“America’s Drift Toward ‘Socialism’ Is Generational, But Also Educational”

Young supporters cheer on Bernie Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist, in Iowa (Andrew Harrier/Bloomberg)

There is a great article in Forbes that essentially shows a tremendously concerning growth in support of Socialism, particularly within the 18-24 age group. The great challenge is that most of them can’t even define what socialism actually is. Thus, we have a gap in both understanding of the evils of state owned means of production (in other words, what socialism actually is) and a lack of understanding of what socialism actually means for society.  So we either have people opposed to capitalism on its own merits or people that are fooled into supporting something that they don’t understand. I am not sure which is a bigger problem – hatred of what has made America great and freed millions from penury and big government control or outright ignorance of the term and underlying political philosophy.

A key statement by the author, David Davenport is below:

A November NYT/CBS poll found that only 16% of those under 30 could accurately define socialism, compared with 30% for respondents over 30. Even more to the point, when a Reason-Rupe survey in 2014, which again confirmed young people’s support for socialism at 58% for those ages 18-24, turned around and asked whether they favored government running businesses, the clear answer was “no.” When asked whether they want government or private markets leading the economy, they chose markets 2 to 1 (64% versus 32%).

I don’t know which is more discouraging: that young people are becoming comfortable with socialism, or that they have no idea what it is. Any definition of socialism involves government ownership of the means of production and distribution. It’s most assuredly not private ownership of business or a market economy. So for starters, young people have embraced some kind soft collectivism and mislabeled it as socialism. That’s bad enough.


3 thoughts on ““America’s Drift Toward ‘Socialism’ Is Generational, But Also Educational”

  1. Actually, that is not the only definition of socialism. And there have been strains of socialist thought which had no beef with private property and ownership. Methinks, from what I’ve seen, that people over 30 also don’t really know much about what “socialism is,” except as pertains to the USSR and the Cold War. And the USSR is not “socialism.”

    Perhaps what’s happening is that the younger generations (and I’m 38, so I’m not talking about myself here) are not as tied to an ossified, politicized idea of socialism, and are willing to revisit and redefine it instead of just discarding it out of hand. If they want to define socialism as “soft collectivism,” then we should bug off and let them run with it. They’re smart enough to figure it out.


    1. Of course, labels change all the time and words shift in meaning, so how about I put it this way: whether someone wants to move the means of production into the government domain and run everything like the Department of Motor Vehicles is run, or whether they want me to cough up 50% of my income and restrict my freedom of choice to spend my hard-earned money on private transactions in private markets (which includes my ability to choose my charities of choice to help the less fortunate) is of immense importance to me.


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