Bernie Sanders Discovers Value and Sanctity of Private Property
“This is an event that we paid [the Bernie Sanders campaign] for. This is an event — we bought this space,” the campaign official explained when [Kaitlin] Bennett protested. “I’m going to ask you one more time,” he said before threatening to turn the matter over to security.
“Can someone tell me what I did?” Bennett asked as she was being escorted out of the building. “I need to know what rules I violated.”
A security guard told her that it was a private event, therefore, it’s considered private property.
“It’s considered private property and a private event,” the security guard explained.
This is from Debra Heine, “Conservative Journalist Ejected from Bernie Sanders Town Hall in Ohio,” PJ Media, April 14, 2019.
Presumably the security guard was told by the Sanders campaign that it was a private event and, therefore, the campaign had the right to evict her.
We often hear people say, when they observe hypocrisy, that the hypocrite should practice what he preaches. I would like Bernie and his aides to do the opposite: preach what they practice. They understand the value of private property. They understand that paying for the use of the facility gives them the power to set the rules. Good. Then they should preach that for others. They should defend the rights of others, and not just of themselves, to use their property as they see fit. Think of how many of the things Bernie advocates he would have to disown if he stood by the principle that he insisted that this young woman respect.
Aside: One thing that makes this a little ambiguous is that it isn’t quite private property. The Sanders campaign apparently held the event in a government school.
Apr 14 2019 at 9:35pm
Could you point us to a source where Bernie Sanders has stated that he doesn’t believe in private property?
Apr 14 2019 at 11:57pm
I don’t think David needs to show that Bernie Sanders doesn’t believe in private property in some absolute sense, but just that Mr Sanders believes that private property comes with lots of restrictions on what you can do with it and with responsibilities.
(And telling someone why you kick them out is a pretty low bar of responsibility. So you’d probably have a relatively easy time finding Mr Sanders advocate for more responsibility.)
Apr 15 2019 at 9:05am
David writes, “I would like Bernie and his aides to do the opposite: preach what they practice.”
David’s not saying that Sanders doesn’t believe in private property. Quite the opposite, he’s pointing out clear evidence that Sanders does believe in it, and he’s asking for Sanders to preach accordingly. He’s also saying that if Sanders spent more time extolling the virtues of private property, many of Sanders’ “democratic socialism” proposals would be harder to advocate the way Sanders has advocated for them thus far.
Apr 15 2019 at 10:25am
you’re not really responding to OPs question…
“Could you point us to a source where Bernie Sanders has stated that he doesn’t believe in private property?”
Seems clear to me he understood the point Henderson made about preaching what you practice.
Apr 15 2019 at 12:04pm
Thanks, Matthias and RP.
The fact that you’ve both given me different answers kind of makes my point. Prof Henderson didn’t make an argument here. He just left some kind of insinuation – hey, we all know Bernie’s a terrible leftie, right? I bet he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t eat meat and protests in a tent says that private property isn’t a real thing, right? That’s what they all do, the lefties, right? Everyone knows that! But Bernie sometimes also acts as though private property is a real thing! BOOM! Gotcha!
I just want some real arguments. I didn’t even know what Bernie’s positions are. I’ve never supported him. But when I went to look, I found that he (or rather, his campaign websites) doesn’t say anything at all about private property. If Henderson wants to make an argument, I’d like to see him (and everyone else!) construct it out of real positions, quotes, and facts, not fill-in-the-blank insinuations.
Apr 15 2019 at 12:54pm
Phil H, I don’t want to belabor the point, but I still think you might have missed the thrust of what David is saying.
You write: “But when I went to look, I found that he (or rather, his campaign websites) doesn’t say anything at all about private property.”
David wrote: “I would like Bernie and his aides to do the opposite: preach what they practice.”
My reading of the blog post is that Bernie Sanders took a strong stance for property rights in this case, which is what Sanders practices. But, as your investigation of his positions indicates, he does not preach this. David Henderson would like him to. Seems clear enough to me without any additional insinuations or reading between the lines.
