6th May 2016
– By George Kendall –
If you’re poor and live in the developing world, Bernie Sanders may not sound so progressive
Maybe you’ve been as amazed as I have at Bernie Sanders’ success, when he proposes such a leftwing manifesto. However, now I’ve studied his policies in a little more detail, I’m in two minds. Perhaps you are too.
He wants to fight child poverty, get big money out of politics, and take action to tackle climate change. He wants to give medical care to everyone and break up banks that are too big to fail.
I love that. It sounds like making the USA more like a European social democracy.
I’m worried about some things. He is criticised for lack of detailed expertise, and he makes promises which I can’t see him delivering. If he were the Democratic nominee there may be a greater risk of a President Trump. But these aren’t show-stoppers, and I’ve been excited at how he has brought progressive values into the mainstream.
However, there’s one enormous issue that really worries me.
I know some ordinary Americans are hurting. Wages are stagnant and there’s worry about the future. Sanders seems to understand that.
Sanders says: “If corporate America wants us to buy their products they need to manufacture those products in this country, not in China or other low-wage countries.”
I’ve no great sympathy for corporate America. But what of a Vietnamese worker who is longing for a chance to escape absolute poverty? What of the hundreds of millions who’ve already escaped and don’t want to return to the desperate situation their parents lived with?
When we read reports of the developing world we see stories of children starving, living in squalor, without hope. Those stories are true. What the newspapers don’t tell us is the good news, that in the last thirty years absolute poverty has plummeted.
What’s brought this about?
Globalisation has a bad press. It’s blamed for a loss of jobs in many industries, but it has also created many more jobs, both in developed economies and across the developing world.
It must be devastating if you work in a factory that’s about to be moved overseas. But shouldn’t we also think about those in that foreign country, who have far fewer options? Shouldn’t we look for ways to tackle both issues?
Some people talk as if industrialism is a bad thing, that we should leave the developing world undeveloped. But I can’t agree to that. I’d not want to live in a pre-industrial society, so how can I condemn others to?
Bernie Sanders doesn’t want to reverse industrialisation either. But, isn’t that exactly what protectionism would do to the developing world? What’s progressive about that?
It’s easy for us British to criticise Bernie Sanders, but we face exactly the same political challenges. We must try to make Britain a better place, but we mustn’t do so by cutting off the life chances of the rest of the world.
In politics, it isn’t easy to make the right choices. Let’s commit ourselves to facing up to hard realities, so that the good we do is not outweighed by the unintended harm.