NowThis Politics published a video following a CNN town hall with Nancy Pelosi which, knowing the nature of Facebook politics, soon went viral. The video captured an exchange between Pelosi and a NYU student where the student urged Pelosi and the Democratic Party to move further left on economic issues. In his question to Pelosi the student attempted to quote a Harvard Institute of Politics study, saying “51% of people between the ages of 18 to 29 no longer support the system of capitalism.” Having seemingly quoted that study, the student applauded the Democratic party for moving left on social issues and implied that the best scenario for the future would involve a leftward shift on economic issues as well.
The study that the student cited does not support changing the United States to a socialist system; in fact that would be misrepresentative of the data. The survey, which was carried out in March of 2016, included nearly 3,200 persons between the ages of 18 and 29. The data collected was expansive. Within the survey, a section was included where the sample was split into two different groups to be asked questions relating to their political identity. The first group was asked to mark ideas they supported, with “socialism” and “capitalism” being two possible answer choices among others. Whereas the student posing the question to Pelosi would have us believe that more students support socialism than capitalism in the US, the data showed the exact opposite: 33% of those asked said they support socialism and 42% of those asked said they support capitalism. The other group was asked the question: “which of the following, if any, do you identify as?” with the terms “socialist” and “capitalist” listed as possible answer choices. In this group, the number of respondents who would call themselves capitalist also outnumbered the number of respondents who would call themselves socialist.
On the whole, the survey does not reflect a sentiment among the youth that supports socialism more than capitalism. Rather, the survey data indicates that most young people are currently skeptical of both systems. When asked if they supported the system of capitalism, in the first group 51% said no while 42% said yes. However, the 51% figure cited by the NYU student does not inherently lead to a support of socialist ideology. In fact, the data suggested that there is also a disdain for socialism, with 59% in the first group saying they would not support that system and only 33% saying they would. In both of those categories, a similar trend is present: a youth skepticism behind economics. This skepticism is also noticeable in the second group, where, when asked whether they would identify as capitalist, 75% said they would not. In comparison, 79% said they would not identify as socialist. In all of these categories, young voters are not more supportive of socialism than capitalism. However, the skepticism seen in the Harvard survey for both systems leaves the young voter vulnerable to persuasion.
Over the past several years, the introduction of socialist ideologies to the young voter has become increasingly more apparent and alarming. Earlier this week I stumbled upon an article about a book written in Germany by Bini Adamczak called Communism for Kids. With the Democratic National Convention in pieces following the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders is now seen traveling the country on the DNC unity tour, despite the fact Senator Sanders still does not identify as a democrat. Senator Sanders’s rise on the left and assumption of de-facto leadership of the DNC are not aimed at unity, but rather at attempting to influence Democratic Party policy. Both the publishing of this book and Bernie’s rise represent examples of the push towards fringe ideologies on the left. Ever since FDR’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society, entitlement programs have been sold to the American public, and debt has continued to increase in the US alongside stronger apathies tied to the capitalist system. Socialism is slowly creeping into the lives of students, attempting to convince them that adopting this different economic system provides the solutions to problems in the United States. However, as the current Venezuelan breakdown and other socialist experiments show, the history of far-left economic systems is a history full of failure.
Pelosi and the DNC know this to be true, even if denying Sanders’s dream economic system is the consequence. This is why Pelosi immediately responded to the student saying, “I thank you for your question, but I have to say: we’re capitalists.” Popular House of Cards Democratic President Frank Underwood agrees. In a speech promoting his labor initiative to the American people he was very clear: “That is the root of the problem: entitlements. Let me be clear…You are entitled to nothing. America was built on the spirit of industry; you build your future, it isn’t handed to you.” Both Pelosi and Underwood understand the benefits of capitalism, as do most major economic countries. America has the highest nominal GDP in the world, according to data from both the IMF and CIA World Factbook. Alongside America, other major industrialized countries have high GDP’s the more capitalist they lean: Japan is third, Germany is fourth, the UK is fifth, and the list goes on. Capitalist countries have endless resources, talented workforces, and lead the world in economic development both within their borders and abroad.
Diverting from capitalism is neither feasible nor desirable. The United States is a bastion of growth, a leader in worldwide politics, and a land of opportunity for its citizens all thanks to the benefits of being a capitalist system. So, America’s youth need to have an honest conversation. Socialism is not the answer to America’s problems. While there is no denying that America is not a perfect country, there is also no denying that America provides both opportunity and freedom better than any country on the globe. We will build the solutions to problems in America through innovation, experimentation, and growth within a capitalist system. At the end of the day, America will be much better off operating on a system that demands improvements for all people than a system that demands a level-playing field while stagnating economic growth.