I’m a capitalist and Bernie Sanders helped shape that

Bernie Sanders during his appearance at Millersville in 2016 (Maria Rovito/Snapper)

Robert Beiler

Associate Opinion Editor

I believe in capitalism, and I don’t think that makes me a bad liberal.

There is a consistent misunderstanding regarding what capitalism is among college students. A confusion between unrestricted greed and the options afforded by free enterprise.

I’ve mentioned in previous articles about my discovery of Bernie Sanders. How his brash rants against companies, people, and organizations taking advantage of the poor and disenfranchised drew me in. I knocked on doors for his campaign and donated money to the cause. From a cost-benefit analysis, I took a risk and lost. But unlike many bad investments, I wouldn’t think to regret it.

“Bernie Sanders appealed to a lot of people because he was touting that there need to be rules to the game,” said Dr. Mike Gumpper, professor of economics at Millersville University. “[Sanders’ message was] the rules need to be strong, the penalties need to be strong, everyone needs to know the rules and that rules don’t make you less free they make you more free.”

There was a swell of student support for the senator from Vermont in the 2016 Democratic primary.

“I love Bernie Sanders,” said Caitlyn Hallman, Vice President of the College Democrats, which was the organization behind Sanders visit to campus during the campaign. “He was someone that was very passionate.”

Hallman said that she felt over the past 20 years that business had become less honest. She believed that while Sanders’ campaign was not a full-scale support of capitalism, that it promoted a return to more honest business.

Capitalism is like a horse. It can be beautiful and majestic and be a great tool, but if there is no one at the reins, someone is going to get kicked in the teeth.

This is where I think those on the left and I disagree, but I believe our differences come from definitions.

Bernie Sanders did not stand against private enterprise. His brand of social democracy in the vein of Denmark or Sweden is often derided by more conservative sects as a gateway to full socialism or communism.

That doesn’t have to be the case. The existence of a strong social safety net does not have to directly correlate to the creation of a nanny state or stop citizens from attempting to embrace entrepreneurialism.

Dr. Gumpper believes that there is a skewed perspective when people say that things like the social safety net or regulations hurt liberty or make people less free.

“But in actuality, having regulations and boundaries of behavior for corporations actually makes people more free,” Gumpper said. “Because they know exactly what society has decided on as the out of bound stakes and [know they] need to play between the out of bound stakes.”

I’m on Medicaid. Some are surprised I don’t say this in a hushed tone and with a sense of shame.

But before that, I was without health insurance. I suffered a pretty bad head injury and chose not to go to the doctor because I knew I couldn’t afford the bill for a CT scan. I rolled the dice and it was terrifying.

Now that I have it, I’m secure to pursue my work and schooling with the knowledge that if something out of my control happens, there will be a chance to recover.

Having Medicaid hasn’t stripped me of a desire to move up. I have big goals and I’m not fit to let them be dreams. I want to own my own business, I want to be able to give back to my community. If anything, being on Medicaid has made me strive to get farther.

So, we come back to capitalism. It gets a bad rap on the far left and the far right as being either uncaring or perfect depending on who you talk to.

Given the education, opportunity, and resources, I believe people are best able to govern themselves. Like communism, libertarianism can look good on paper. But it requires a bit more trust in people to always do the right thing. And I can’t go quite that far. The law and the market have not always been fair to many people, particularly women and people of color. While it might be easy to say we are beyond that, the past has rippling effects on the present.

Capitalism is like a horse. It can be beautiful and majestic and be a great tool, but if there is no one at the reins, someone is going to get kicked in the teeth. The market requires us to keep a careful watch, because there will always be those looking to exploit others or to remain indifferent to struggle.

Bernie Sanders didn’t lead me to reject capitalism. He led me to continue to reject apathy. To believe that we are all in this together.