Opinions about this matter are becoming increasingly politicized. Democrats more positive about Socialism than Capitalism, Frank Newport, gallup.com, 8/13/18.
For the first time in Gallup's measurement over the past decade, Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism. Attitudes toward socialism among Democrats have not changed materially since 2010, with 57% today having a positive view. The major change among Democrats has been a less upbeat attitude toward capitalism, dropping to 47% positive this year -- lower than in any of the three previous measures. Republicans remain much more positive about capitalism than about socialism, with little sustained change in their views of either since 2010.
Younger Americans are more likely to have a favorable view of Socialism than their elders, and longer term will play a growing role in determining electoral results. Half of young Americans want to live in a socialist country, Rachel del Giudice, dailysignal.com, 3/11/19.
The Harris Poll found that 49.6 percent of millennials and Gen Xers would prefer living in a socialist country versus 37.2% for all poll respondents.
Support for policies/programs with a Socialist tendency, such as Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, runs considerably higher than support for Socialism per se. Plus which the large number of respondents who profess neutrality re Socialism vs. Capitalism suggests that they may be reacting to labels versus substantive differences. Monmouth University poll, op. cit.
“We shouldn’t ignore the possibility that ‘neutral’ could be a way for some Americans, especially Democrats, to couch their policy preferences without using a term that has historically negative connotations,” said [Monmouth pollster Matt] Murray. “This is going to be a real challenge for left-leaning candidates in the 2020 presidential race. The party base seems to be saying, ‘We like your platform, just don’t use the word socialism to describe it.'”
IV. Winning the argument – Socialism is basically a model for ever-growing government, a far cry from SAFE’s “smaller, more focused, less costly government” agenda. We were therefore delighted by the president’s declaration that “America will never be a Socialist country” and would like to help make it come true.
Unfortunately, the proponents of left-leaning government policies & programs seem to be gaining ground. Query: what are their most effective arguments and how can these arguments be countered?
#UNMET WANTS – Isn’t healthcare a human right, for which the government should be willing to pay for people who are facing soaring medical bills? Ditto a college education, food for the hungry, decent housing, etc. One answer is that government programs to take care of everyone will be impracticable due to the tax increases and/or interest costs on borrowings that would be required to pay for them.
Maybe so, but that’s not a very inspiring argument – especially for many millions of Americans who have been effectively exempted from paying federal income tax and therefore have “no skin in the game.” By endlessly repeating the “we can’t afford it” mantra, conservatives risk setting themselves up as heartless and lacking in empathy.
It may be smart to add that free enterprise solutions work better than handouts, not just for affluent Americans but also for those in lower income brackets. The GOP duty: Explain the cost of “free,” Bobby Jindal, Wall Street Journal, 5/29/19.
Republicans can’t outbid Santa Claus. Americans are willing to work hard and sacrifice for a better life but need to know how pro-growth policies benefit them. Voters may be tempted by progressives’ crazy plans because they desperately want more affordable health care, reasonable tuition costs and a sustainable environment. They will embrace effective market-based solutions that promote freedom if Republicans offer them, but voters will only wait so long.
For example, a currently proposed 15% interest rate ceiling on payday loans would predictably dry up the availability of legal credit for marginal borrowers. And if these individuals complained, the USPS would be authorized to fill the void by launching a “postal banking” service. If you think that story is likely to end well, we’ve got a bridge to show you. Socialist mindset: Nationalize and infantilize, Washington Examiner, 5/13/19.
In terms of making a positive case for free enterprise, a Delaware state legislator recently hit it out of the park. Here’s a link, and the closing lines as a teaser. DE Sen. Bryant Richardson [R- SD 21], 8/23/19.
What is better: To have the means to provide for yourself or to depend on the government for your needs?
When you give the government more control, you lose your rights to self-determination. That’s a high price to pay for “free stuff.”
#EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE – Conservatives often argue that Socialism has had terrible results elsewhere, from the USSR and Communist China (under Mao) to Cuba and now Venezuela in the Western Hemisphere. Progressives dismiss these cases as historical aberrations, however, and suggest other socialist models for America to emulate.
Such a "look elsewhere" argument shortchanges extensive evidence, going back to the Roman Empire if not before, that government-run economies produce mediocre results. Consider, for example, the almost invariable results of government attempts to set market prices versus letting them be set by supply and demand. Price-control failures, then and now, Norman Singleton, mises.org, 8/29/19.
In his April 1950 address to the University Club of New York, [Ludwig von] Mises explained the folly of the government’s attempt to increase the availability of milk by fixing the product’s price. [Thus,] price controls on milk lead to price controls on the factors necessary for the production of milk. And when the factories increase their prices elsewhere to make up for the loss in revenue, more price controls are needed. This process will continue ad infinitum. Before long, the government is forced to fix the prices of all consumer goods and factors of production — just to control the cost of milk. “This is no longer capitalism; it is all-around planning by the government, it is socialism,” Mises stated. [Now in 2019,] the US government is attempting the very same tactic to control the costs of healthcare.
Also, progressives tend to rationalize the failings of regimes they admire by viewing the evidence selectively. See, e.g., Bernie Sanders seems to think Socialism has reduced Chinese poverty, Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner, 8/27/19.
