If you have been active on social media at all over the past week, you will inevitably have encountered the viral meme showing Bernie Sanders sitting on a foldable chair, arms crossed, at Joe Biden’s inauguration.
What has unfolded since this meme went viral presents us with some interesting and perhaps unexpected economic insights.
1. Bernie Sanders using the power of capitalism
Upon realizing the popularity of the image used for the memes, the Independent Senator from Vermont capitalized on an opportunity to feature it on t-shirts and sweatshirts. Indeed, the online store for Bernie Sanders’ campaign merchandise started selling these items for $27 and $45 respectively, as part of the “Chairman Sanders Collection”.
In doing so, America’s best-known proponent of “democratic socialism” took full advantage of capitalism in order to help raise money for charitable causes. The proceeds of his latest meme-inspired merchandise, which has apparently already sold out, will go to various community charities in Vermont, including the Meals on Wheels program. As such, despite his repeated condemnations of capitalism, Bernie Sanders is certainly making good use of his own economic freedom.
2. High taxes kill businesses
A key component of the now-famous Bernie Sanders meme is of course his handmade woolen mittens. Yet the story behind these mittens draws our attention to an important problem: that of high taxation killing businesses and stifling entrepreneurship.
Bernie Sanders was given his handmade mittens several years ago by a teacher, Jen Ellis, from Essex Junction, Vermont. A strong supporter of Senator Sanders, Ellis was delighted to see him wear her mittens on his campaign trail during the 2020 Democratic primaries. After they became famous for featuring in the meme, her mittens were in high demand. However, unfortunately for those enquiring, Ellis is no longer in the mitten business.
While she still sometimes makes mittens to send as gifts, Ellis explained that it was not worth continuing to make them as a side hustle due to taxes. As she stated, “independent crafters get really taken for a ride by the federal government”.
3. Free markets provide more opportunities than central planning
This story serves to highlight the significant hurdles faced by prospective entrepreneurs. While the U.S. enjoys relative economic freedom, at least compared to how things would look if Bernie Sanders’ socialist policies were implemented, there are still a plethora of missed opportunities for a greater supply of goods and services, as well as for employment.
In a free society, individuals must always stand to gain more from offering goods or services than by doing nothing. As we can see with the sale of Bernie Sanders’ merchandise, everyone involved in the story stands to benefit. Naturally, Sanders himself benefits from the publicity gained through the meme’s popularity and his ability to sell merchandise. Furthermore, those who choose to purchase the merchandise have gained value, as indeed have the beneficiaries of the charities to which the proceeds have been pledged.
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