Browsing the blog archives for April, 2019.

Young Americans and Socialism

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Before Bernie’s rise in the 2016 primary, most of capitalism’s opponents tried to stake out a “middle ground” between markets and socialism. Their healthcare proposals (like Obamacare) claimed to seek universal coverage in partnership with the private sector. Their tax proposals emphasized rate hikes on the top 1% of earners. They seemed less interested in guaranteeing employment than with extending unemployment benefits.

Today’s anti-capitalism critics are a different breed. They openly advocate for single-payer healthcare, large tax increases across the spectrum, and guaranteed government jobs. Most conservatives, libertarians, and other defenders of free enterprise view these proposals as extreme and welcome a 2020 election that pits capitalism versus socialism, reasoning that the economic recovery and “common sense” should be enough to win the broader argument. Candidate personalities aside, winning this argument not be so simple, especially when you consider young Americans.

Recent surveys suggest that millennials and Gen Z are embracing socialism. Here are links to a few of the studies:

https://www.axios.com/exclusive-poll-young-americans-embracing-socialism-b051907a-87a8-4f61-9e6e-0db75f7edc4a.html

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman/ct-perspec-chapman-young-socialism-capitalism-20180520-story.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/14/fewer-than-half-of-young-americans-are-positive-about-capitalism.html

Most young Americans were born long after the cold war ended and view ongoing far-left catastrophes like Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela as problems of corrupt leadership rather than a corrupt ideology. They see cronyism as a by-product of capitalism, not statism. They blame doctors and insurance companies, not government intervention, for the high cost of healthcare. They don’t see the recent economic turnaround as an argument for free enterprise, but rather as evidence of income inequality.

I don’t blame them for misunderstanding the economy. Many recent college graduates—and some who didn’t graduate—struggle to see past their college loan and credit card debt. They have been educated to believe that racism and bigotry separate the haves from the have nots. They have been told that capitalism is destroying the natural environment, not cleaning it up. They’ve been raised on smartphones and instantaneous communication. They want quick answers and socialism provides a lot of them.

Some of my colleagues are frustrated with the current wave of college students, but we must do a better job explaining why liberty and free enterprise are superior to government control. Flawed ideas about government takeovers of the economy should be addressed head-on. For young Americans, simple, clear explanations are the key.

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A different take on the college admission scandal

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The ongoing college admission scandal at the University of Southern California, Georgetown, and other universities has exposed the hypocrisy of some of the elites in our society. The story has been reported widely, but I want to address two angles that I’m not hearing discussed elsewhere.

First, college admission decisions should be as clear and objective as possible, but many institutions also consider ethnicity and other factors in the interest of campus diversity. This practice is discriminatory because it denies admission to some applicants whose previous academic performance and test scores should have been strong enough in favor of other applicants because of factors unrelated to ability. By reinforcing the notion that admissions criteria should extend beyond individual merit, it creates an environment where some might get involved with corrupt pay-for-play scenarios and even allow some applicants to buy their way into the university. I understand the argument for diversity and appreciate a broad mix of students on campus but including non-performance criteria in application decisions is unjust and should stop.

Second, parents who sought to circumvent the admissions process by cheating on exams apparently believe their kids should have no problem succeeding in classes alongside peers with stronger academic backgrounds. Put another way, they seem to view the college experience as an exercise in credentialing. Faking your way into a school with admissions criteria beyond one’s ability is a recipe for failure. Thomas Sowell documented the problem of race-based admission decisions years ago (see https://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2003/02/07/damaging-admissions-n780078). Suffice to say that getting into a college where your peers will have better academic backgrounds will put you at a competitive disadvantage. But as far as the parents involved in the scandal are concerned, this should not be a problem. To the extent they are wrong, they are hurting their own kids by pushing them beyond their abilities. To the extent they are correct, the entire academic establishment should be called into question.

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