[During a recent interview, Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed that the current regime in China] has made “more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of the world.” Its government has “done a lot of things for their people,” the presidential candidate noted, adding it could do more if it moved “toward a more Democratic form of government.”
[True,] China’s economic growth in the last 40 years has been unprecedented. [But] China’s economic success is specifically the result of its government abandoning socialist principles in the late 1970s after Mao Zedong finally died. The keys to freeing a billion Chinese from poverty have been free enterprise and capital investment, not state-mandated economic programs.
Finally, successful countries may be pointed to whose governments aren’t truly socialist. Sweden has retreated from the socialist brink, for example, by privatizing many government-owned assets and fostering choice and competition. The truth about Sweden and Socialism, John Stossel, dailysignal.com, 1/4/19.
[Swedish historian Johan] Norberg acknowledges that Sweden, in some areas, has a big government: “We do have a bigger welfare state than the U.S., higher taxes than the U.S., but in other areas, when it comes to free markets, when it comes to competition, when it comes to free trade, Sweden is actually more free market.” Sweden’s free market is not burdened by the U.S.’s excessive regulations, special-interest subsidies, and crony bailouts. That allows it to fund Sweden’s big welfare programs.
Sweden and other “Nordic socialist” models fare pretty well in comparative surveys of economic freedom (based on rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency and open markets), receiving overall scores that are roughly comparable to the United States. Index of economic freedom (for 180 countries), heritage.org., 2019.
#SELF-INTEREST – One might think the business sector would provide stalwart support for the free enterprise system, but in practice companies tend to favor government policies that will benefit their own bottom lines. Rhetoric about social responsibility, etc. is mainly for public relations purposes. Consider, for example, the reception of remarks that Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) made at a rally held to further the interests of wind and solar energy companies. Corporate socialism is paving the road to the Green New Deal, Timothy Carney, Washington Examiner, 5/15/19.
•“Here’s what I say for wind and solar and all electric vehicles and clean energy, give us some of that socialism that the oil and gas industry has had for a century! Green New Deal.” The crowd went nuts.
• Give us some more of those production tax credits, the lobbyists for wind giants like GE, Vestas, and Siemens yell. Give us some more of those renewable mandates, the solar lobbyists say. Give us more of those tax credits to allow rich people to buy Teslas. Give us more handouts, bailouts, protective regulations, and mandates. In short, Mr. Markey, give us more of what you tried to give us with your 2009 climate bill.
Mr. Carney has been a long-time critic of “crony capitalism,” as was expressed in a book he wrote during the Bush 43 administration. The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money, 2006. Perhaps he paints the picture a bit too darkly, but there is a great deal of lobbying activity in DC (much of it famously centered on K Street).
#MISDIRECTION – As previously noted, the US educational system has not been doing a good job of teaching young Americans to appreciate the merits of free enterprise or the lessons of history, and this greatly improves the chances for previous mistakes (such as in the 1930s) to be repeated. AOC: Millennials “most informed,” historically literate generation, Brad Polumbo, Washington Examiner, 8/30/19.
The millennial generation and Generation Z behind them, of which I am part, is uniquely disengaged from history and woefully uninformed *** [they] increasingly identify as socialist . . . an ideology of failure and oppression [with] a very dark past of which few are aware, and only 16% of millennials are able to define Socialism in the first place.
Backing up these generalizations, deficiencies in the quality of education re US/world history and civics have been documented by studies. [AOC] praises millennials as “more informed,” research shows the opposite, Warner Todd Huston, godfatherpolitics.com, 8/30/19.
As a group, millennial’s don’t have the first clue about American history, civics, and government. A recent study found, for example, that only the residents of one state were able to pass a simple American history test. “The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation surveyed 41,000 Americans in all 50 states and Washington, DC, and found that [a 53% majority of] the citizens of Vermont passed.”
How can things be made better? Our answer would be that parents should demand better for their children, and government should foster more choice and competition in the educational system versus supporting a top-down model. Equality of opportunity is a worthy goal; equality of outcomes is a rationale for accepting mediocre results.
This message needs to be directed to state and local leaders, not promoted by another “march on Washington,” as they are the one who must ultimately make the indicated policy changes.
# Socialism is a very old plan, which has refused to die. Ugly as it may seem to many, [Joseph] McCarthy was mostly right. And for sure, freedom is not free. – SAFE member (DE)
#I’m not optimistic about winning the capitalism vs. socialism debate, it’s hard to compete with the promises of free goodies for those who can’t participate successfully in capitalism. And this is not a new story; the left has toppled other governments with promises of “land reform” and such. As for the US educational system, it’s dominated by left-wing progressives that hate this country’s founding principles.
The future depends on re-electing Trump and continuing to bolster the economy so that lower-income people can share in the prosperity based on their own efforts. But the other side could offer government jobs, which would be tough to compete with. – SAFE director
Comment: SAFE doesn’t endorse political candidates per se, and in any case it remains to be seen who the Democrats will nominate for president. In terms of offering thoughtful policy proposals, however, the current crop of candidates doesn’t seem to be doing very well.