October 18, 2016

Millennials vs. Mutant Capitalism

Christopher Koopman

Senior Affiliated Scholar
Summary

When they hear the term [capitalism], millennials think about Wall Street bailouts, corporate greed, political scandals and tax codes riddled with loopholes for the wealthy and connected. Yet this has little to do with what equal-opportunity capitalism actually is.

About 70 million millennials will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election, according to Pew Research Center. How my generation votes matters more than ever—which makes the results of an April Harvard Institute of Politics survey seem very troubling. About a third of Americans ages 18-29 support socialism, while not even half back capitalism. College graduates view capitalism more favorably, but these still don’t appear to be encouraging numbers.

Analyzing similar data in February, pollster Frank Luntz wrote that “the hostility of young Americans to the underpinnings of the American economy and the American government ought to frighten every business and political leader.” There’s only one problem with this pessimism about millennials: As a generation, we don’t really know what we believe.

Clear majorities of millennials—whether they’re Bernie Bros, Trumpians, or die-hard libertarians—point to the economy as their top issue. This shouldn’t be surprising. Most of us entered adulthood during the Great Recession and tried to find work in its aftermath. This harrowing experience left millions preoccupied with economic issues and convinced that the system is rigged against them.

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