Apr 15 2019 at 6:45pm
Thanks, I see what you mean, but it’s a bit tenuous. For example, Trump’s website doesn’t say anything about private property, either. (I know Trump is no policy heavyweight, but he will be the Republican candidate, so it’s a natural comparison.)
It felt much more to me like the argument that Mark Z makes below – because Bernie uses the socialist word, therefore he’s definitely against private property and markets and capital and all that good stuff…
Which may even be true, I suppose! But I’d like to see arguments that tackle the things a candidate actually says, as opposed to some imagined omission.
I mean Trump has literally not mentioned water in the last year. Doesn’t he know that people need water to live? I bet he drinks water himself! I’d like him to preach what he practices! – do you see what I mean? It’s a bit absurd, isn’t it? The fact that a candidate has not mentioned your particular favourite issue lately isn’t really evidence of anything…
Apr 16 2019 at 8:43am
I don’t know, Phil. In my last local senatorial election, I explicitly chose not to vote for Candidate A because his platform was silent on an issue close to me. Sometimes what you don’t say is very relevant. That doesn’t mean everything you don’t say is relevant, but it does mean that some might be, especially when what you do not say is relevant to what you do say; as is the case with Sanders’ policies.
Apr 16 2019 at 11:26pm
“It felt much more to me like the argument that Mark Z makes below because Bernie uses the socialist word, therefore he’s definitely against private property and markets and capital and all that good stuff…”
What I actually wrote was: “that Sanders identifies as a socialist… and has praised regimes that have indeed rejected private property, are sufficient to suggest his position on private property is at the very least ambiguous.”
I thought I was pretty clear that I was not asserting any such definiteness.
Apr 17 2019 at 11:27am
Sorry, Mark. I didn’t mean to misquote you. You were indeed clear.
Apr 15 2019 at 2:23pm
Socialism is the state owning means of production.
That is anti-private property.
Bernie is a socialist.
Apr 16 2019 at 12:45pm
If that’s what socialism is, there are a lot of non-socialists masquerading as, and/or being accused of being, socialists.
Apr 15 2019 at 5:48pm
I think the fact that Sanders identifies as a socialist – a position that, by definition, opposes private ownership of productive resources (which I assume would include most land and buildings) – and has praised regimes that have indeed rejected private property, are sufficient to suggest his position on private property is at the very least ambiguous.
I know it’s often claimed that, nowadays, socialism really means ‘lots of redistribution without public ownership of property,’ but 1) I’m skeptical that this is true for Sanders (again, thinking of the some of the regimes he’s sympathized with) and 2) I find that definition annoyingly vague. So I think it’s fair to question whether a person favors private property once they’ve identified as socialist until they indicate otherwise (note that I’m not saying one can necessarily assume they oppose private property; I don’t doubt some self-identified socialists support private property; but the most prominent socialist thinkers, e.g. Matt Bruenig, G.A. Cohen, etc. are pretty clear that they don’t favor private ownership of land).
Apr 15 2019 at 7:33pm
Thanks, Mark Z. Yes, that’s what I have in mind.
Apr 15 2019 at 2:24pm
I have always said that the good thing about hypocrites is that they are right half the time.
Apr 15 2019 at 4:42pm
Phil, the bullet-points below are all statements made by Bernie Sanders — it’s safe to say that Sen. Sanders is not a big fan of private ownership of many things. One of those things would clearly be schools, which he believes should be owned and run by the state; that puts his leverage of “private event” for a “town meeting” advertised as open to the public with no need of a reservation or invitation at a public high school (Lordstown High School) to eject a peaceful member of the audience in a very tenuous—potentially hypocritical—light. His campaign’s Facebook Event calendar lists quite a few of these “rallies,” some at private venues, some at public ones, all with this description—
(Curiously, the entry for the Lordstown rally is now missing.)
