Millennials and socialism

Harold Black, PhDBlog

Every generation looks aghast at the next generation. Socrates lamented that “children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” My father was mortified at my generation with its race riots, Vietnam protests, civil rights upheaval, lax morals, dope smoking and free love. I chastised my children for handing out participation trophies, dumbing down of school curricula, and creating the entitlement generation. That generation is now called millennials and should be called the know-hardly-anything generation with almost a total absence of curiosity. This is a generation that can’t spell, doesn’t know literature, history, geography or politics. Most do not know how many senators a state has – much less can name them, or their representative or the governor. I actually had a student once who asked me “why should I know anything – when I can google it.” Sadly, the student wouldn’t know the question to ask google.

So, it is not surprising the supporters of socialism are millennials who lack intellectual curiosity and have gravitated to an old politician having virtually zero achievements. Has anyone wondered why isn’t his home state of Vermont a socialist paradise? It is not surprising since most millennials haven’t a clue what socialism is. When asked to define it, the responses are painfully ignorant. It is as if they don’t realize that much of what they enjoy are the fruits of capitalism. Why is it that for socialists big everything is bad (big pharma, big oil, big food, big banks, big retain, big tech, big corporations) except big government?

It’s because socialists are envious of the rich and want to confiscate their wealth and use it to enrich themselves and their followers. They argue that despite paying most of the income taxes that the rich “don’t pay their fair share.” Yet the only group that does not pay its “fair share” is the 49 percent who pay no income taxes at all. Thus, to be “fair”, one should advocate taxing the poor. A dark underside of democracy is that the 50.1 percent can expropriate the income and wealth of the other 49.9 percent. Of course, people keep changing sides at the margin. How else to explain the flip flopping of the electorate from Clinton to Bush to Obama to Trump? What amazes me is that supposedly smart people seem to think that wealth can be confiscated without consequences. They in fact will cite someone’s economic forecast. However, keep in mind that economic forecasts are mostly wrong. Over a sample period economists predicted only two of the 60 worldwide recessions. A study of 28,000 economic predictions found that the forecasts were little better than random guessing. So those who argue that wealth will flow to the government and there will be no disincentive amongst the productive class are wrong.

Personally, I do not understand how anyone could endorse such an approach that has only demonstrated failure throughout history. The government is neither efficient, compassionate, understanding or even remotely consumer-friendly. When it is socialist it also stifles freedom and becomes tyrannical. What rational person would favor this form of government. The first are those who think that they will be the rule makers and can enrich themselves while imposing their superior views upon the great unwashed. The second is the group that will benefit from the government’s handouts. However, the vast majority of us are in neither group. We are the ones who are imposed on, who pay for all of this, and who will find our standards of living declining. The majority of American adults understand this and are opposed to the government increasing its reach. The government only raises the bottom by pushing down the top.

By not rewarding productivity and innovation, the economy as a whole becomes worse off with less growth and ultimately less revenues. Even though this generation has driven me to distraction, I am hopeful that like all the previous generations, this one will eventually morph into being their parents. If not, since the world is run by those between 50 and 65, by the time this bunch turns 50, I should be dead.

Dr. Harold Black is professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This piece appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE. Dr. Black can be reached