Bogie Gives Bernie a Lesson in Economics

What a young Ingrid Bergman was to feminine beauty Bernie Sanders is to muddled thinking.

One of his favorite catchphrases is “In a country as rich as ours…” fill in the blank.  “In a country as rich as ours, there should be free tuition at public colleges and universities.” “In a country as rich as ours, the minimum wage should be $15 an hour.” “In a country as rich as ours, no child should go to bed hungry.” After all, we only spend $74 billion annually on food stamps.

All of this raises the obvious question: How does a country get as rich as ours? For socialists, wealth is just there -- like rivers, mountains and wild flowers.  Their focus isn’t on creation but redistribution.

Although he has no idea where wealth comes from, the Septuagenarian socialist is convinced the top 1% got theirs by exploiting the rest of us. “Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for everyone,” Sanders explains as he denounces Wall Street greed, damns corporate campaign contributions and tells Americans we don’t need 23 brands of deodorant.

Bernie’s envy of the 1% is that of a man who never started a business, brought a product to market or gave a man a job.

Rather than working for everyone, the economies he admires don’t work for anyone. In a recent town hall meeting, he reminded us of what the Castro regime has bestowed on the Cuban people. It’s “educated their kids, gave them health care, (and) totally transformed their economy.”

Transformed is right. Pre-Castro, Cuba had the third highest per capita income in Latin America and more TV sets per capita than Italy. When I was there in 1997, the average worker earned $10 U.S. a month. Patients had to come to hospitals with their own sheets and pillowcases. I saw men on the street refilling disposable lighters for re-sale.

The list of things invented in America is seemingly endless, like bread lines in the old Soviet Union: from the mundane but exceedingly useful -- like paper clips, disposable diapers, clothes hangers, electric razors, deodorant, dental floss and microwave ovens -- to those which define the world of the 21st century, including refrigeration, tractors, assembly-line production, airplanes, mobile phones, the personal computer and the Internet.

According to the Independent Institute, in the United States, life expectancy has gone from 47 years in 1905 to 78 years today. In 1910, “only 14% of American homes had a bathtub, 8% had a phone, 95% of all births took place at home, most women washed their hair once a month; and the average worker made about $300 a year.”

The miracles wrought in the past century aren’t the result of central planning or public ownership of industry. Ronald Reagan once remarked, “Millions of individuals making their own decisions in the marketplace will always allocate resources better than any centralized government planning process.”

America became the richest country on earth by allowing individuals to maximize their potential, by rewarding success, by fostering a work ethic, and by encouraging risk-taking, the accumulation of capital and innovation.

In an article posted on The Daily Beast, on March 10 (“Hey Bernie, Don’t Lecture Me About Socialism. I lived through it”), former world chess champion Gary Kasparov writes: “It’s capitalism that brought billions of people out of poverty in the 20th century. It’s socialism that enslaved them and impoverished them.”

In one scene in the 1954 romantic comedy, “Sabrina,” playboy William Holden is teasing his brother Humphrey Bogart, the CEO of a conglomerate, about why he works all hours of the day and night. Is it power, money? (Bogie: “If making money were all there were to business, it’s hardly worthwhile going to the office. Money is a byproduct.”)      

“What are you proving?” Holden’s character asks. Bogie:

“Proving? Nothing much. A new product has been found, something of use to the world. So, a new industry moves into an underdeveloped area. Factories go up, machines are brought in, a harbor is dug and you’re in business. It’s purely coincidental of course that people who’ve never seen a dime before suddenly have a dollar. And barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed. What’s wrong with a kind of an urge that gives people hospitals, baseball diamonds and movies on a Saturday night?”

But, they do have to bear the heavy burden of choosing among 23 different kinds of deodorants when before they didn’t have any.

Bernie Sanders has no more of an idea how wealth is created than a savage in Borneo looking at a jet flying overhead understands aerodynamics.

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