During 2016’s election, Senator Bernie Sanders fueled his candidacy by feeding a bill of goods to young people. Cynically capitalizing on their lack of knowledge and life experience. And hinting at utopian promises that the nation was in no position to deliver.
In so doing, Sanders secured roughly 84 percent of the thirty-and-under vote in key primaries like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Accordingly, it should not surprise to find that economic socialism seems to resonate with so many American Millennials. Disconcerting when you consider that even recently, being called a socialist in America was an insult.
Unlike much of the country, Millennials do not show the same revulsion to the idea of socialism. In fact, a 2017 national Reason-Rupe survey found that 53 percent of 18-to-29-year olds viewed socialism favorably. That compares to only a quarter of Americans over 55.
Of course, Millennials didn’t live through the Cold War, which concluded with the demise of the Soviet Union’s socialist utopia. Nor have most visited Venezuela. Where Hugo Chavez’s socialist system has led to a failed economy featuring reoccurring multi-day power blackouts and parents forced to scavenge from garbage cans.
Like any fad diet promising untold upside but containing little theoretical substance, many of socialism’s supporters remain unclear as to what socialism really represents. Millennials can’t even quite define socialism. Nor how it differs from other styles of government. Evidenced by a CBS/New York Times survey purporting that only 16 percent of Millennials could accurately define socialism.
The definition of socialism? Government ownership of all means of production. Meaning, true socialism requires that the government runs all businesses, universities, corporations, healthcare enterprises and media outlets.
With so few able to define socialism, it is not surprising that the Reason-Rupe national survey found college-aged millennials were about as likely to have a favorable view of socialism (58 percent) as they were about capitalism (56 percent). While attitudes toward capitalism remain fairly constant across age groups, support for socialism drops off significantly among older Americans. With only a quarter of Americans older than 55 holding socialism in favorable regard.
None of which is surprising. As the classrooms of life quickly teach that socialist collectivism — as wonderfully Utopian as it sounds in theory — never works. Further, socialism’s role in human history does not differ much from carbon monoxide poisoning. It is often hard to define. Difficult to manage. And has ultimately been responsible for the death of millions.
Need proof? Check out Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (chapter by chapter synopsis here). Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. And Orwell’s 1984. All of which speak to one of the central lessons of the 20th Century: government centralized economic planning does not work. And always ends up harming the citizens it purports to help [see Venezuela, Cuba, Cambodia, East Germany, Ethiopia, North Korea, Soviet Poland, Romania, and the USSR].
Of course, upon closer scrutiny, most Millennials do not, in fact, want government to control the private sector. Yet that convenient fact has not prevented so many from supporting a political system that demands as much. They simply don’t know the ugly, sewage-strewn pastures to which that seemingly pleasant path eventually leads.
Even though socialism is predicated upon any number of ideas that — even to the untrained eye — can appear economically tenuous, the young and idealistic often choose that even the remote possibility of utopia may be worth the journey. Moreover, the more we hear something, regardless of the illogical bed on which the statement rests, the more accustomed we become to its perceived truth. Because propaganda works. Recall what Big Brother mindlessly repeated throughout Orwell’s 1984, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
Or, as said George Bernard Shaw, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”
Given the preponderance of a priori caterwauling on today’s college campuses, there would appear to reside a critical mass of students taking real umbrage with the nation’s treatment of many of its own. Of course, here too, the facts refute the rumors. As nearly all Americans seem to be sharing in the nation’s rising economic tides.
Recent Census Bureau findings state that median household income rose 3.2 percent in 2016, and two percent in 2017. On top of a 5.2 percent leap in 2015. And that 2.5 million Americans rose out of poverty last year. Leaving six million fewer people living in poverty than there were in 2014. Moreover, minorities have reaped the biggest gains.
Between 2015 and 2016, the median income for blacks and Hispanics climbed 5.7 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively, compared with 2.0 percent for whites.
