Economics/Class Relations

When Socialism Works: Sanders-Style Economics Will Undo Any Large Society

An interesting critique of Sanders (and social democracy generally) from an Austrian/libertarian perspective.

By Steve Horwitz

Foundation for Economic Education

Because of Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the presidency, many Americans are asking if “democratic socialism” is possible. Can there be a form of socialism that really includes the voices of all the people?

The capitalist order can be seen at the unplanned interaction of lots of little socialist institutions.

In a March 17 feature at, economist Sandy Ikeda offered some strong reasons to doubt it (see “‘Democratic Socialism’ Is a Contradiction in Terms”). What Ikeda says is right, but notice what his argument does not imply: that democratic socialism will fail in all contexts. His critique addresses the application of democratic socialism to a large-scale heterogeneous group. But if we think about very small, more homogeneous groups, something like democratic socialism can work. Not only can it work; it largely does work within such small groups all throughout the modern liberal, capitalist order. In fact, the liberal order can be seen as the unplanned interaction of lots of little socialist institutions.


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