On millennials and their socialist flirtation

From the pages of In Business magazine.

One of the most talked about aspects of the millennial generation is that a large segment of them — 43% in a 2016 poll by YouGov — have rather dreamy notions of socialism.

I’m not terribly worried about it.

Why, you ask? At the same age, I indulged in the same delusion and was somewhat enamored with the whole concept, too. At that point, I genuinely believed that President Ronald Reagan was the anti-Christ even though he was in the process of restoring both the American economy and the nation’s confidence and spirit.

Then, thanks the passage of time, I finally caught a clue.

The same thing will happen with that 43% of millennials, or a sizeable chunk of them. I suppose the most effective way to disabuse young adults of their infatuation with economic doom is to ask them the following question: Could the iPhone have been developed in a socialist basket case like Venezuela? The answer, of course, is no. Somebody, most notably Steve Jobs and his colleagues at Apple Computers, had to chase both profit and market share to make that handheld device — some would say appendage — a global reality.

Speaking of Venezuela, there’s a fine specimen of socialistic success. Hyper inflation, dire food shortages (after the government’s central planners had taken over food production), and institutional corruption are just the beginning. People are dumpster diving for their dinners and the socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro is clinging to power by withholding food from anyone who dares to dissent. What a paradise.

Which brings me to a follow-up point about socialism: it’s always accompanied by brutal political repression because that’s the only way it survives for any length of time. It’s an economic system that’s completely incompatible with human liberty.

Given all that, it amazes me how often one economic system can fail, and totally fail, and still live to see another day. Nearly 30 years ago, we watched the Berlin Wall come tumbling down, and many believed both communism and socialism were on their way out. Sadly, some regimes held on while others emerged.

Fortunately, there is encouraging news. Since 1990, the percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has been cut in half, from 43% to 22%, a drop that coincides with the liberation of Eastern Europe (from communism) and the introduction of the internet into the private sector. That would have been impossible without the spread of free market capitalism.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.