Millennials Love Free Markets, But Don't Understand Them
By Brittany Hunter
In a recent Reason-Rupe Survey, 58 percent of Americans ages 18–24 said they viewed socialism favorably. However, when asked if they favored a free market economy or a government-managed economy, 64 percent of Millennials said they favored the free market. How is it possible for Millennials to favor both a socialist government and a capitalist economy? The answer is simple, Millennials simply do not understand what either of these words really mean, especially capitalism.
The word capitalism is generally unpopular on college campuses around the country. In pop culture, it is rare, though not impossible, to find a story where the capitalist ends up being the hero. All day long we are bombarded with anti-free market propaganda. Oddly enough, most of this anti-capitalist rhetoric is available to us through mediums that exist only because of the free market. For example, every time a young, enthusiastic socialist tweets about the injustices of capitalism from his or her iPhone, they are living proof that Millennials love the free market.
If there is one thing the Millennial generation struggles with, it’s patience. We have grown up in a world where everything has been available to us with the click of the button. We have never had to use encyclopedias or spend hours doing research in a library. Instead, we Google whatever it is that we were looking for and in a matter of seconds, we have a plethora of sources. Socialism is not generally associated with quick results. Instead, extreme bureaucracy usually tends to make things take even longer than they otherwise would, much like a government bread line. Likewise, a government-run healthcare system usually results in longer waiting periods even for simple office visits. Millennials hate waiting. I am willing to bet that if these self-proclaimed socialists were to spend some time in a socialist country, they would not last very long.
Millennials love quality, one-of-a-kind products. Platforms like Etsy have served the Millennial generation as a sort of online farmers’ market where strangers from around the world buy and sell handmade goods from each other. Whether you’re looking for a beard warmer or craft BBQ sauce, Etsy has it. Likewise, we live in a world fueled by Amazon Prime. Not only do we have access to almost anything we could possibly need or want, we are also having these items shipped to our door in two days. Both Etsy and Amazon are wonders brought to us by the free market. So, as Millennials login to Amazon to purchase a copy of The Communist Manifesto, they might want to consider the fact that the book is delivered to them in 48 hours all thanks to capitalism.
Millennials are entrepreneurs. We are using technology to our advantage and making the world run quickly and efficiently. Though some might speak loudly in favor of unions and collective bargaining, on a late night when no cabs can be found, a Millennial knows that a safe ride will be available to us in minutes by opening our Uber App. Apps like Square, Venmo, and PayPal have allowed us to start small businesses and collect payment with ease. Sites like YouTube allow us the opportunity to gain exposure and promote whatever it is we are working on or selling without ever leaving our homes. We have the potential to be the most entrepreneurial generation our country has ever seen.
Millennials love to actively participate in the market process. Active participation is one of the fundamental principles of the free market. If we are not willing to give feedback and review our purchased consumer goods, we will not get the most innovative processes or the best quality products available. Millennials have grown up in a world where every thought and opinion is shared on social media. Platforms like Yelp have become important tools in the hands of young consumers who are either pleased or completely outraged about the goods or services they received. As a result, Millennials, more than any other generation, are reading online reviews of a company or product before making the decision to buy. According to Forbes, 33% of Millennials said that they read reviews of a product before deciding to buy.
Millennials love to learn and have more access to the market of ideas than any other generation that preceded us. Khan academy, YouTube, and Wikipedia offer us a chance to become experts in almost any field we desire. Millennials are using these free market mediums to educate themselves in a way that has never been seen before in our world. We are not relying solely on the opinion of college professors or our parents. We are doing the research and finding new ways to learn. Along those same lines, we also have a natural distrust for authority. We have seen the economy crumble as a result of the poor decisions made by the baby boomer generation. We do not trust others to make our decisions for us. We are coming up with entrepreneurial solutions to government-created problems and we are doing this through online learning.
Yet, in spite of all of these aspects of the Millennial mindset, Millennials still claim to identify with socialism. Growing up in a post-cold war era has jaded our perception of what a pure welfare state really looks like. We have not grown up hearing first-hand accounts of the woes of socialism in the Cold War era. We are living in a technological world brought to us because of the free market’s perpetual triumph over socialism. However, we don’t understand history well enough to realize how fortunate we are to live in a society where the free market is allowed to flourish. Millennials see large unemployment statistics, a struggling economy, and high costs of living and attribute it to the very system that gave us our iPhones, Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix.
The problem at hand is not that too many Millennials are socialists; the problem is that too many Millennials don’t understand that in almost every aspect of their lives, they are capitalists. If Millennials truly want to dedicate themselves to the ideals of socialism, they will have to surrender their iPhones, their Amazon accounts, their Uber accounts, their craft beer, the hipster beard accessories, and pretty much every other aspect of their daily lives.
Brittany Hunter is a Mises University alumna, blogger, and creator of digital content for Generation Opportunity.