A new poll shows that younger generations are embracing the idea of socialism more than ever.
The YouGov/Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation survey of some 2,100 young people ages 16 and over found that 70 percent of Millennials said they were somewhat or extremely likely to vote for a socialist. Millennials' birth years span from 1981 to 1996.
Of Gen Z, those born beginning in 1997 with the oldest now being 22 years old, 64 percent said they were somewhat or extremely likely to vote for a socialist.
The trend toward a willingness to vote for a socialist candidate coincided with an apparent dwindling of support for capitalism, with 50 percent of Millennials and 51 percent of Generation Z having a somewhat or very unfavorable view of capitalism.
According to Pew Research, Millennials are better educated than earlier generations when it comes to college and postgraduate degrees.
But when it comes to an economic education, and understanding what socialism is, younger Americans appear to be in the dark.
Socialism, according to the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, is a "centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production." Think the Soviet Union and Red China. More recently, think Venezuela. That's history; those are facts – despite how Millennial congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez describes her softer, gentler brand of socialism, saying it "does not mean the government owns everything."
At a Cato Institute discussion of economics, Matt Kibbe of the libertarian organization Free the People, described the appeal of Bernie Sanders' and Ocasio-Cortez's vision of socialism to young people, reported by Real Clear Politics. Kibbe said they think more in terms of values and personal experience rather than empirical facts.
"Socialism, in the narrative of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is a belief in community, a belief in people at the local level working together to solve problems and respecting each other. And somehow, that bottom-up process is a way that we can solve all of the problems. … She uses that word 'dignity' a lot. Community, dignity, bottom-up, peaceful cooperation." However, according to Kibbe, these values are not historically part of socialist reality.
The "facts" can be found in Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and other failed attempts at socialism.
Yet while supposedly loving the idea of socialism, Millennials embrace the ideas of entrepreneurship and small business, hallmarks of capitalism. But they don't connect those activities with capitalism and a free market.
The growing love affair with socialism coincides with a foggy understanding of economic philosophies and fairly recent history.
Here are some shocking discoveries about younger Americans as they cozy up to socialism:
In the most recent YouGov poll, almost 20 percent of Millennials thought the Communist Manifesto "better guarantees freedom and equality for all" than the Declaration of Independence. That's compared to just two percent of Baby Boomers and five percent of Gen X.
A YouGov survey last year found that 87 percent of high school students flunked a five-question test of basic knowledge about American history, the worst of any age group.
High school students were also least likely to know who is on Mount Rushmore. Only 35 percent of them got it right, compared with 71 percent of Boomers. Only 11 percent could name the rights enumerated in the First Amendment.
A 2018 poll further revealed Millennial ignorance of history about the seminal event of the twentieth century, World War II, when Germany's National Socialists, better known as the Nazis, under Adolf Hitler slaughtered some six million Jews in the Holocaust.
The study found that two-thirds of American Millennials could not identify the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz, and 22 percent said they hadn't heard of the Holocaust or were not sure whether they'd heard of it.
The oldest of the Millennials were small children when the Berlin Wall was knocked down with picks and shovels by those who'd been held captive by the socialist dream of East Germany. They never felt the threat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, experienced diving under their desks in nuclear war drills, or heard the rantings of Comrade Khruschev when he told the West that his communist utopia that had slaughtered millions of its own, would also "bury you."
Ocasio-Cortez has actually said her generation has never known true prosperity. For a generation who views history only through its own experience, the idea of a college debt bailout may seem like the socialist dream come true. But according to Kibbe, the misery AOC blames on capitalism is not reality.
"Those of us that crunch numbers … by any conceivable measure, we are living in the most prosperous, most opportunistic, most beautiful times in the history of the universe, but … there's a lot of reasons, from [Ocasio-Cortez's] perspective, that things could suck, even though things are the best they've ever been."