A new survey from YouGov finds that millennials have more favorable views of socialism than of capitalism.
As Santayana said, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Less than two decades after socialism seemed to have been confined to the dust-heap of history, another generation may have to learn hard lessons.
The survey, taken at the end of January, found that 43 percent of Americans under 30 had a favorable view of socialism. Less than a third of millennials had a favorable view of capitalism. No other age or ethnic demographic preferred socialism over capitalism.
Seniors, unsurprisingly, had the most favorable view of capitalism. Just 23 percent of Americans older than 65 had a positive view of socialism. Sixty-three percent of seniors, though, had a favorable view of capitalism.
Seniors, after all, experienced the long-standing intellectual battle between capitalism and socialism played out in real life. They witnessed a post-war economic euphoria grind down into a socialist malaise, only to be reinvigorated by a global embrace of disruptive technology, deregulation, and global trade.
In the past 20 years, the number of people living in poverty worldwide has fallen by half. In 1990, 43 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. In 2013, the United Nations estimated that just 22 percent of the world’s population continued to live in extreme poverty.
“Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast,” the UN Human Development report said.
Even if millenials aren’t swayed by the dramatic improvement in worldwide living standards, one would hope they would see the benefits of capitalism in the products and services that inhabit their world.
They live, and thrive, in a consumer-driven, on-demand society. They have immediate access, at their fingertips, to more knowledge, art, music, and communication than the wealthiest oligarch just a few decades ago.
Each and every one of the products and services they use every day was developed by someone chasing profit and market-share. It is a cliche to say that capitalism has powered the technological and scientific innovations that have improved all our lives. Apparently, however, it is a cliche that bears repeating.
On a postive note, every other demographic block in America still prefers capitalism over socialism. Well, Democrats, perhaps naturally, are evenly split between the two economic systems. At least Democrats, though, have slightly higher unfavorable ratings of socialism than capitalism.
The danger, of course, is that the demographic in America that does prefer socialism is also the future of the country. Of course, they have the luxury of looking positively on socialism, since any impact on their lives is restricted to dusty history books.
The finding also presents something of an existential dilema for the conservative and libertarian movement. Since the 1980s, the institutional infrastructure of the conservative and libertarian movement has grown exponentially.
Aside from dozens of national think tanks and advocacy organizations devoted to propogating conservative and free market views, there are more than a hundred free-market think tanks in states across the country.
It is safe to say that billions of dollars have been spent over the past two decades promoting and educating the public on the benefits of capitalism and free markets. There are publishing imprints, media companies and new conservative news sites everywhere. Yet, something has gone horribly wrong.
Many in the commentariat have watched the rise of Bernie Sanders with a certain touch of condescending nostalgia. “Oh, look a socialist is running for President, isn’t that cute,” you can almost hear them type.
For many, Bernie’s label as a socialist was something he would have to overcome to make a serious run for the White House. It may now be, however, something he needs to more warmly embrace.