The official poverty rate in 2017 was 12.3 percent, down 0.4 percentage points from 12.7 percent in 2016. This is the third consecutive annual decline in poverty. Since 2014, the poverty rate has fallen 2.5 percentage points, from 14.8 percent to 12.3 percent.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “Most of the recent income growth has been due to more Americans working — and working more.” Compellingly, millions of middle-class Americans are moving into higher income brackets. As the percentage of Americans earning less than $35,000 fell to 30 percent from 38 percent between 1967 and 2016, while the proportion earning more than $100,000 nearly tripled to 27.7 percent.
Those figures represent real, inflation-adjusted results. Not empty promises of future possibilities.
Such results, however, are not the order of the day in many of our developed and emerging market peers. Where the class divide grows ever larger as opportunities to climb up the socioeconomic ladder seem to dissipate with every passing year. Nations lacking the entrepreneurial vigor that — in these United States — has always been akin to the very air we breathe.
Of course, that’s the difference between a system built on free-market capitalism, and all others.
Unfortunately, today’s humanities-driven universities appear more intent to marginalize such facts. And the optimism that a more objective vantage point might provide. So intent, as they are, to convince the nation’s youth that the country’s diabolical past will extinguish their hopes and dreams. As opposed to providing them the historical context that ultimately yields the realization that the United States, more so than any other nation, embodies the penultimate meritocracy. Having wheedled itself from past sins and cultural morays to arrive at a point where, quite literally, anyone willing to run hard, play fair and think ahead can create an adventurous and comfortable existence for themselves. One that would be the envy of their peers from most other countries.
And yet, the false prophets continue their perpetual denigration of the rich and successful. Categorizing them as self-serving heathens who did nothing to deserve success. Or as evil icons of greed and self-dealing. Though part of the American dream remains grounded in the idea of respecting and emulating those who have achieved that which we seek to accomplish ourselves.
Today, as discussion of tax reform continues to make the rounds, those false prophets have yet again begun to intone their ominous warnings of the evil intentions of the rich and affluent. Shouting that the rich hardly need another tax break when so many others are suffering under the weight of their burdens. Only emboldened, as they are, by pieces like those in The New York Times discussing tax reform as a “wish list of tax cuts for the wealthy.”
Of course, such purveyors of poppycock do not grasp that most individuals grow rich by erasing life’s miseries. Not adding to them.
Remember, entrepreneurial profits flow only from the value creation derived by creating products and services that improve lives within an existing marketplace. Thereby enhancing the existence of others by meeting a myriad of previously unmet needs.
American entrepreneurs have provided technological, medical and communications enhancements that have bettered lives the world over. Improving the diets of third-world women. While raising the life expectancies of their children. And enhancing the awareness, knowledge and educations of everyone around them.
Concurrently, these entrepreneurs can become fabulously wealthy by their problem-solving efforts. And direct their wealth and resources towards other eager strivers seeking to emulate their problem-solving feats.
Jobs. Dell. Bezos. Gates. Buffett. Musk. Kroc. Such fabulously wealthy individuals have delivered immeasurable amounts of hope and happiness to untold millions. At rates of efficiency that would be the envy of any government institution. Had these entrepreneurs not first become so successful, then they never would have been able to provide so much for so many in such disparate ways. At no expense to taxpayers.
And yet, politicians will rack their brains to contrive ways in which they can liberate entrepreneurs of their capital so that public sector stewards can in turn decide how to allocate those funds. And we stand by and idly accept such re-appropriation of valuable resources. In the name of taxes.
Socialism’s sycophants scream about the rich being set up for untold tax breaks. But fail to mention that the top one percent of taxpayers provide more than 50 percent of the nation’s tax receipts.
Nearly every true advance throughout human history has been at the hands of serious, intelligent and prescient entrepreneurs seeking to solve a problem. To create value where there was none. To lift the human condition a bit higher than it was the day before. And in so doing, to earn a fair, market-driven reward for their efforts.
Until another proven means of progress is placed on the table, then rational people will continue to support and rely upon the efforts of successful entrepreneurs. Who will, in many cases, serve as role models for our children as they shine light into the darkest, least understood corners of the human experience?
Socialism has always been a dead end. Whereas free-market capitalism has always been a ladder upwards. Nothing will ever be perfect. But between these two choices, the latter does not even come close to equaling the value of the former.
Perhaps Churchill said it best. “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”