Socialism Rising in America?

A student from New York University, Trevor Hill went off script at a recent town hall with Nancy Pelosi and pointed out a few survey results that interested me. He spoke on a poll Harvard took that showed that 51% of Americans aged 18 to 29-year-olds no longer support capitalism. (YouTube) A recent Reason-Rupe survey also showed that 53% of individuals aged 18 to 29-year-olds viewed socialism favorably. (The Federalist)






My question is why has this sudden increase in support occurred? I believe there are many factors that contribute to this phenomenon ranging from political issues to economic effects. Hill was later interviewed by The Young Turks where he further discussed his opinion on capitalism. He focused a lot on the recession and how it had a negative impact on his childhood. His family actually declared bankruptcy in his sophomore year of high school. (Facebook) I think this is a common theme within this generation as many millennials believe that the system has “failed them”. They have grown up in a time period were we have dealt with a lot of instability within the economy and because of that haven’t seen the successes of capitalism first hand.


Another factor I think is that capitalism “failing” is sometimes connected to other factors. For example, when EpiPen prices were skyrocketing many people blamed capitalism as it seemed like there was no competition and because of that Mylan had a monopoly. In reality a lot of the issue was linked more to the FDA than anything else. Mylan’s chief competitor Sanofi had their competing product recalled in November 2015 and had it rejected by the FDA in March 2016. Because of this they took competition out of the market and gave Mylan the opportunity to increase their price astronomically. Since it is vital to have access to an EpiPen Mylan knew they could increase the price and still sell more than enough units to yield a profit. This would show how capitalism can take the hit for other areas within our government that are operating inefficiently.

It is also interesting to see a shift in opinions on socialism as Americans get older. For example, when looking at the same Reason-Rupe survey it can be seen that capitalism becomes more popular in Americans as they approach their 40’s and socialism becomes much less favorable. I believe this would prove one of two theories. The first would be that as young adults we support socialism until we begin working full time and earning our own money at which point for some reason we turn towards a more capitalistic theory. The other theory could be that there is a genuine grassroots movement occurring within our country’s youth. If this is the case, we could be looking at a large shift to the left in American politics as socialism and the ideas and policies associated with it are normally more democratic. I believe a lot of this shift can be connected to Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign. He was successful in essential eradicating the stigma that was associated with socialism in America.





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5 Responses to Socialism Rising in America?

  1. edander4 says:

    I have noticed this on ASU campus as well. Many college students favor socialist tendencies over capitalism. It is interesting to me as well to see this change. After all, we are in college to get a degree which will hopefully lead to a career that will allow us to achieve a livelihood and money. I refuse to believe that students do not consider a paycheck to be a large contributor to why they are working through school. Part of me wonders how many of the people that participated in the survey know the details of socialism and its history in the world. I understand that many are in favor of redistribution of wealth and increasing taxes in order to pay for more social programs, but I am surprised that they favor all out socialism.
    Although I may appear to be a cynic with this comment, there are other factors that can attribute to an increased favoring of socialism. For example, it is entirely possible that this generation has an increased tolerance for people which increases a willingness to help others. Those of us that favor socialism may feel an increased sense of duty to help their fellow person. I agree with your statement that Bernie Sanders greatly contributed to this trend. He did change sentiments towards socialism in America and appealed to many younger people with his policies.

  2. amsturdam says:

    I really like the point you made about the concept of the redistribution of wealth and increasing taxes to help fund social programs. This is where I believe Bernie Sanders made the largest impact because he shined a light on topics that many Americans were not focused on. One example of this is income inequality. Before his campaign citizens didn’t view the gap between the rich and the poor as a top 10 economic issue. The latest Gallup poll shows that it cracked the top 5 this year. (Gallup, Pg.1) I also liked the idea of young adults potentially not truly knowing the details of socialism and what changes would come from such a transformation. Some students I have talked to on campus about socialism understand the idea of having more social programs such as tuition-free college, universal healthcare, etc. but don’t necessarily understand how that alters our current system. A lot of people will speak about Denmark and how they are one of the happiest countries in the world because of the vast social programs offered by the government. People forget to mention though that the average income tax rate is about 45% which is incredibly high compared to the United States. I think the public needs to be educated more on systems other than capitalism so they have an equal amount of information on each style.

