McGowan: The Poster Children for Capitalism

January 10, 2023

By Richard McGowan, Ph.D.

A person once wrote, “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.” Besides strong socialists, who would agree with that statement?

Despite his statements about millionaires and billionaires, Bernie Sanders would not likely agree to the abolition of private property. He himself is a millionaire, with a net worth of approximately 2.5 million dollars. In his defense, he stated “I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.”

A better defense would have been to address how he became a multi-millionaire over the course of his lifetime. He worked hard for the millions. He did not inherit his wealth nor was it given to him. He grew up in a lower middle-class family in New York City. His father, like my mother, was an immigrant; he had a sales job. His mother, like my mother, stayed home to take care of the children.

His father and mother imparted the immigrant’s notion that hard work will produce success. Sanders went from lower to upper middle class by dint of hard work, including as a preschool teacher, a carpenter and a psychiatric aide. He was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981 and pursued a career in politics thereafter.

Senator Sanders rose from a humble background to a presidential contender. And yes, he did write a best-seller in 2016. He now owns three houses, worth about $1.5 million. He could be a poster child for capitalism and free markets, despite his public utterances. The abolition of private property would not sit well with Senator Sanders.

Would the abolition of private property sit well with Elizabeth Warren? Forbes puts her wealth at about $12 million. She has two residences, one in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and one in Washington, D.C. The house in Cambridge is 3,726 square feet (the average single-family home is roughly 2,500 square feet) with two bedrooms and 3½ baths. When Senator Warren is working in the capital, she uses a two-bedroom, two-bath condo. Between the two residences, she has $4 million in property.

She did not inherit her wealth or ‘strike it rich’ somehow. Forbes says Senator Warren “grew up poor in Oklahoma, as the youngest of four. Her father was a maintenance man, and her mother worked as a minimum-wage employee at Sears.” She dropped out of college to get married, went to Texas following her husband’s job, got a degree and relocated to New Jersey. She earned a law degree from Rutgers while taking care of their child.

She taught at several universities and she “served as a consultant, mediator, writer of amicus briefs or expert witness.” She also published books on bankruptcy law and the middle class throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Senator Warren’s history shows a hard-working, energetic, talented person. Like any successful person, some luck was involved but she made the most of whatever luck she had.

Her life as a deca-millionaire suggests that she opposes the abolition of private property, though she often speaks out against private property and the wealthy, much like Bernie Sanders. However, she too could be a poster child for private property and free markets.

As a matter of fact, Senators Sanders and Warren are not alone in enjoying the right to private property. The 20 wealthiest congress persons (with #20 at $26.7 million and #1 at $200.3 million) enjoy the right to private property, too. Of the top 20, ten are Democrats and ten are Republicans. Mike Braun is among that lot.

The man who wrote, “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property,” spawned all sorts of socialist schemes. Looking at folks such as Senators Sanders and Warren, that man, Karl Marx, must be spinning in his grave.

On the other hand, Sanders and Warren are happy enjoying strong property rights.

Richard McGowan, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, has taught philosophy and ethics cores for more than 40 years, most recently at Butler University. 


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