A recent study published by YouGov on Americans’ attitudes toward socialism found that 56% of millennials would prefer to live in a non-capitalist society. On the other hand, 59% of all Americans prefer to live in a capitalist society. While capitalism is still the prevailing preference it is not a positive trend that millennials, the youngest and largest generation, prefer authoritarianism.
Socialism is the oppression of choice for millennials with 44% preference. The remaining 14% is split evenly among communism and fascism. Interestingly only 33% of millennials can identify socialism when given the definition and barely half can identify capitalism.
I understand confusing communism, fascism, and socialism since all three are just different flavors of authoritarianism. But the inability for an American to identify capitalism is disappointing. The good news is that ignorance is a solvable problem.
That bad news is that the preference for authoritarianism is not just a matter of lacking knowledge.
How Did We Get Here?
Older generations have stereotyped millennials as lazy, entitled, and fragile as we’ve assimilated into the workforce. This doesn’t mean every millennial fits the stereotype but it developed from people observing a trend.
The fragility of millennials manifests itself in the culture of trigger warnings, microaggressions, and social justice. The laziness and entitlement is a result of that fragility. Fragility breeds fear. Fear of failure or being wrong which leads to inaction and a desire for safety nets.
Reason published an intriguing look into the Fragile Generation that goes into how we’ve raised a generation of kids who have never had to deal with the basic challenges of life. NYU professor, Jonathan Haidt, has noted how the environment in the early 1980s led to parents becoming overly protective and restrictive of unsupervised play.
This helicopter parenting resulted in producing young adults who have not faced much adversity and are ill-prepared for the real world.
Socialism as a Safe Space
The natural reaction to fear is to remove it. All creatures fight or flight in response to danger. You can attack the source of fear or retreat from it into a cave, burrow, shell, or other safe space.
Embracing the socialist siren song of safety is a completely reasonable decision when you’ve grown up seeking authority (like parents, teachers, or government officials) to eliminate dangers or disagreements. Millennials do not prefer socialism for all the prosperity it has generated in the world. The preference is rooted in a desire for safety.
Millennials demanding safe spaces in college, shutting down unapproved speech, or protesting the fair election of Donald Trump is the result of how they grew up. A society that desires safety from all dangers–real or perceived–will reject freedom. Benjamin Franklin noted we can have safety or liberty but not both.
First, we have to recognize that the fragility of young people is a problem. There is growing recognition of this however the fragile young people don’t see it that way. They consider safe spaces, trigger warnings, and approved thoughts as positives. Changing their world view will be a hard nut to crack.
The slower but more effective approach is to return to raising kids with the wisdom of our grandparents and great-grandparents. They didn’t have everything right but their wisdom is distilled from successfully raising generations of people. People who have done amazing things for the benefit of humanity in the last hundred years.
America as a whole still values freedom and our founding fathers had the foresight to establish the nation as a republic. Liberty is not dead though it might be wounded. Our responsibility is to defend it.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.