Saturday, April 25, 2009

a greater embrace of socialism among today's youth?

From Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post as reprinted in the C-J...

According to a Rasmussen poll released last week, 37 percent of Americans under age 30 prefer capitalism, 33 percent prefer socialism and 30 percent are undecided. Among all Americans, 53 percent prefer capitalism, 20 percent prefer socialism and 27 percent are undecided.

How's that again?

If you comb the annals of Americans' ideological preferences, you won't find figures like these. At socialism's apogee, presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs got 6 percent of the vote in the 1912 election. After that, it was pretty much all downhill — until last week, anyway.

There are at least three things to say here:

1.) It is rare that people have any sort of objective, clear definition of capitalism. In one sense, people are fonder of capitalism than they think-- in that they broadly endorse freedom, economic markets, and so on. In another sense, there are very few capitalists-- those who fully endorse capitalism (or nearly so). Most people want a good bit of redistribution and a smattering of inefficient regulations on international trade, labor markets, etc.

2.) I don't know anything about the polling data, but at least for the last hundred years, I'm almost certain that socialism has always-- or at least often-- been more popular among the young.

3.) In citing Debs, Meyerson is comparing apples and oranges or rocks. Debs' electoral success as a Socialist Party presidential candidate is not closely related-- if at all-- to popularity of Socialism. As has been frequently if not famously noted, the entire Socialist platform of 1928 was put into law within the next decade.

From there, Meyerson makes a good/important point:

...they signal that the link between socialism and anti-Americanism has been weakened and, among the young, all but destroyed. The end of Soviet communism has meant that the United States no longer has a major adversary that professes to be socialist. The one remaining powerful Communist Party, China's, has opted for a capitalist economy.... The violent threats to America today come from a branch of Islamic fundamentalists who wage war on all forms of modernity, socialism among them....

To be more precise, China has opted for a greater degree of capitalism in the past-- and a system that is often (wrongly) described (as here) as capitalism.

From there, Meyerson says some silly things about talk radio...


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