Socially Liberal but Fiscally Conservative: The Dope-Smoking Millennials Who Could Yet Save the World from Ever-Bigger Government
Stage a conference of libertarians, pot-legalisers, gun nuts, and gold bugs in a city of booze, whores, gambling and semi-automatics: what could possibly go wrong?
This is what I've come to FreedomFest in Las Vegas to find out and it also may explain some of the recent radio silence. Sure there are lots of very important speaker events you can go and see with chewy titles like Are There Natural Rights? Do Constitutions Work? and Business Opportunities in the Emerging, Legal Marijuana Market.
You will also find yourself in many, many conversations where you hear phrases like "Bitcoin is the new gold" and "No, really, bitcoin really is the new gold and gold is so over”, "You've got to go to this new casino where you can, like, gamble in bitcoin,” and “where do I go to get some of that Nevada medical marijuana?"
But really--a bit like its more staid conservative cousin CPAC--the real point of FreedomFest is for like-minded folk to hang out in an environment where, for once, they're not made to feel like freaks, heretics, or social Darwinian haters and to pretend for a few happy days that Obama's America doesn't exist and that the future looks once again like some shining city on a hill where government is small, taxes are low, the Constitution is revered, and liberty reigns.
And is this going to happen?
Well it's less impossible than you might think, according to Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason TV, whom I interviewed for Breitbart news. Reason has been doing some research into the Millennial generation (18 to 29 year olds) who did so much to vote Obama into power and has discovered they're not nearly as knee-jerk left as you might fear.
Sure, they quite often self-describe as "socialist" but only because they're victims of a dumbed-down education system and don't understand the meaning of the term. Press them on their views and you discover that though they are socially liberal (67 per cent favour same sex marriage; 57 per cent want to legalise marijuana), they lean fiscally more to the right--at least according to this Reason-Rupe survey.
According to the survey:
64 percent of millennials say cutting government spending by 5 percent would help the economy
59 percent say cutting taxes would help the economy
57 percent prefer a smaller government providing fewer services with low taxes, while 41 percent prefer a larger government providing more services with high taxes
57 percent want a society where wealth is distributed according to achievement
55 percent say reducing regulations would help the economy
53 percent say reducing the size of government would help the economy
But though they mistrust government, they define themselves by their social conscience and appear to be somewhat politically confused.
69 percent say it is government’s responsibility to guarantee everyone access to health care and 51 percent have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act
68 percent say government should ensure everyone makes a living wage
66 percent say raising taxes on the wealthy would help the economy
63 percent say spending more on job training would help the economy
58 percent say the government should spend more on assistance to the poor å
57 percent favor spending more money on infrastructure
54 percent favor a larger government that provides more services, when taxes are not mentioned
This tallies with similar research in the UK. Just before I left there was a BBC radio documentary into precisely this phenomenon. Millennials are socially conscious and keen on a welfare safety net--but they only want it for the genuinely needy rather than for lazy scroungers. They believe if you work hard for your money you should benefit from it and they don't think profit is a dirty word.
Both the GOP in the US and the Conservative party in Britain need to work on this. There's room for a lot more fiscal boldness than the squishes and milksops among them might think.