— Published with Permission of FreedomProject.com —
Willi Schlamm, an Austrian journalist who survived communist occupation, once quipped: “The trouble with socialism is socialism. The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.” This very astute observation was surely born of experience. Schlamm’s point was clear: capitalism works, even though some capitalists may exploit the system. But socialism is a dangerous and unworkable idea that corrupts even the most idealistic of its practitioners.
New data is now showing a big shift in American attitudes toward socialism.
A survey of U.S. adults conducted by the American Culture and Faith institute suggests that 40 percent of Americans prefer socialism to capitalism and free markets. A Gallup poll (2016) also found that 55 percent of Americans younger than age 30 hold favorable views of socialism. It makes perfect sense that younger generations—who have not experienced full throttle socialism first hand, and who have yet to have a house or own a business—are taken in by the utopian fantasies of government school teachers and leftist academics.
I see the consequences of this miseducation of the youth in my own career as a university professor. Every semester I deal with students who have guzzled the intoxicating promises of Marxist rhetoric, but neglected the sober and nourishing milk of historical and economic reality. I have heard from many students, years and decades after they took my courses, that “real life” had finally disabused them of their youthful dalliance with central planning and big government overreach. For 11 years, I gave these students basic literacy quizzes in my classroom, and you can read about the discouraging results here.
It has always been true that the clash between dreamy, academic utopianism and pragmatic, visceral reality favors the realist, not the dreamer. And the ancient Greeks themselves, who gave us the word “utopia” (or “no place”) understood too. But it was also the ancient Greeks who compelled Socrates to drink poison for the trumped-up charge of “corrupting the youth.” Such inherent human contradictions cannot be negotiated by sociological dreamers, billionaire technocrats, or academic activists. And it is only painful experience that can teach such lessons, and that in very short supply on our college campuses.
These days tenure, not hemlock, is the reward for corrupting the youth, although the promise of millstones and rued nativities cannot be ruled out entirely.
Dr. Duke Pesta is a tenured university professor of English and Academic Director of FreedomProject Academy.