Young Americans and Socialism


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:

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.



  1. Bomber8  •  Apr 23, 2019 @6:49 PM

    I am 48 and I still don’t understand what so many college students like about socialism. Don’t they understand freedom?

  2. gunnerx  •  Apr 24, 2019 @1:34 PM

    socialism sounds great to kids who haven’t experienced it

  3. jerry  •  Apr 25, 2019 @8:02 AM

    Cancelling debt is a big campaign promise. The statistics on personal and college debt are huge. Don’t underestimate the attraction of socialism.