Though the article focuses on the perplexing support of millennials for self-avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, and for socialism in general—which appears to be rooted primarily in ignorance—I tend to apply a more general term to millennials: the entitlement generation.
The following points from the article conveys some of the inaccuracies or lack of knowledge to which the authors attribute the millennia’s tendency toward socialism:
Millennials Don’t Know What Socialism Is: “…millennials don’t seem to know what socialism is, and how it’s different from other styles of government. The definition of socialism is government ownership of the means of production—in other words, true socialism requires that government run the businesses. However, a CBS/New York Times survey found that only 16 percent of millennials could accurately define socialism…”
Millennials Think There’s a Gentler Version of ‘Socialism’: “Perhaps the most important reason millennials are less concerned about socialism is that they associate socialism with Scandinavia, not the Soviet Union. Modern “socialism” today appears to be a gentler, kinder version. For instance, countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway offer a far more generous social safety net with much higher taxes. In this view, government just covers people’s basic needs (from everybody’s pockets, of course), but doesn’t seize all the businesses and try to run them, or overtly attempt to control people’s consciences.”
Deferring Its Costs Increases Support for Socialism: “Unlike the USSR, this modern version of this quasi-socialism has also learned to defer its costs, effectively consuming the future to make things materially more comfortable for those in the present. Like the United States, European welfare states have racked up huge debts and unfunded liabilities. However, their populaces don’t feel that immediately, because citizens haven’t yet had to pay all the taxes that must come with it.”
American Kids Don’t Know Enough, Either: “Unfortunately, American schools teach very little about basic economic concepts such as the idea of tradeoffs or the drivers of economic growth and effects of growth and stagnation on ordinary people. Young people—along with more than enough of their elders—too often naively believe canards such as that “taxing the rich” can solve our country’s economic ills.”
Every Kid Gets a Trophy: “The concept of socialism stems from the idea that everyone, regardless of his or her achievements and efforts, should be rewarded equally or at least rewarded according to his or her needs—“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” as Karl Marx popularized.”
The article then references a well-known video segment of Neal Cavuto interviewing a millennial, in which the young lady demands free college and student-loan forgiveness but can’t explain how any of that would be paid for.
And, in the same vein, I have also written of the vast ignorance—and unfounded arrogance—of American students, in my article American Exceptionalism at its Finest:
“Since the 1970s, US schools have failed to keep pace with the rest of the world. Among 30 developed countries, we rank 25th in math and 21st in science. The top 5 percent of our students, our very best, rank 23rd out of 29 developed countries. In almost every category we’ve fallen behind—except one.
The same study looked at math skills, and found in these eight countries [shown in the video], the U.S.A. ranked last; but when researchers asked the students how they felt they had done—”Did I get good marks in mathematics?”—kids from the U.S.A. ranked number one in confidence.”
Considering this, it’s easy to see how much of the support of millennials for Bernie Sanders and his socialist policies is rooted in their abject ignorance of economics, history, and the realities of political power—and is further exacerbated by their unfounded confidence it themselves.
Entitlement Mentality, Or Merely Economic Ignorance?
However, when discussing this issue on Facebook, upon my labeling of millennials as “the entitlement generation,” a friend made this comment:
“I don’t think it’s “entitlement” so much as just they don’t have much life experience, so they don’t understand how things like business and the economy really work. It’s like that video that was floating around a while back, with a college student being interviewed by some TV guy. She was advocating free college and so on, and when the guy pinned her down and said, “Okay, so who’s going to pay for it?” she couldn’t really answer.”
(He was referring to the same video that was included in the original Cato article, to which I’ve linked above).
Now at first, I agreed with him and his assessment, that perhaps accusing millennials of possessing an entitlement mentality was a bit hasty, and that the problem was solely rooted in economic ignorance; but upon further contemplation, I recanted, and decided that yes, many millennials do, in fact, possess an entitlement mentality. Here’s why:
When I was a young adult, I was financially and economically ignorant, as many millennials are today. For one, my parents were likewise ignorant, and so didn’t (couldn’t, really) educate me in those arenas. Nor did the church—with which I was coerced into heavy participation—and of course, government schools certainly weren’t going to educate me in those arenas.
So, as a result of my ignorance, I not only made terrible financial decisions early on, but those decisions were based on erroneous information and philosophy, as I was not raised and educated with any understanding of reality, of real-world economics, human action, human nature, or the sociological aspects of society. My abject ignorance of finance and economics—and even worse, my misconception of reality—caused me tremendous problems throughout much of my early life, as they resulted in poor, or counterproductive, or even destructive financial decisions.
And yet, I still had no sense of entitlement; I believed in working, in paying my own way. I respected the property and monetary rights of others, and expected the same in return. I never expected anything for free, I never expected someone else to pay my way, I never believed others had any financial obligation to me whatsoever.
