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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

4 Reasons Why Socialism Is Becoming More Popular | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on November 8, 2019

We have already seen above that what’s not happening at universities, even elite universities, today is a whole lot of education in important subjects like history. What we are getting instead is a lot of groupthink and indoctrination…

https://mises.org/wire/4-reasons-why-socialism-becoming-more-popular?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=7a3cec0103-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-7a3cec0103-228343965

The newfound openness of large numbers of Americans to socialism is, by now, a well-documented phenomenon. According to a Gallup poll from earlier this year, 43% of Americans now believe that some form of socialism would be a good thing, in contrast to 51% who are still against it. A Harris poll found that four in ten Americans prefer socialism to capitalism. The trend is particular apparent in the young: another Gallup poll showed that as recently as 2010, 68% of people between 18 and 29 approved of capitalism, with only 51% approving of socialism, whereas in 2018, while the percentage among this age group favoring socialism was unchanged at 51%, those in favor of capitalism had dropped precipitously to 45%. The same poll showed that among Democrats, the popularity of socialism now stands at 57%, while capitalism is only at 47%, a marked departure from 2010 when the two were tried at 53%. A YouGov poll from earlier this year showed that unlike older generations, which still preferred capitalist candidates, 70% of millennials and 64% of gen-Zers would vote for a socialist.

The question is why socialism now? At a time when the American economy under Trump seems to be chugging along at a nice clip, why are so many hankering for an alternative? I would suggest four factors contributing to the situation.

Factor #1: Ignorance of History

The first cause of socialism’s popularity, especially among the young, is an obvious one: having grown up at a time after the end of the Cold War, the collapse of Europe’s Eastern Bloc and China’s transition to authoritarian capitalism, “these kids today” — those 18 to 29 year-olds who were born around the last decade of the 20th century — don’t know what socialism is all about. When they think socialism, they don’t think Stalin; they think Scandinavia.

Americans’ — and especially young Americans’ — ignorance of history is well-documented and profound…

Factor #2: Government Bungling

When we try to explain the socialist urge, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our government keeps interfering in the economy in ways that give people every reason to think the system is corrupt and needs to be trashed.

Take the skyrocketing cost of college, for instance. On the surface, this looks like greedy capitalist universities just keep on raising tuition, and since most college kids and their parents can’t pay the sticker price, almost 70% take out loans , saddling young people trying to start their careers with a mountain of debt (almost $30,000 on average). This results in all those socialist promises of free college or loan forgiveness sounding dandy. Underneath the surface, however, a huge part of the problem is federal grants and subsidized loans. If the government stopped footing a large part of their bill, more students and parents would be forced to pony up, which would mean, in turn, that colleges would not be able to keep hiking their prices without seeing a precipitous drop in enrollment. They would, instead, be forced to price themselves at some level that applicants could realistically pay, making college more affordable for a large segment of the American middle class…

Factor #3: Universities’ Ideological Monoculture

The supporters of socialism are not simply the young, but rather, disproportionately those among the young who are college-educated. And the more college they have, the hotter for socialism they get. According to a 2015 poll , support for socialism grows from 48% among those with a high school diploma or less to 62% among college graduates to 78% among those with post-graduate degrees. Those on the left probably stop thinking hard about now and jump immediately to the conclusion that support for socialism is just a natural outgrowth of big brains and elite educations. But there is, in fact, a less obvious but ultimately far more compelling explanation that also manages to account for the general fact that more education correlates with more leftism: something — something bad — is happening at universities themselves to pull students toward the (far) left.

We have already seen above that what’s not happening at universities, even elite universities, today is a whole lot of education in important subjects like history. What we are getting instead is a lot of groupthink and indoctrination…

Factor #4: Coddled Kids

The young have always been more inclined to embrace pipe dreams — a lack of familiarity with the complicated way in which the world actually works, coupled with the college fix described above, will do that to most anyone — but there is a reason the mindset of today’s young’uns is particularly susceptible to the red menace. In last year’s The Coddling of the American Mind, the prominent social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff describe the species of overprotective parenting and instilling of baseless and uncritical self-esteem by parents and educators alike that came to prevail as kids were growing up in the 90s and 00s. When we are raised in the belief we are wonderful just as we are, we never learn the critical life skills of self-soothing, working through anxiety, facing obstacles and overcoming adversity. The predictable result, as Haidt and Lukianoff observe, is a demand to be safeguarded — safe spaces, free speech crackdowns and so on. The state appears to many as the appropriate institution to provide this sort of “safety.”

If these four are the primary causes of socialism’s rapid surge in our midst, then the next logical question is what to do about it. There is no easy answer, of course, but I would suggest that the radicalization of academia is the lynchpin issue. If we could succeed in reversing that tsunami, many dominoes would fall…

Be seeing you

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