4.09.2009

Young Adults "Undecided" About our Economic System

I find these Rasmussen survey results rather ridiculous:

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided.

It's troubling enough that 33% of young adult respondents prefer socialism as an economic system. And I'm not decrying socialism blindly, painting it as a stand in for Soviet-style communism. I'm making that statement understanding that my peers may be thinking of Swedish- or British- or French-style socialism. I'm concerned when a third of my generation is willing to throw a system under the broad umbrella of "capitalism" out the window.

What's more, 30% are undecided. Now, perhaps, having grown up in the wake of the Cold War, young adults aren't as familiar with drawing the capitalist/socialist philosophical distinction on a daily basis. But how can 30% be unsure about which system they prefer? It's a rather basic distinction. And if someone isn't certain enough that some iteration of capitalism is better, I'd wager they're likely very susceptible to read the present economic situation as some kind of refutation of the entire concept.

A survey question like this gets to the heart of a person's character. The numbers, to me, expose a troubling generational fear of or inability to cope with the risk that comes with the opportunity and freedom of a capitalist system - even a modified, regulated capitalist system like the U.S. had pre-bailouts. Stability, certainty, and a guarantee of even-handed material distribution are not enough. Those considerations must be balanced with an awareness of countervailing principles that I, frankly, find more important and fundamental to what it means to be an American: individual liberty, incentive-based creativity, organic systems, personal responsibility, and individual perseverance in the face of adversity.

Summed up, I'm in favor of tolerating economic risk and the lumps it brings (primarily to the imprudent) because the associated benefits of such an economic system are superior - not necessarily or exclusively in economic terms, but in terms of what's healthiest for citizens and our polity in the long run.