COPELAND: Not Your Grandfather’s Socialism

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Senator Bernie Sanders is charging $95 for tickets to an event promoting his new book – on capitalism. Capitalism works, even for an old-time friend of socialism.

Bernie became the silver fox of the progressive and socialist Left during his run for the Democratic nomination in 2016, and he was perhaps on his way to clinching the nomination before some backroom deals went down at the DNC. Still popular, his appeal to youth is only overshadowed on the socialist Left by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But why is socialism popular among young people? In the inimitable line from the musical Bye, Bye, Birdie, “What’s the matter with kids today?”

A new cross-national study by the Fraser Institute looks at support for socialism among 18 to 34-year-olds in Canada, the US, Australia and the United Kingdom. They find that large numbers of young people like the idea. In all four countries, that age group prefers socialism as the ideal economic system over capitalism by anywhere from 3% in the US to 26-27% in Canada and the UK.

Problem is, they don’t truly understand socialism. The Fraser study asked respondents to choose among three definitions of socialism. The traditional understanding of socialism as government owning industries and companies and running the economy – the definition a younger Bernie would have endorsed when he honeymooned in Moscow in 1988 – earned the lowest support.

The other two definitions drew 55-65% approval: the government providing more social services or a guaranteed basic income. Perhaps because younger workers often do not see government transfer payments until later in life (other than massive college debt relief), they do not know that among wealthy nations, the United States government actually spends the third most per capita on social welfare.

There’s a reason why this age group is ignorant of the truth about socialism.

In America, young people learn about the horrors of the robber barons. In the UK, they learn about the real crown jewel of England – the National Health System. What they are missing is economics and economic history.

Students are shocked to learn that 20th Century socialism killed more than 100 million people. The author of one of the most widely used American history textbooks, Howard Zinn, was a member of several Communist fronts in the United States, according to the FBI. The compulsory middle school trip to Washington, DC should include the new Victims of Communism Museum, which tells the unvarnished truth about the gulags, Stalin, Mao and more.


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