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Young People like ‘Socialism,’ but Do They Know What It Is?

October 25, 2018 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

Fifty-seven percent of Democrats and 51 percent of young people
have a positive view of socialism, Gallup reports, slightly more than those who
have a positive view of capitalism. That’s frightening. The
record of socialist countries, from the Soviet Union and Mao
Zedong’s China to today’s Venezuela, is horrific:
little or no economic growth, hunger, authoritarian government,
people risking their lives to flee.

So why are people talking about socialism again? It seemed to
start with Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential
campaign in 2016. Then came a new breed of Democrats fed up with
the influence of money in both parties, typified by Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory over a prominent Democratic
congressman. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) says its
membership skyrocketed after Ocasio-Cortez’s June win.

Americans like free
enterprise, and very few of them want a more powerful
government.

Socialism is back, after seemingly being buried in the dustbin
of history with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, for
several reasons. Young people never knew, and many older voters
have forgotten, what the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
and its Eastern European client states were like. The financial
crisis of 2008 certainly gave capitalism a bad name. Bailouts for
Wall Street, a very slow economic recovery, and endless wars left
people on all sides of the political spectrum looking for
alternatives. For some people that alternative was a tough-talking
billionaire president, but with his harsh rhetoric toward
immigrants and other groups, he seemed like a typical unfeeling
capitalist to many other voters.

So now half of Americans 18-29 say they have a positive view of
socialism. But there’s a lot of confusion about what that
means. The traditional definition of socialism, as summarized in
the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, is “a
centrally planned economy in which the government controls all
means of production.” That’s what the Communist Party
implemented in the Soviet Union and China. It was the goal of the
British Labour Party, and the nationalizations of coal, iron and
steel, railroads, utilities, and international telecommunications
after World War II led to decades of economic stagnation.

But most American “socialists” probably don’t
support government ownership of the means of production. Ask
self-proclaimed socialists what they want, and you get vague and
lovely answers. Ocasio-Cortez says that “in a modern, moral
and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to
live.” In the Liza Minnelli musical Flora the Red
Menace
, the Communist organizer sings, “Are you in favor
of democracy, the rights of man, everlasting peace, milk and
cookies for the kids, security, jobs for everyone, and against
slums, the filthy …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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