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Socialism Is No Longer a Dirty Word

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It has been often said that our future rests with the next generation. If that is true, then it is a scary prospect.

The millennial generation (ages 18-34) increasingly sees itself, politically, as socialist. I personally know a couple of young men who declare themselves Marxists! Although that is frightening enough, remember the context in which it occurs:

  1. The United States already faces several daunting economic problem such as the national debt, the unfunded future liabilities (related to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare), as well as the obvious potential for hyperinflation. You can set aside things like the possibility of nuclear war and killer robots. The economic problems are real and likely to happen and can only be avoided or dealt by returning America to a free market economy—not socialism.
  2. Moving our government and society towards socialism will only make matters worse. Worse yet, if socialists gain control—and some would likely argue that they already have—they are unlikely to relinquish power peacefully.

You would think that events in socialist Venezuela would knock some sense into these young people, but a new survey from GenForward shows increasing support for socialism. The report looks at how the millennial population thinks about politics and offers us a look at how the next generation thinks. Support for socialism is strongest among African-Americans and capitalism is supported by a small majority of white Americans. Among Asians and Latinos there is marginally more support for socialism. Given the support for the Bernie Sanders campaign this result is not surprising.

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When asked questions about whether strong government or the free market is the key to solving social problems, respondents believed that government is the answer by two to one. The majority felt the government was doing a good job with the economy, especially those that identified as Republican.

How this can be is a mystery. The federal government deficit has averaged more than a $1 trillion over the last decade. Guess who will have to pay this bill? Every $1 trillion of increased government debt puts an approximate burden of $15,000 on every millennial. High government support among Republicans is probably just a reflection of the fact that their party is in power.

The millennial generation wants higher minimum wage laws, equal pay for equal pay, free tuition and for the government to pay off their student loans which indicates their Economic IQ is close to zero. I understand them not knowing that subsidies to higher education make a college degree even less attainable, but advocating a higher minimum wage is just stupid under all conditions.

Their gut feelings come from a variety of sources. Their education has brainwashed them about where our standard of living comes from. Lifestyle, for many of them, makes them feel guilty for the poor and downtrodden. Envy of the rich and famous also plays a role. They have been “successful” and “above average” all their lives. Why can’t they be rich and famous too?

I think a really big factor is that, under these conditions, they should feel betrayed and left out. Their generation, taken as a whole, is the first to take a step back economically since the Great Depression. Their real ire should be directed towards the Baby Boomers — their parents and grandparents. They are the generation which allowed the government debt and entitlement programs to grow into the deadly monster that they have become. Moreover, the Boomers are the generation that has benefited from all that waste and they are the generation that will hand over these problems to the millennial generation.

I have always felt uneasy with the idea of defaulting on the national debt and Social Security, because I believe strongly in carrying out your obligations. However, I also know that there are very strong ethical and economic cases that can be made for defaulting.

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According to one website, I myself come from the Generation Jones—which I had never previously heard of. Generation Jones comprises the late Baby Boomers born from 1954 to 1965.

However, this Jones Generation is also the generation that did much of the work while receiving shrinking benefits from things like Social Security. Meanwhile, it will only see greater attacks on its income and wealth, both in terms of rhetoric and in law. Therefore, I am now “jonesing” for default, which is slang for wanting — if not craving — for defaults.


Contact Mark Thornton

Mark Thornton is a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and the book review editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He has authored seven books and is a frequent guest on national radio shows.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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