Nearly a third of Millennials back the idea of socialism, and fewer than half support capitalism. That’s terrifying for the future of this country! But there is evidence to suggest that Millennials simply don’t know very much about either concept. Using more descriptive labels like “free-market system” and “government-managed economy,” in place of capitalism and socialism respectively, Millenials were much more likely to choose free markets over government. Christopher Koopman explains the distressing story here in The Wall Street Journal.
For many, capitalism isn’t about free enterprise, nor is it about the startups and innovation. When they hear the term, millennials think about Wall Street bailouts, corporate greed, political scandals and tax codes riddled with loopholes for the wealthy and connected. Yet this has little to do with what equal-opportunity capitalism actually is: A system providing all Americans with a chance to use their unique skills to create a business with free access to different markets and customers.
Strip away the titles of “capitalism” and “socialism,” and the responses become drastically different. A 2015 Reason-Rupe poll found that college-aged respondents are far more supportive of a “free-market system” (72%) than they are of a “government-managed economy” (49%). In reality, millennials—regardless of party or ideology—have arrived at a surprising consensus: We support free markets, are very much unhappy with the current state of affairs, and are still looking for change.
This is good news, but it should also serve as a warning. Perhaps at no time in history has it been more important to differentiate genuine capitalism from the mutant system that has dominated economic policy over the last decade. Yet Mr. Luntz’s analysis is still absolutely right: Millennials are hostile to the underpinnings of the American economy. We simply shouldn’t confuse that economy with capitalism.