It appears that the collective shrug that a majority of the American people have done in response to the right's relentless invocation of the Scary Boogeyman word "socialism" is about more than just that they like Barack Obama
Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.
Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.
Some of the preference for socialism among the young may be simply attributable to age. As my generation knows full well, it's easy to be a socialist when your parents are paying at least some of the bills. But I think there's more to it than just a facile question of generations.
Over nearly three decades, as Reagan Republicanism has largely ruled this country (yes, even during the eight Clinton years), Americans have seen what unfettered, so-called free market capitalism looks like. Until the October 1987 crash, even the post-baby-boomers were supportive of the Doctrine of I Want More. But the financial collapse of 2008 represents the natural outgrowth of deregulated capitalism -- and Americans don't like what they see. The question is whether this translates into support for if not an outright socialist economy, certainly a more egalitarian one with a better safety net than we have now. Young Americans aren't carrying the baggage of the Cold War with them. These are people who grew up in post-Berlin Wall, for whom the boogeyman of Communism evokes no Pavlovian fear response. And if you are just getting started in your life and careers, and you see the wreckage that deregulated capitalism has left in its wake, and you're interacting with people all over the world via Facebook and online games, and seeing how people in Europe have health care even if they can't find a job, you're damn right you're going to think socialism is better.
The Republicans ignore this at their peril. They're still out there invoking the word "socialism" as if it were still 1965, not realizing that the people for whom this is a hot-button are fewer in number every day.
Labels: capitalism, socialism