By: Andrew Beeler
With the rise of the far left policy agendas championed by the figureheads of Bernie Sanders and ‘The Squad’ – a liberal faction of freshmen Congresswomen – many Americans have found themselves asking, “How has a self-avowed Socialist made his policy priorities part of the mainstream conversation less than 30 years after the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic?”. The answer is simple, young Americans – now constituting the largest generation alive in the US – have forgotten, never been taught or are willfully unaware of the realities of socialism.
The first and perhaps most likely reason we see socialist policies being advocated for by American Millennials is that they were not alive nor were they educated on the realities of socialism. In a 2019 Pew Research poll, half of respondents ages 18-29 – those born after the fall of the Soviet Union – had at least a somewhat positive view of socialism. In the same poll, the same number responded that they had positive feelings towards capitalism. In other words, young Americans are equally likely to support capitalism as they are socialism. Predictably, these numbers drop precipitously for age ranges which include births before the 1991 fall of the Berlin Wall.
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The second reason that Millennials are split between socialism and capitalism is that they have been fed the myth that, “Socialism is good on paper”. This is a common sentiment among young people which gives rise to the fallacy that socialism by its very nature, is good, but it has never been properly implemented. “If only,” they say, “we could properly implement socialism, it would not fail as it has throughout history”. This is absolutely false. Socialism is definitionally the public ownership of the means of production. Through this ownership, the government also, therefore, owns the profit of industry and can redistribute them in any manner it chooses. For all the rhetoric regarding socialism’s empowerment of the worker, it allows for no ownership over an individual’s labor as a capitalistic free-market does; rather, it determines the value of one’s labor through mandated wages and compels production. The seizure and perhaps complete abandonment of private property rights under this model is not only unethical, but it is also economically dubious as history has proven.
“But history hasn’t proven socialism to be flawed! What about Nordic countries?” Denmark and Switzerland are frequently touted as examples of the triumphs of modern-day socialism. There is only one problem with this theory: they are not socialist countries – at least not in the sense that American Democratic Socialists hope they are. Switzerland and Denmark are free market, largely capitalistic countries with high rates of income tax (typically 50%) and extensive social welfare programs. As free markets, they consistently rank in The Heritage Foundation’s ‘Top 20 Best Free-market Economies’. Public ownership of the means of production does not exist in these places; rather, Denmark ranks 4th on the World Bank’s list of countries with the greatest ease of doing business. It ranks similarly well in ease of starting a business. Further, many of the Danish socialized goods which are envied by American Democratic Socialists are being curtailed due to financially unsustainable. Denmark has largely privatized its equivalent to American Social Security and reverted instead to private 401k-style accounts. Additionally, citizens are increasingly supplementing their public health care with private services according to the Common Wealth Fund to make up for services not provided under the public option. Much to the dismay of the Democratic Socialists, these countries are better examples of free-market economics than of socialism.
The reasons that Millennials subscribe to socialistic policy positions are many, and the data regarding their affinity towards socialism and their skepticism towards capitalism are undeniable. Through youth, energy, and knowledge of how to appeal to American Millennials, the figureheads of Democratic Socialism are dominating the national policy conversation. It is incumbent upon us all to push back on this agenda with data and facts in order to defend our personal property rights from the vicissitudes of the progressive left agenda being buoyed by the next generation of Americans.