The Appeal of Bernie Sanders – To whom and why? No big mystery

Making the Socialist Grade

Redacted from an article by MARK PASTIN

The Weekly Standard Magazine

March 7, 2016

Young voters love Bernie Sanders. According to entrance and exit polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders beat Hillary Clinton among voters under 30 by nearly six-to-one.

There are many explanations why Sanders is so popular with the young, not the least plausible of which is that his opponent is so singularly unlikable. There is his apparent directness (“authenticity”), his propensity to promise virtually anything (free college, free health care), and his avuncular demeanor. But the most compelling explanation is that young voters actually like the idea of a socialist revolution.

The lure of socialism to the young is nothing new—I’ve never found students to be particularly put off by the S-word. In fact, they’ve long been eager to embrace it.
Consider Arizona State University, a school not exactly known for campus radicalism. When I was teaching there in the 1980s, I would often start a new semester by asking the class who among them considered themselves to be socialists.

The hands would go up—including a majority in many cases. In 20 years of teaching, whether at Indiana, Michigan, or ASU, this never changed.

When I asked my students what they thought socialism meant, they would generally recite some version of the Marxist chestnut “from each according to ability and to each according to need.”

Many said that they were driven to socialism by the inequities of capitalism—and there were few on the faculty to disabuse them of the notion.

If there is a difference today, it is only that socialism is even more popular with the young than it used to be: It’s now as much a part of going off to school as getting a college-logo sweatshirt.

But I’ve always thought that socialism appealed to students because they have never not been on the receiving end of government largesse. And so I would provide an opportunity for my students—in terms they could understand and appreciate—to learn what socialism means and entails.
When the majority of a class would declare themselves to be socialist, I would offer to run the class along socialist principles, such as the mandate to take from the able and give to the needy.

Specifically, I offered to grade the class on a sort of reverse-curve: Those with the highest GPAs would receive the lowest grades and those with the lowest GPAs would be given the highest grades.

This would be one small step to level the playing field for those less endowed with academic ability or motivation. After all, those with less academic ability or motivation were surely the victims of a rigged system in which social factors including prior education and income inequality disadvantaged the many in favor of the privileged few.

This socialist grading scheme was invariably met with outrage, especially, if unsurprisingly, among high-performing students (who made up a disproportionate number of the self-declared socialists).

You get the same response among students if you offer them the prospect of taking the money that subsidizes their education and using it to feed people in developing nations.

Students are attracted to socialism because they have no skin in the game. To some extent, the same applies to other young people who do not yet have a significant stake in the system. Capitalist beliefs quickly come to the surface when the young are no longer playing with funny money.

We should learn from Bernie Sanders’s success that allowing the glib socialism of the young to go unchallenged has consequences. It does the young no favors to foster in them biases that will only be corrected through decades of hard life-lessons.

Mark Pastin is president of the Council of Ethical Organizations in Alexandria, Virginia. His most recent book is Make an Ethical Difference: Tools for Better Action.

II Don’t lower the bar to achieve diversity; raise others up

Redacted from an Op-Ed Palm Beach Post
March 14, 2016

Ever since we moved to North America — I from India, my wife from Japan — 42 years ago, we heard of the word that neither of us knew much about: diversity.

When we immigrated to the U.S. from Canada, 17 years ago, we began to hear a lot more about “diversity” than we ever did in our close-to-25 years in Canada.
We are now proud citizens of this great country, and belong to the so-called “Asian-American” ethnic group. By one definition — skin color, as postulated by the NAACP — we are part of diversity. But are we really? In fact, we have often wondered what exactly is “diversity”?

Is it our skin color; our gender (as postulated by some feminist groups); our sexual orientation (as defined by the LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender — group); our religious affiliation; our ethnicity?

Or is it something else — like the country of origin, our body weight, our height, our age, the color of our hair? You get the idea.

My point is that no two humans are exactly alike; therefore, by that definition, we are all different and would fit a plausible and defendable definition of “diversity.”

With that as the background: When my bosses at the company where I used to work — and I had quite a few people working for me — instructed me to fill open positions, keeping diversity in mind, I was confused.

I reflected on the fact that if you looked at the National Basketball Association, the majority of players were African-American. Same with the National Football League.
Golf, on the other hand, is primarily white; as is the National Hockey League. Now why would that be? The answer has to be because the best in their field were needed to get the best team — whether it was basketball, football, golf, hockey or anything else.

It did not matter what was the color of their skin or what was their sexual orientation, or religion, or anything else. We want simply the best — to give us a competitive edge in this very competitive world.

So why would we not want the same in our industries, in our universities, in our public and private institutions, in our governments — and, yes, in Oscars?

In my way of thinking, that is the only way we can give us the competitive advantage we need to keep this great nation where it rightly belongs: at the top.

Otherwise, we risk getting on a slippery slope of continuously lowering the bar, simply to meet some artificial and questionable definition of “diversity.” This is too high a price to pay and was unacceptable to me 42 years ago and even more so now, with the world becoming even more competitive.

The cost of this catering to the lowest common denominator, leads to a decline of our ability as a nation to remain competitive, and be the land of opportunity, and serve as a magnet for diverse people like myself from all over the world.


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