Whether you like it or not, socialism is back in fashion and it is gaining support among America’s youth. A recent YouGov survey found that 43 percent of respondents under the age of 30 had a favorable view of socialism. Only 32 percent had a favorable view of capitalism.
Another recent survey, this one by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, found in the words of U.S. News’s Ken Walsh that “ percent of young people choose socialism over capitalism [which was chosen by 33 percent of young people] ... as the most compassionate system. Sixty-six percent say corporate America ‘embodies everything that is wrong with America,’ compared with 34 percent who say corporate America embodies what's right with America. A plurality of 28 percent say the most pressing issue facing the country is income inequality—one of [Senator Bernie] Sanders’ top themes.”
As someone who grew up under socialism and is still, barely, in his 30s, I hope to relate a few ideas to the young people who are “feeling the Bern.” First, Sanders is not a socialist, but a social democrat. Second, the United States does not have a strictly capitalist economy, but a mixed one. As such, it combines a high level of private ownership of capital and the means of production with relatively onerous regulation and taxation. Third, to the extent that what anti-capitalist Sanders supporters really want is a Scandinavian-style social democracy, with its high level of wealth redistribution and income equality, they should consider that even some of the most socially democratic countries on earth are, in one crucial way, more capitalist than the United States.