Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are frightening the hell out of capitalists and mainstream politicians from the left and the right. Corbyn and Sanders were both thought to be too far to the left to ever be considered as potential or popular leaders, but their very similar messages have resonated within their parties to the extent both are leading polls with considerable margins.
Neoliberalism and Laissez-faire economics has ruled the world for so long that even parties of the left in OECD countries have felt obliged to adopt and maintain policies that should be outside their philosophies. It is ironic that the phrase "it's the economy, stupid" actually came from a Clinton campaign as it became ingrained within mainstream parties of the left and the right that people served the economy rather than the other way around.
Thatcher, Reagan and New Zealand's Douglas and Richardson shifted their countries into economies that were tax and regulation light to support the already rich and the trickle down economic theory. The Labour and Democrat governments that followed were reluctant to reverse the neoliberal policies, especially when it would mean challenging the increasing wealth and power of the private sector and major campaign funders.
Prior to 80s and 90s social democracies had proliferated since the Great Depression and had lifted the pay and conditions of working people. The two decades after WW2 were possibly the most equitable ever. The resilience of social democracies was shown by the fact that Sweden was the least affected by the the 30s depression. The Scandinavian country maintained a stable economy by achieving a careful balance of private and public interests that included the following policies:
- a large privately owned industrial sector,
- a large public sector financed by taxes,
- a large trade union movement,
- the state plays an active role in labour market policies,
- the ambition to achieve an even distribution of income and wealth.
The Great Financial Crisis (GFC) is considered to be the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression and again it was a country with strong social democratic policies that came out best. Norway has not fallen into the trap of allowing wealth to be concentrated in a few private interests or allowing boom and bust economic activity. Through nationalising its main industry Norway has ensured that the income generated has been spent and invested in the best interests of all its people. Using ethical investments Norway has ensured that even when oil is no longer profitable (nor environmentally viable) that having financial interests in sustainable industries around the world will ensure ongoing prosperity.
- both were born in the 1940s,
- they have long histories human rights activism,
- neither support military aggression and have been peace activists in the past,
- they both want to eliminate poverty and introduce greater income equality,
- both want to challenge corporate greed and increase taxes,
- they want greater spending on national infrastructure,
- both want to see social security spending increased,
- they both want to see the minimum wage increased and a strengthening of workers rights.
Despite being around for a while neither Corbyn or Sanders have been household names and you could hardly call them charismatic, but they both come across as sincere and principled. It seems that their respective parties have finally had enough of austerity and policies that only serve a privileged few. There is a growing support for real socialist principles again and an abandonment of the Republican lite and Tory lite leadership of recent years. This phenomena isn't just occurring in the UK and US, as Canada has lead the way with a socialist party winning an outright majority in Alberta, ending a four decade conservative dynasty.