Central to Bernie Sanders’s political philosophy has been the balance (or tension?) between private property and state/public ownership, with a clear preference for state ownership of activities and resources he feels fall mainly in the Commons. I interpret David Henderson’s point to be that Sen. Sanders appears to be recognizing the value of private ownership even in what are clearly community/public interactions; i.e. disinviting an unwelcome guest—no matter the goal—at an advertised public, political event on public property, even when the guest represents no physical danger.
Henderson points out the inconsistency—
—of Sen. Sanders’s political philosophy with his campaign/personal philosophy when he applies a private property framework to a clearly public event.
As for Matthias Görgens and RPLong differing, their points actually complement rather than contradict.
Bernie Sanders and private property—
▪”I favor the public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries.”
▪”I would also urge you to give serious thought about the eventual nationalization of these gigantic [oil] companies. It is extremely clear that these companies, owned by a handful of billionaires, have far too much power over the lives of Americans to be left in private hands. The oil industry, and the entire energy industry, should be owned by the public and used for the public good — not for additional profits for billionaires.”
▪”I will be campaigning in support of … public ownership of … private electric companies without compensation to the banks and wealthy stockholders who own the vast majority of stock in these companies. I will also be calling for public ownership of the telephone company — which is probably the single greatest rip-off company in America.”
▪”In the long run, the problem of the fleeing corporations must be dealt with on the national level by legislation which will bring about the public ownership of the major means of production and their conversion into worker-controlled enterprises.”
▪”I believe that, in the long run, major industries in this state and nation should be publicly owned and controlled by the workers themselves.”
▪”I believe in socialized medicine, public ownership of the drug companies and placing doctors on salaries.”
Sen. Sanders’s campaign website does indeed say much about his positions on private ownership in both the business and personal spheres of activity.
Apr 16 2019 at 2:17pm
Thanks for those quotes at the end of your comment. They do illustrate his lack of commitment to private property.
I had taken it as given that people follow Bernie Sanders enough to know that these are his views, which is why I didn’t spend time in documenting them. But you have done a valuable service.
Apr 16 2019 at 8:20pm
You’re welcome, David. Credit for these statements from the 1970s really goes to the efforts of Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott at CNN who culled through hundreds of newly digitized newspaper and Sanders’s Liberty Union Party records now archived at the University of Vermont.
It’s possible Sen. Sanders no longer holds all of these positions as fully or passionately, but, according to the CNN article, his campaign did not disavow them when it had the opportunity.
He did say “Nobody should earn more than a million dollars,” but that was in 1974 dollars.
Apr 16 2019 at 8:32pm
Thank you, Jim. That is helpful. And certainly at least one of those comments suggest state expropriation without compensation, which is indeed a stance that doesn’t respect private property.
David, I don’t think this supports your argument, though.
(1) BS supports the state taking big corporations.
(2) Therefore BS should never exclude anyone from his meetings.
There’s a yawning gap in between those two things. Once again, it’s a yawning gap that could possibly be filled, with the necessary supporting evidence and argumentation. But a cursory “it’s all private property, innit!” doesn’t constitute a proper argument.
David R Henderson
Apr 17 2019 at 9:07am
You say that there’s a yawning gap between Sanders advocating that big corporations’ property rights being violated and Sanders’ campaign’s property rights being violated.
Does the gap have to do with the size of the corporation? So, for instance, if the corporation is a one-person $500K a year operation, then, in your view, it’s not alright to take it? So at what size does the corporation lose its property rights? And then how big does Bernie’s operation have to get before it is alright to violate his property rights?
Apr 17 2019 at 11:17am
David, I find it hard to believe that you’re being sincere in your question, but it does me no harm to answer, so:
We have two cases of potential violation of rights
(1) The state forcibly nationalizing a large company;
(2) A person whom BS wishes to exclude attending a BS meeting.
