Defining Capitalism

In a recent opinion-piece in The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Koopman pointed out a couple of troubling statistics:

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.

Of course he notes that this is alarming, but offers this qualifier:

Does this mean millennials have come to disdain capitalism? Not exactly. We might call it “capitalism” in opinion surveys, but in reality young people are rejecting a system that they have only been led to believe is capitalism.

 And then this opinion:

For many, capitalism isn’t about free enterprise, nor is it about the startups and innovation. When they hear the term, 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: A system providing all Americans with a chance to use their unique skills to create a business with free access to different markets and customers.

Sadly, I think his opinion about the mindset of millenials is accurate, but I don’t he entirely captures their point of view, nor do I think semantics cure looming problems.

The problem — for millenials and many more of us — is that we’ve allowed government to overshadow almost every part of our life.  The problem — for all of us — is that we are relying on the government for everything and we are assuming that the government will fix our problems.  The problem is that we have allowed government regulation to strangle the life out of the American dream.


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