  3. bros4bernie says:

    I really liked the point you made about young people growing up in a time where capitalism is not at its best and how that could affect the ideological views of many of those people. I think that that is absolutely a huge factor in the increase of socialism seeming favorable, and in that sense, I think that Bernie Sanders’ campaign was perfectly timed as a catalyst for the disenchanted feelings that many young people who felt that capitalism failed them in some way. But I do think that the point about young people not really understanding socialism is an important one to make. Bernie ran as what he called a “democratic socialist,” which isn’t exactly in alignment with official socialism. The official platform page for the Democratic Socialist movement can be found here:

    This distinction between the two schools of thought is important, but I do think that as we get deeper into the Trump administration, the sentiments in support of socialist ideals will likely increase.

  4. azwoodland says:

    I’m glad you brought up the point about EpiPens. As someone who is in the medical field, the entire EpiPen scandal made me red in the face and disappointed in our capitalist medical market. Why should one of my patients have to spend hundreds of dollars on a life saving medication, when I, as a healthcare provider, am able to administer epinephrine by syringe for just under $10? The markup and subsequent profit made from the medical field is outrageous and something I see firsthand every day as an EMT.

    Over the summer, I worked for what is essentially the only ambulance company in the Phoenix metropolitan area. As an EMT, I made just over $10/hour, which was fine for a summer job. But, for a lot of my partners, this was their career. If you worked as a paramedic (the step up from EMT, requiring at least two years of additional school), base pay was $13/hour. The work was grueling, especially in the heat of the summer. The 48 hour (minimum) work week was exhausting. As to be expected, the company had a high turnover rate. People would work there for a year, become burned out, and leave. The longest I’d heard of anyone working there was 6 years.

    But, that was their business model. Hire young EMTs, train them, and then let them burn out. It’s not like they could get a job at a company who would pay them more – they essentially have a monopoly on the market. The company profited greatly from this model, especially because they charged so much for everything used in the ambulance. The fee per mile for a basic ambulance ride, with no equipment, started at $18. I would always feel so guilty when I was charting rides I knew would cost the patient, or Medicare, thousands of dollars, all to profit a company that was doing nothing for its workers who were truly performing lifesaving work.

    I cannot imagine that this problem is unique to the medical field – all over the country people are not being properly compensated for the work they are performing, yet they work for large, multi-million dollar companies. I’m hoping that our new minimum wage law, Prop 105, will help make this situation better, or at least pay workers fairly.

  5. dneu1 says:

    I think the second hypothesis in your post, that the there is actually a large lasting shift towards favoring socialism among young people, is probably the most accurate explanation. What worries me though about these polls is that they reduce our views of very complex economic systems to simple one word branding problems, and that a lot of the time people confuse them with systems of government (something that this post does a great job avoiding). Personally I don’t see how I could have a positive or negative view of capitalism or socialism as a whole. While capitalism certainly seems to be more stable as a long term economic system, there are definitely industries that work better under a socialist model because of a natural disposition to monopoly, barriers to entry, etc. Market failures can happen under either system, and while I liked your example of the government interfering with a capitalist market and making it worse as far as epi-pens I’d like to note that government interference like this is often the result of a volatile blend of capitalism and democracy. I don’t know the details about the Sanofi case, but often decisions like this are the result of serious lobbying and campaign contributions on the side of one company to reduce competition. One of the biggest issues with capitalism is where markets create larger incentives to eliminate competitors or rent-seek than to achieve equilibrium. I also liked that you spent a lot of time talking about why young people might see the capitalist system as failing them, especially as far opportunity. And while I’m okay with some more socialist tendencies making their way into our society, I hope we focus more on creating a system that better distributes wealth than ex-post facto redistributionism.

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