So, though I was just as economically ignorant as many millennials are today—I still did not harbor a sense of entitlement, as many of them do. I may have wished others would help me out, or believed that if they cared, or were decent human beings, they would offer to help me out—but that was a result of the aforementioned conveyance to me of a fallacious conception of reality, of human nature, even of morality. It was not from a sense of entitlement, or that I in some way deserved a handout, or others were in some way obligated to help me out.
But many millennials do believe this. And therefore, I maintain my original position.
History Is No Longer Doomed To Repeat
It is said that history is doomed to repeat itself. But is it? I believe that age-old adage is coming to an end. Why? Because in the past, history was committed to, and limited to, human memory. Once those who remember how bad it was, how hard it was, those who fought against evil to correct course for the betterment of all humanity, pass away—well, then, it all becomes just stories, diluted from generation to generation until it’s all meaningless to the youngest generation.
But during the 20th century, for the first time, history actually began to be recorded—print, photos, audio, video. Unfortunately, much of that media has been controlled or manipulated by the state, misrepresented, outright suppressed, or re-written for use as pro-state propaganda.
But the 21st century has seen the advent of digital technology, leading to decentralized media; virtually everything happening today is being recorded, in various formats, and all of that media is now largely in the hands of the people (as it should be). I’ve speculated before that this—the collapse of a formerly prosperous nation into the miserable abyss of Socialism—may indeed be the last time that history is actually doomed to repeat itself; starting with recent decades, all of humanity will have the opportunity to review for themselves what actually transpired in the past, and why—and thus more effectively avoid making the same mistakes again in the future.
But there’s another factor in this evolutionary process that I’d like to address: our role (my generation) in the coming revolution.
The Fourth Turning
When you understand The Fourth Turning (William Strauss & Neil Howe), and the generational nature of revolution, you understand that there are four generations comprising a saeculum (the average length of a human life), with each generation defined as “people born over a span of roughly twenty years or about the length of one phase of life: childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and old age,” and that, during the Fourth Turning, or crisis which spawns revolution, each generation plays a role in that revolution. The elder generation is on its way out, and the young adult generation is voting and protesting and otherwise effecting change with the intent of rebuilding the world according to their own vision. And during this time, the role of my generation—mid-lifers, which includes many of you, too—is as “pragmatic midlife leaders during a crisis,”—i.e., as leaders, teachers, guides, advisors to the revolutionaries—today’s millennials.
Which is exactly why so many of us are so active on social media, and blogging and participating in other activities in an attempt to educate and influence the millennials, as they move toward revolution—the tearing down of the old institutional order, and creation of a new and different society according to their own vision.
Is It Too Late To Educate Millennials In The Errors Of Their Socialist Ways?
So all of this begs the question: Are we—the generation of leaders, teachers, guides, advisors—succeeding in our role? Are we properly and effectively educating and influencing the younger generation, so that their revolution is a positive one, a step in the right direction?
At this point, it’s difficult to say.
What I see today is a substantial split among the millennials: on the one hand, I see a wonderful trend of young people toward liberty, toward historic and economic literacy, toward the integration of technology toward a more peaceful and prosperous future for all of humanity.
But then, on the other hand, I see the ignorance and arrogant belligerence of the entitlment crowd, the Bernie Sanders supporters, the advocates of socialism—which throughout history has greatly inhibited, if not destroyed, every economy in which it’s ever been implemented—but historical reality is of no concern to them; as long as somebody else is paying for what they want, it’s all good.
And, during my attempts to lead, teach, guide, and advise the younger generation, I’ve actually been told, straight-up, by a member of the socialist faction of millennials:
“It’s not that I don’t understand you, it’s that I don’t agree with you.”
—as if the knowledge, information, facts, history, truth, math, and the like which I’m attempting to convey are simply matters of opinion, rather than irrefutable reality!
I’ve also been told:
“You come across as condescending; that’s why nobody listens to you.”
—as if the knowledge, information, facts, history, truth, math, and the like which I’m attempting to convey are merely perceived as an arrogant and offensive criticism, rather than an educational opportunity!
So I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re succeeding in our role as leaders, teachers, guides, advisors to the revolutionary millennials. I suppose only time will tell. Humanity can emerge from the coming revolution a far cry better off than we are today, with a bright, peaceful, and prosperous future—or plummet into the void of misery and poverty that is socialism. Or worse: collapse into another multi-generational era of death, misery, and poverty under total authoritarianism or tyranny, akin to a new Dark Ages.
Unfortunately, my generation may well be relegated to the sidelines, helpless, mere spectators, as the future of humanity is determined by the millennials, for better or for worse.
So once again, I ask: can we educate them, before it’s too late?