Many Democrats running for state and national elections in November are running on a Democratic Socialism platform. These candidates are following the model pushed by presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The candidates offer free health insurance to all Americans, free college tuition, higher taxes on those who contribute most to the economy and government control of many markets. Many millennials may agree.
How millennials view socialism was the basis of a study released last November by the research firm YouGov and the Washington DC-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
The study concluded that about half of all Millennials said they would rather live in a socialist or communist country rather than a capitalistic democracy like in the US.
While scholars will factually argue that the US is really a Republic and not a Democracy, the reality is that the US has a Democratic government system. This means the majority of the voters regularly decide on leaders.
The study also revealed that most millennials don’t seem to understand the definitions of the economic systems. Briefly and without considering the implications, the definitions are relatively simple.
In Communism, there is government ownership of all means of production and most property, and government control of markets. The government also controls the distribution of income.
In Socialism, there is private ownership of the means of production and property. The markets and the distribution of income under government control. In Capitalism the means of production and property are almost exclusively owned privately. The markets and distribution of income are set by market forces with almost no interference by the government.
Millennials seem to embrace the concept of government control. They appear to do so because they feel more secure. They say that in many Socialist countries like Denmark, citizens tend to be the happiest in the world. Denmark’s brand of Socialism provides free healthcare and free college for every citizen.
Denmark also has a $25 per hour minimum wage and people work about 35 hours per week. And the average household pays more than 60% of their income to taxes.
According to studies, people living in Denmark, as well as the other Scandinavian countries, tend to be happier than people living in Capitalistic countries.
Happiness is measured based on the GDP per capita, life expectancy, freedom to make choices, generosity, and perception of corruption. Factors not applied to the GDP are the corruption level, ability to keep what an individual has earned, and the ability to seek self-esteem and self-actualization.
In that study, individual success is not a measure of happiness.
Nonetheless, studies rank the US 14th in happiness with Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland occupying the top five spots.
The US was founded as a separate country in 1776. The primary reason was that people had a strong desire for more freedom. They also sought governance by officials who were freely elected by the majority of the people.
The goal was to end taxation without representation.
The Declaration of Independence stated Americans could pursue the goals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That meant individuals had to take on more responsibility for their welfare instead of having the government control their welfare. The emphasis was on individual responsibility and less on social responsibility, at least for those who can care for themselves.
There are many definitions of “American exceptionalism.” Scholar Ian Tyrell says that the term “refers to the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals and personal liberty.”
Tyrell notes that the term was originally coined by Marxists who tried to explain why the U.S. bypassed the rise of socialism and Marxism. The obvious reason was that socialism and Marxism are inconsistent with the American character, so under normal times, neither could thrive in the U.S.
Under the Obama administration, which vowed to fundamentally change America, federal legislation, policy, and regulation attacked and undermined the foundations of American exceptionalism. Presumably, the well-intentioned policy increased the number of Americans dependent on the government.
Obama’s policies restricted freedom and personal liberty to appear to add a sense of security. Excessive regulation over a business in the marketplace is inconsistent with “a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals.”
The benefits of American exceptionalism are obvious: The U.S. has the world’s largest and strongest economy, the most powerful military, and a free society that is the envy of the world. Americans generally have more opportunity and a higher quality of life than most of the rest of the world.
Millennials are misguided by the promise of security and equality. Prior to the election of President Trump, the US economy had not seen an annual economic growth of at least 3% since 2005. That means millennials have never seen the benefits of a strong, growing, free-market oriented economy that provides an opportunity for all Americans.
It is no wonder that millennials now favor an economic system which is un-American and runs counter to the principles of American exceptionalism. That’s why removing the unnecessary regulations, lowering tax rates for all Americans and shifting the country back from the fundamental transformation of the last eight years, is so important.
It is truly time to make America exceptionally great again. Trump’s policies are doing just that.
Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years. @mbusler www.facebook.com/fundingdemocracy