What Bernie Sanders Gets Wrong About Authoritarianism

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, is praised by his admirers for being consistent. He’s been saying the same things for 40 years, they explain—as if this is an obvious compliment. I think that’s kind of weird. 

But I also like it because it gives me an excuse to make points I’ve been making for 20 years. Specifically: that authoritarianism doesn’t make people rich. 

Sanders refuses to apologize for his praise for some of the great accomplishments of authoritarian regimes, such as Fidel Castro’s Cuba. At a recent CNN town hall, he volunteered that there are things about China he likes, too. 

“China is another example, all right?” Sanders said. “China is an authoritarian country, becoming more and more authoritarian. But can anyone deny—I mean, the facts are clear—that they have taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history? Do I get criticized because I say that? That’s the truth. So that is the fact. End of discussion.”

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