Axios published the results of a Harris poll Sunday which found that Millennials and Gen Z are more “embracing socialism.” Actually, the poll didn’t ask about any particular definition of socialism, it simply asked if respondents would prefer living in a socialist country. Nearly half of Millennial and Gen Z respondents said yes. Does that mean they want the U.S. to be more like Sweden or Cuba? My guess is the former though I’d bet money fewer than 1 in 10 could explain the difference.
Most of the rest of the questions were about policy positions including “Abolishing ICE” and universal health care which are popular on the left. The findings were summed up in this chart:
It’s all a bit vague but I’d say this sounds like an endorsement of European social democracy. The problem, of course, is that that’s not what the most popular socialist on the scene is promoting. As Jazz noted earlier today, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to be envisioning a future in which work is optional. I’m not sure what that is but it’s somewhere to the left of communism. Under communism, you were expected to work for your government check, even if the work was sweeping dust from one side of the street to the other and back again.
Also, noteworthy is that AOC said at the same South by Southwest event that she believed capitalism was irredeemable and then goes on to say that socialism doesn’t necessarily mean the government will take over the private sector. Here’s the clip:
Here's where @AOC says capitalism is "irredeemable."
Under capitalism, "the most important thing is the concentration of capital and it means that we seek and prioritize profit and the accumulation of money above all else, and we seek it at any human and environmental cost." pic.twitter.com/GeZaYILXCo
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 11, 2019
This is a word salad that makes absolutely no sense. If capitalism is irredeemable and Democratic Socialism is the alternative, how does that not mean more government and less free enterprise? It’s like saying you’re for universal health care but that doesn’t mean you want to do away with private insurance. Actually, that’s exactly what it means.
I think AOC is a genuine Democratic Socialist who wants to see the end of capitalism, but she’s dodging that point in this interview as she has in others, and no one ever presses her on it. It’s frustrating to watch. No one ever asks her if she’s endorsing a Scandinavian model or something more extreme. In this case, her interviewer actually brought up “full Star Trek socialism” which is not particularly helpful at explaining what this would mean in the real world.
I think the poll and AOC are similar in that young people are embracing some appealing ideas (free stuff) without thinking through what that would mean for the big picture. Socialism would probably be less popular among Millennials and Gen Z if the media were better at describing what it is and what it would likely mean for the future, i.e. sky-high taxes and energy costs, low growth, and high inflation.