Almost all the young people pining for socialism and railing against capitalism have one thing in common: they have no idea that the only reason they can advocate for socialism is because of capitalism. The self-proclaimed socialists of today rant against the evils of capitalism from their $1,000 smartphones while enjoying an $8 cup of coffee and free Wi-Fi at their local coffee shop, all things made possible by capitalism.
As Dr. Jose Azel explains, what these young socialists really want and haven’t figured out, is capitalism.
The Young, and Capitalism as an Attitude
Capitalism may be defined, as Carl Marx did, by its labor system, where the workers do not own their own means of production. It may also be defined by the metaphorical ‘market’ where the buying and selling takes place, or by private ownership of the means of production rather than government ownership. But my interest here is to describe capitalism as an attitude. That is, as a mental state connecting a person to a proposition. Consider:
When a socialist sees a luxurious expensive home, the reaction may be one of disgust – “No-one should be allowed to live like that,” or perhaps one of envy – “If I cannot live like that, no-one should live like that.” In contrast, someone with a capitalist attitude might instead think – “Everyone should have the opportunity to work towards buying a house like that.”
Capitalism also expresses a willingness to take entrepreneurial risks. A centerpiece of capitalism is the modern corporation which facilitates, thru the sale of stock to the public, the concentration of large sums of capital in support of an enterprising idea. Without this ability to concentrate capital, national economies are limited to small scale businesses, or to rely on government for business operations requiring large sums of capital.
Critics of business corporations point to the diffusion of responsibility among professional managers, directors, and shareholders, as a fatal flaw of corporations. Yet, the alternatives are to be a primitive economy, or to let government undertake all business activities requiring large sums of capital. This entails even greater diffusion of responsibilities and inefficiency. Why then, do some, and in particular young people, seem to hate capitalism so much?
Opinion polls suggest that young people do not think highly of capitalism. A 2016 Harvard University poll of 18- to 29-year-olds found that 51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. Another poll, by YouGov, found that 44 percent of American millennials claimed they would prefer to live in a socialist country, compared to 42 percent who would prefer to live in a capitalist country. These attitudes beg the question: If young people dislike government so much, why would they want more of it in the form of greater government control of our economic lives?
One easy conclusion would be to echo the judgement attributed to Winston Churchill that: “If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.”
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