On Wednesday, a millionaire actor who hates capitalism endorsed another millionaire who hates capitalism. Mark Ruffalo’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders (S-USSR) likely won’t make an impact in the race, but it does illustrate the irony of both men getting rich in a free-market system and then calling for the end of that system.
“I proudly and humbly throw my support to Bernie Sanders. He will make an excellent and historic president in the very moment we are ready for it and need it most,” Ruffalo says in a video released by Sanders’ campaign. In that video, the actor hails the senator as “the original progressive,” crediting him with the Democratic Party’s lurch to the left.
Ruffalo, best known as Bruce Banner/The Hulk from The Avengers (2012) and associated sequels, is a natural fit for the self-declared “democratic socialist” from Vermont. Just last weekend, he tweeted his aspiration to “Hulk Smash” capitalism.
“It’s time for an economic revolution. Capitalism today is failing us, killing us, and robbing from our children’s future,” Ruffalo tweeted, apparently oblivious to the fact that capitalism has enriched him and his three children.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Ruffalo is worth a cool $30 million. Sanders — who rose to prominence railing against “millionaires and billionaires” in 2016 and now merely rails against “billionaires” — is worth $2.5 million himself.
Sanders has raked in cash from real estate, investments, government pensions, and book sales. Ruffalo amassed wealth by playing a doctor and a huge green monster in Hollywood. As a fan of The Avengers, I do not begrudge him his riches. I also do not begrudge Sanders his wealth from investments and book sales — he earned that money.
Both Ruffalo and Sanders seem oblivious to the virtues of the free-market system, which enabled them to earn that money. American capitalism may be hamstrung with taxes and regulations, but the basic respect for property rights, settled contracts, and innovation fostered under capitalism still enable tremendous progress and wealth.
Ruffalo and Sanders are targeting the roots of that system, condemning them as corrupt. They remind me of my fellow young professional millennials, who enjoy fresh, exotic food and drink, the historic modern opportunities to travel the world, the freedom to purchase anything with a click from our smartphones, and so much more. Yet so many millennials repeatedly condemn the very free-market capitalistic system that allows all this unprecedented wealth, assuming that government control would fix all the apparent injustices without sacrificing the things we enjoy so much.
Capitalism did not emerge from nothing, and it should not be taken for granted. Ruffalo and Sanders may lament the inequalities involved, but the free-market system has allowed for unprecedented prosperity that is surprisingly widespread throughout modern economies. Devices that provide heat, cold, refrigeration, easy cooking, cleaning, and ready access to entertainment and information are available to rich and poor alike. No medieval king had access to such riches.
Sanders may promise “free” health care and education, but his extensive reforms would undermine the very system that helped produce the prosperity we enjoy. Rejection of capitalism does not have an inspiring track record. In the 20th century, Italy, Germany, Russia, China, Cambodia, and many other countries experimented with whole-hog rejections of the free-market system. Those efforts devolved into heinous government tyranny and they destroyed the kind of wealth Americans now enjoy. Millions upon millions died in horrific conditions, and the poor suffered far more than they did under capitalism. Capitalism is not killing modern Americans, but the rejection of capitalism resulted in the deaths of millions in the 1900s.
Even the United States tried War Socialism under Democrat Woodrow Wilson, and Democrats experienced stunning electoral defeats as Americans rejected the rationing, government propaganda, and corruption of the Wilson administration.
This is not to say Bernie Sanders is Joseph Stalin — although he did honeymoon in the USSR. Sanders may have nothing but good intentions with his socialist revolution, but good intentions do not always have good results. Human history is replete with grinding poverty and tyranny — modern freedom and prosperity are the exception, not the rule. It is dangerous to reject the roots of modern freedom and prosperity, even with the best of intentions.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.