Thursday, April 09, 2009

A majority believe capitalism is better than socialism

Rasmussen is reporting their latest poll that says 53% of those surveyed believe that capitalism is better than socialism.

They found that 20% believe socialism is better and 27% are not sure.

But the scary part of the poll is when they break the numbers down by age.

"Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better."

These numbers have got to be a result of the several factors, including the education children have gotten and the lack of historical perspective that young people often have.

I can only conclude that we've stopped teaching the consequences of socialistic economic systems in school - that such systems have failed every time they've been tried. Or that such systems are touted as equally valid under the moral relatively viewpoints. Or that such systems result in 'social justice' and are therefore to be desired for promoting 'common good' over individual responsibility and achievement.

Perhaps this difference in opinions by ages is to be expected. They old saying goes that if you aren't liberal when young, you have no heart and if you aren't conservative when older, you have no brain. Maybe, as they grow older, become investors (who choose capitalism by a 5-to-1 margin), and have the perspective of world history, they will change their minds.

One can only hope.


Tim Higgins said...


I fear that we have the public education system of the recent decades to to thank for this. As progressive ideas seeped down from Colleges into the K-12 education system, we could expect little else. Unfortunately as public education continues to stifle debate and competition, we probably have worse numbers to look forward to.

Hooda Thunkit said...

A thought:

Smaller brains (and minds) are more easily brainwashed...

skeeter1107 said...

Alarmingly low number.

It would seem from the numbers that as people get older and assuming they are earning more money, suddenly discover that they are capitalists.

I suppose when people get to meet Mr. FICA and his cousins the triumvirate of Misters FED, State, And Local from the Withholding family, it leaves a lasting impression. Sort of like a social disease that can't be cured with penicillin. It and them never go away.

Kadim said...

I would suggest that the young adult fascination with socialism is simply due to the wretched financial state of young adults.

The days where an individual could graduate high school and get a job that paid well enough to buy a house and raise a family have ended.

Today it takes years of higher education and networking and experience to get employment that puts one on a middle-class income (and higher) income track. It's not unreasonable to say this takes ten years after high school.

So while those ten years are dire, and people struggle to find $10/hr jobs (with or without health insurance) it's no surprise that they might find the idea of the egalitarian-driven socialist model more appealing.

At some point, they gather the experience and education that allows them to struggle less and come to embrace the free-market.

Which is not to say that they were embracing socialism all that strongly anyway. Young adults like the ability to change jobs often, work for themselves, contract out where necessary, etc.

I don't think the poll numbers show a renewed enthusiasm for socialism, I think they show a group of people who are getting the rotten end of the free-market.

Maggie Thurber said...

Kadim - I was with you until the last paragraph...

I don't think young people are getting the rotten end of the free market. I think they have unrealistic expectations of what it takes to succeed in a free market.

I use my own relatives ( 15 nieces and nephews and their friends) for my information. They have been blessed with a significant number of assets and privileges based upon the success of their parents. Many believe they will start life where their parents currently are after years of hard work.

While they've 'learned' that's not really the case, their expectations upon graduation from high school and college were that they would have a $350,000 home and the big screen TV, a new car, some type of recreational vehicle, and money to spend on eating out all the time.

I specifically recall how appalled my husband and I were when one of them bought a house worth 3 times as much as the one we'd lived in for 10 years - with only one income for the 3-person family ...

I think many young people today have become so accustomed to the extras that their parents have acquired over the years after hard work, savings and increased pay as a result increased levels of experience.

I believe these expectations are also part of the reasons why so many young people believe their worth more than their skills are actually worth in a free market. They've been 'coddled' in so many ways regarding their self-esteem that they have an unrealistic idea of their worth as employees - expecting pay that is not commensurate with their inexperience. The 'entitlement' perspective also comes in to play in this regard.

This is certainly not true of every young person, and as my family members actually got into the market and started to have a realistic comparison of themeselves to others, their attitudes changed.

So I agree with you on all points except the last. It's not a failure of the free market. We have failed our young people if we have, indeed, not properly prepared them for the realities of a free market.

Jay Ott said...

There's no reason to doubt that the majority of us favor capitalism, however it does not explain how and why people elect so many socialists. The result is the "tyranny of the minority over the majority." Ultimately, it's self-defeating which is going to tear our society apart as history has demonstrated.

There's this discontinuity, an inconsistency, an hypocrisy or a disconnect between how the majority lives compared to how they vote.

Oprah is a good example of how people are living off of the "inherited capital" of capitalism (pun intended).

Apparently, Oprah loves capitalism when it suits her, but she is always endorsing people who favor socialism.

Oprah and her ilk do not realize that without capitalism, she would not be where she is today in order to preach socialism.

Kadim said...


