually very benign. Most of the evils our friends on the left spend so much time whining about are chimera designed to keep lefties in positions of power, prestige or influence.

  12. I think few self-avowed socialists in the West think they want to repress like past and existing socialist governments. However, the question comes: what will happen when the money runs out?

    Free higher education, free healthcare, free childcare, more public housing, more parental leave, a higher minimum wage, public jobs for anyone who wants to work, basic income for anyone who doesn’t, reparation payments to African and Native Americans, intake of migrants and refugees, switching to 100% renewable energy, electric cars, “green” infrastructure, public transit, heavier regulation, and more. Who is going to pay for it? Socialists think that they could tax the rich to make up the budget, but the rich are well-positioned to park their money elsewhere, or just move away entirely. Furthermore, those tantalizing numbers people see, where the rich own a huge segment of the world’s wealth? Much of that is in shares, not cash. If the value of those businesses goes down, which it will in a high-tax and regulation-heavy environment, then those figures stop being so huge. Some will cheer the resulting drop in inequality, but that also means there isn’t a big pool to tax.

    Seeing as the rich don’t part easily with their money, the hypothetical socialist government will have some hard choices to make. Do they use more draconian methods to make the rich pay? If they do do, they have repression. Do they raise taxes on the ordinary man? If they do, they lose popular support, and to stay in power they’ll need to use repression. The only way for a socialist who has run out of money to stay in power is to use repression, or stop being a socialist. What will they want then.

  13. If somebody takes time to parse Sanders’ speeches, he’s, indeed a liar. You may compare his patterns to Trump, but he sounds more like Putin. It’s not only he avoids questions and trolls those asking them, but he manipulates the language itself.

    He makes grossly untrue claims about income inequality, like the 1% super rich make half of the income in the US. But, in reality, half of the US income belongs to the 20% of households making over $130K. And anyone with a semblance of a brain can calculate that 1% is a big number for a big country, 3 million people cannot be all billionaires. In fact, Sanders himself belongs to the top 1% as the threshold is $515K per year and his household meets it.

  14. I’m not sure I can explain MMT as intended. It’s a step beyond Keynesianism, which postulates a deficiency (sometimes) in aggregate demand expressed in money terms (total $ of demand). The idea is that (sometimes) there’s oversaving or hoarding, which the government can cure by borrowing the excess and spending in place of the missing private sector demand. Except briefly during crises, when there is hoarding, there’s not much evidence that this theory is true and some pretty clear evidence that it’s false (permanent income hypothesis, which means that extra spending in the present is simply moved up in time from what would have been spending some time in the future).

    MMT goes beyond this and claims that money is created by governments, which “spend the economy into existence” through their spending. Historically, this is nonsense, and it’s never clear whether MMT is supposed to describe actual economies of the past, the present economy (where governments play a larger role than in the past), or some future ideal economy, or whether this is the way economies are supposed to work. MMTers start with some truisms of macroeconomic accounting (consumption, saving, taxes, and so on), then aggressively add a number of non-empirical claims, which then leads to what seems to them to be an airtight case. It’s airtight only as verbal, logical construct, divorced from reality.

    In practice, MMT means that governments run large fiscal deficits (spending over tax revenues), which deficits are taken care of by literally printing money make up the difference. Under conditions different from today (like the 1970s), this just leads to a general price inflation and an eventual political reaction. Today, deficits are plugged more indirectly. Central banks have a monopoly on creating “money” (which today is a form of notional credit) by expanding, out of thin air, the monetary base, that fictitious base of credit they lend to the commercial banks and which is sometimes instantiated as cash in your ATM. The banks then buy government bonds, paying for the deficit. This approach doesn’t produce inflation like the 1970s. Instead, it leads to asset inflation, a general run-up in the price of real estate, bonds, stocks, college education, gold, art, bitcoin – you name it. MMTers would claim that all this piling up of debt doesn’t matter, because it’s somehow “not real.” But of course, it is, and it very much cuts into household, business, and government income in the form of debt repayment costs and slows economic growth, contrary to the intent.

    More generally, these policies (which approach more and more, every day, what MMTers want) lead, through artificially low interest rates and easy credit, the economy in all sectors to become more and more indebted. The level of debt worldwide is today far higher, relative to assets and income, than it has ever been. So much so, that real economic stimulus today would consist of, not spending Americans $2K each or whatever spending you want, but a debt moratorium, a general postponement of payment of interest and principal. After all, economic contractions cut the income available to pay for outstanding debt, and the growth that precedes a recession is largely fueled now by growing debt.

    This foreshadows what most of the developed world and much of the developing world is headed toward, which is a general write-down or write-off of outstanding debts – a debt jubilee. It will be the largest such event in history. There’s no possible way the world’s outstanding debts can be repaid on time with any realistic forecast of future income.

    When that happens (and it will), all talk of MMT will cease and become an historical curiosity, another token of our present financial madness.

  15. There is a book I would suggest you read. It’s called The Righteous Mind by Jonathan haidt. And yes, you can have a different moral framing of different questions. For example, you have completely separate moral framing sets for abortion.

    Some frame it as a freedom and liberty issue, where you are not allowed to control another person’s body, and then that’s their choice. Others frame it as if the fetus is a living human, which gets very tricky on the definitions, and therefore it is murder of a living sentient being. Others frame it as a religious thing, that you are desanctifying something holy, which is a life. There are a whole bunch of other ways of framing it, and the problem is that once you have adopted a specific moral frame, and locked yourself into it, you talk past everyone else with a different moral frame. You are not speaking in the same moral language. Which is why, for some, it is perfectly reasonable to say that you can have a baby delivered, and then abort it. A lot of other people freak out about that.

    You will note that nowhere in here have I identified how I frame abortion. I have heard all of these arguments that I listed above and many more. Many, many more. It is a debate in which everyone, according to their own morals, considers themselves not only right but righteous, and are happy to smite the other side with their Fury.

    I personally stay the hell out of it, because imposing my morality on others is a tricky business, and I generally would prefer not to be that kind of authoritarian. Especially since, amazingly, considering my obvious intellect, and of course my profound loquacity, I might not be right!

Continue the discussion in Quillette Circle

130 more replies