A 1981 New York Times item quotes Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as saying he doesn’t “believe in charities,” an outlook that one expert says is common in socialism and would destroy civil society.
In September 1981, the Times reported on comments then-Burlington Mayor Sanders made at a charity event:
“For the kickoff of the 40th annual Chittenden County United Way fund-raising drive in Burlington, Vt., the sponsors considered themselves fortunate to have as guests Mayor Bernard Sanders of Burlington and Gov. Richard Snelling of Vermont,” reported the Times.
“But the charity workers heard the sort of things they wanted to hear from only one of their guests.
“‘I don’t believe in charities,” said Mayor Sanders, bringing a shocked silence to a packed hotel banquet room. The mayor, who is a socialist, went on to question the ”fundamental concepts on which charities are based” and contended that government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for social programs,'” the article stated.
Joe Loconte fiercely disagrees. Loconte teaches Western civilization and American foreign policy at The King’s College in New York City. He has also held positions with the Heritage Foundation and the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. From 2001-2003, he was an informal adviser to the George W. Bush administration’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
“It’s no surprise that Bernie Sanders then, and I think even now, really has no real respect or regard for civil society,” Loconte told WND and Radio America. “This is the problem with socialism. It sees such an overwhelming, intrusive role for the state at all levels, there’s no room left for the voluntary society.”
He said the history of America shows civil society as a indispensable part of what makes America great.
“Those associations, those charities, those faith-based organizations that have always been the lifeblood of American democracy have always contributed to this truth as we describe the United States,” he said. “It’s exceptionalism. Near the heart of American exceptionalism is this vibrant, independent civil society.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Joe Loconte:
Loconte said Americans have always understood instinctively that neighbor helping neighbor builds better communities than relying on the government to solve problems. He said Europe is learning this hard lesson right now.
“The overweening state cannot meet human needs, cannot address our deepest moral and social problems,” he said. “It just can’t do it and Bernie Sanders, apparently, has just not learned a thing from American history, from European history and not even the present crisis.”
From the very start of America, private charity and a vibrant civil society set us apart from the world, according to Loconte. He said Alexis de Tocqueville rightly observed this in his famous “Democracy in America.”
“He sees something in America that he doesn’t see in Europe,” Leconte said. “What he sees is individuals coming together in associations to tackle problems together, common problems. So he sees a moral energy, civic energy, religious energy used to try to produce a more just and humane society.”
He said socialism threatens every bit of that American fabric.
“That’s the genius of a vibrant, independent civil society. It’s something that socialists like Bernie Sanders cannot and will not understand,” Laconte said. “Not only will they not promote it if they get into real positions of power and responsibility in government, they will hinder it. They will undermine it. Ultimately, they’ll destroy it.”
Loconte said it’s all about socialists devaluing the individual.
“At the end of the day, there’s this logical and even theological problem: Bernie Sanders is not just a proclaimed socialist. He’s an atheist, a secularist. It seems to me the history of ideologies rooted in secularism shows at the end of the day there’ll be a distrust and even contempt for the individual,” Loconte said.
“Individual freedom, individual responsibility and human rights. That’s where it’s going. Basic human rights will always be compromised under a socialist regime. That’s the historical record. It’s not even debatable.”
He said civil society and personal charity will plummet the more government gets involved and determines right and wrong.
“The larger government gets in terms of regulations, its intrusiveness, its attempt to have one-size-fits-all imposed on groups and organizations, to force people into its militantly secular way of thinking: That’s simply going to undermine and weaken civil society,” Laconte said. “We can’t afford that now when we think about our great social problems, where the breakdown of the family is so near the heart of all of them.”