It's funny, I wrote out that last sentence, knew it had a fairly good chance of being called on, and left it in anyway.

It was undoubtedly a reflection of my own struggles and frustrations.

At any rate, as you say "Many believe they will start life where their parents currently are after years of hard work" which is exactly what happened for the baby boomers. They were able to start life off where their parents were (and arguably their parents were able to do the same.)

But those were different circumstances. The period between 1930-1970 was called the "Great Compression"--during which incomes in the US became quite equal.

Liberals would point out that the Great Compression was made possible through strong unions, high minimum wage and very progressive income taxes. I'm not convinced of that. I think other factors were at play.

I do believe, however, that the Great Compression paved the way for the conservative revolution beginning with Reagan. So my theory is that broad income equality is a necessary requirement for people to feel comfortable with and give their support to free markets (with low taxes, strong property rights, etc.)

From a recent article in the Economist ("Why we are as we are" Dec 20, 2008)

Conversely the Darwinian explanation of continued support for socialism--in the teeth of evidence that it results in low economic growth--is that even though making the rich poorer would not make the poor richer in financial terms, it would change the hierarchy in ways that people at the bottom would like. When researchers ask people whether they would rather be relatively richer than their peers even if that means they are absolutely worse off, the answer is yes. (Would you rather earn $100k/year when all your friends earn $50k, or $150k when all your friends earn $300k.) The reason socialism does not work in practice is that this is not a question that most people ask themselves. What they ask is how to earn $300k when all around them people are earning $50k." So what we find is intergenerational income inequality. What I believe will occur is that the market will take care of this issue on its own. But because of international wage pressures, it won't do it by raising the income of the young, it will do it instead by eroding the assets of older generations and holding their incomes steady. I'd argue that a lot of the collapse in housing prices is a necessary re-valuing of assets
that the poorer young couldn't afford.

Throw in 3-5 years of stagnant middle incomes, and depressed housing/stocks and the market will have erased a lot of inequalities. Once that occurs, there will be a resurgence in comfort with the free market.

I guess my belief here is that young people have undergone a fairly unpleasant re-aligning of their expectations vis a vis market realities. And now older people will have to go through the same thing as well.

Maggie Thurber said...

Ah, Kadim...

You make some valid points ... I'm not sure I agree with all of them, but combined they make sense.

Tim Higgins said...


I would suggest that the frustration that young people have with capitalism is that it does not provide the positive reinforcement that they have gotten all of their lives. From the entitlement of allowances (whether chores are done or not), to the removal of grades from schools (to protect them from disappointing results), to employers refusing to give negative job reviews (for fear of losing even marginal employees) we have created a generation of entitlement far beyond that of earlier generations.

When their grand expectations ultimately meet with disappointment in the real world, they become disillusioned with the system that handed it to them, feeling betrayed by the lack of instant gratification that they have come to expect.

While it's true that we were spoiled by our Depression Era parents, attempting to give us more than they had; we have taken this much further, to a level almmost guaranteed to bring the results we see. While I have been truly blessed with my own children, even in them I see some part of an attitude of,

"I want it because I want it, and I want it now."

Kadim said...


There's a book that discusses this very issue...Generation Me.It's full of interesting anecdotes and data from all sorts of surveys. The author's hypothesis is that the entitlement that young people of today have is due to self-esteem programs that were found in schools.

I'm not convinced of that, I think it's a lot of hooey. For one, you'd have to accept the idea that schools are magically successful with this one program, but not very successful with others.

I'm more interested in sociological factors--like every generation believes they can start off where there parents are now, and the fact that, in the past, that was fairly true.

I also read an article recently that suggested that having teens work while in school is a mistake. It doesn't necessarily teach them the value of work, what it does it leads them to believe that all the money they receive when working is discretionary and can be spent on whatever they want (because, when teens work, that's almost always true.) Then they find out that, in adulthood, that's not the case, but they still spend as if it were.

But I'll tell you where the biggest sense of entitlement comes. It doesn't seem like it at first, but it's actually a huge issue.

"If I work hard, I can get anything I want."

According to Generation Me the youngest generation is most likely to agree with that statement, and value hard work over every other generation.

But they value it as a means to an end, and in that regard, it's a sense of entitlement. Previous generations would value hard work as an end unto itself. Hard work *might* lead you to desired outcomes, but that's not necessarily why one works hard. My grandfather believed in the spiritually fulfilling task of hard work, and that he would be provided for if he did it. If God meant him to be a rock star, then it would occur. A person of today's generation believes that hard work could lead him to stardom/riches/vice-president of operations, which, is not necessarily the case. And when they find out that's not the case, why wouldn't someone get angry with the free-market (the system that "says" hard work can lead you anywhere)?

A little comic relief for this conversation, I saw this comic, and thought it was appropriate.

Google Analytics Alternative