Guest Analysis

Youth in the USA reject capitalism

Originally posted in Spanish at

A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.

A very recent survey by the elite and prestigious, Harvard University in Massachusetts, indicates that most young Americans reject the basic principles of the US economy and do not support capitalism.

This is a fact of major political importance, considering that, since the end of the Cold War, all US internal and external propaganda has had as its primary objective the formation of a free market-oriented consciousness and the protection of corporations and private capital in general, dismissing the social purposes of the state.

In fact, in its foreign policy, Washington conflates the terms “capitalism” and “democracy”, to the extent that it almost never uses the first term. Its capitalist allies in are called “democracies” and those who do not accept its global hegemony are not. It’s as simple as that.

The Harvard University survey, which polled young adults between ages 18 and 29, found that 51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. Just 42 percent said they support it.

According to the pollsters, most respondents who said they don’t support capitalism said they were concerned about the unpredictability of the free-market system.

“Capitalism can mean different things to different people, and the newest generation of voters is frustrated with the status quo, broadly speaking.” Zach Lustbader, a senior at Harvard involved in conducting the poll, argues that “the word ‘capitalism’ doesn’t mean what it used to in the US. For those who grew up during the Cold War, capitalism meant freedom from the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes. For those who grew up more recently, capitalism has meant a financial crisis from which the global economy still hasn’t completely recovered.”

Although the information on the results of the survey, provided by Amy Cavenaile in The Washington Post on April 24, 2016, does not clarify what alternative socio-economic systems the young people in the poll would prefer, it indicated that 33% percent said they supported socialism. The survey had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

A subsequent survey that included people of all ages found that somewhat older Americans also are skeptical of capitalism. Only among respondents at least 50 years old was the majority in favor of capitalism.

Although the results are startling, Harvard’s questions are in accord with other recent research on how Americans think about capitalism and socialism. In 2011, for example, the Pew Research Center found that people ages 18 to 29 were frustrated with the free-market system.

In that survey, 46 percent had positive views of capitalism, and 47 percent had negative views. As to socialism, by contrast, 49 percent of the young people in Pew’s poll had positive views, and just 43 percent had negative views.

On specific questions about how best to organize the economy, the Harvard poll found a greater influence of capitalist ideas among young people. Just 27 percent believe government should play a large role in regulating the economy, and just 30 percent think the government should play a large role in reducing income inequality. Only 26 percent said government spending is an effective way to increase economic growth.

Yet 48 percent agreed that “basic health insurance is a right for all people.” And 47 percent agreed with the statement that “basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that the government should provide [it] to those unable to afford them.”

It has been considered that Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for the Presidential election has been a significant factor in the changes detected now. The fact that so many young people feel moved by the word of a candidate of such an advanced age was a great surprise.

What the polls are now showing about US youth is rather significant. It could be the prelude to major changes within and beyond the borders of the American superpower.

May 3, 2016

Manuel Yepe Menéndez is a Cuban attorney, economist and political analyst. He has served as Cuban ambassador, director of Prensa Latina, and was secretary of the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.

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