You suggest that because both of these cases involve violations of property rights, one ought to take the same view of their propriety: either one should think that both are OK, or one should be against both.
But the differences between them are large.
First, I’m not convinced the meeting case is really about property rights. As noted, it wasn’t carried out on BS’s property. At most it’s about what rights were obtained through a rental contract.
Second, the rights involved are different. The right to exclude a person is probably best seen as an extension of the right to assembly; that is very different from the right to hold and benefit from property.
Third, financial assets (shares in the firm) are different from land (where the meeting was being held) – they are treated very differently in law.
Fourth, eminent domain is carried out by the state; the journalist is a private person. Even if you don’t think the state should have different rights to people, BS clearly does. He may well think that a person does not have the right to infringe a legal person’s rights, but the state does.
Fifth… I dunno, do I have to go on?
I know it’s hard to trust over the internet, but I’m not arguing in bad faith. I just don’t think you’ve put together a genuine argument. Perhaps I’m missing a connection. If you have time to engage with me, perhaps you have time to elucidate?
Apr 17 2019 at 12:12pm
Sorry, should have written a couple of final sentences.
The differences between the two issues mean that there are many perfectly common political positions that would allow BS to distinguish in a principled way between them. I have no idea if BS actually holds any of these positions! But I don’t feel inclined to trust the word of anyone on what BS thinks without a few quotes or some evidence.
You asked specifically about size of organization, perhaps so that you can enjoy pigeonholing me as one of “them”, whoever they may be in your ontology. In fact, size didn’t cross my mind, mainly because I don’t have much idea how big BS’s campaign is. I do think that size may affect how the state should treat companies (“too big to fail” and all that), but I can’t claim to have any deep thoughts or fixed opinions, just don’t know enough about it.
Apr 17 2019 at 12:38pm
I think it’s almost always a bad idea to speculate about motives. It has nothing do with pigeonholing you and nothing to do with my enjoyment. It was my attempt, now I have specified how Bernie is critical of property rights, to figure out what your distinguishing principle is. The size of the business or enterprise seems to matter to you. Thus my question about size.
Apr 17 2019 at 8:16pm
Thanks for the advice on how to debate. I’ll offer a little of my own: It’s always better to respond to the other person’s substantive points than to tone-police them. Would you like to respond to the substantive differences I pointed out, and fill in the gaps in your argument?
Apr 17 2019 at 8:46pm
Phil H, a suggestion: when hoping for a dialogue, please do not open a statement with—
This is so easy to interpret as a judgment on Professor Henderson’s character or intelligence as opposed to his ideas and will likely chill any further discussion. Asking where one would draw a line on an ownership continuum bookended by a Huge Corporation and My Stuff seems fair when discussing property rights in a socialism framework (with Rented Meeting Hall somewhere in-between).
I find taking questions on the Internet at face value to be the most productive route even when trust is uncertain or unknowable. I would tell my partners in online discussion they should be flattered when I ask them for more information — it means I take their ideas and positions seriously and wish to understand them more fully.
Apr 17 2019 at 11:45pm
Thanks, Jim. I mean… you’re right. My only defence is, “He started it!” And I know that’s not exactly strong.
But frankly, I’m feeling vindicated. Henderson’s initial post just didn’t make a full argument. I’ve invited him multiple times to fill in the gaps. He hasn’t done so, despite taking the time to reply a couple of times. To me that suggests that there is no real argument behind the original post. It was just a bit of political insinuation without real substance. I appreciate your attempt to fill in some background, but as I indicated above, the quotes you found don’t take us all the way from point A to point B.
My tone may have been at fault. But the problem isn’t my tone; the problem is an OP that lacked substance.
And if you agree with Henderson, please feel free to fill in the gaps yourself. If you can say why this campaign trail contretemps is relevant to Sanders’ positions on state ownership, I would be genuinely interested.
(I see you’ve also mentioned size, but again, it doesn’t strike me as the relevant factor here.)
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