Older generations frequently complain that millennials lack motivation, are lazy, or are generally uninformed and unintelligent about historical and political matters.
But are they right? Are millennials really that bad?
The answer is a resounding “Yes.”
Historical ignorance is not uncommon with young people: According to a devastating recently-released survey by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, 32 percent of millennials believe that more people were killed under George W. Bush than under Joseph Stalin.
As for political and economic matters, those who did not live through the Cold War simply don’t understand the dangers of communism, as only 37 percent of millennials have a “very unfavorable” view of it.
Perhaps even more devastatingly, a greater percent of millennials (45 percent) said that they would vote for a socialist than said that they had a favorable view of capitalism (42 percent).
Living in the richest society in the history of the world, possessing wealth and opportunities that have never been afforded to the same extent to any other previous country, millennials have turned their backs on the free-market capitalism that made them so well-off to begin with.
What is the cause of this, and how can it be fixed?
The causes are threefold: First, the education system has failed. History is important, and when 42 percent of millennials are unfamiliar with Mao Zedong, that’s a real cause for concern. (Perhaps if millennials had learned about the results of Mao’s economic policies, they wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about the economics of Bernie Sanders.)
But an even more profound educational problem than the schools’ failing to teach students what to think is their failure to teach students how to think. Millennials, in general, don’t think; they emote. This is why safe spaces and trigger warnings are now popular, and it’s why disagreement on political issues is often proclaimed as bigotry. Feelings are seen as ultimate; facts are thought of as secondary.
Second, in many cases, young people are not learning from their parents the virtues that made America great in the first place. In the case of the millions of young people whose parents are living under the crippling welfare state and thus are dependent on the government, those young people are learning exactly the opposite values that they should be learning: that the government exists not to protect economic freedom but to provide for its citizens, and that one is not necessarily accountable for their own decisions in life (whether responsible or irresponsible), so long as someone who has made better decisions is forced to pick up the tab.
Third, there exist certain major misconceptions for which people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Paul Krugman, Robert Reich & Co. are largely responsible: that there is such a thing as a free lunch, that the free market is a zero-sum game in which the rich only get rich by oppressing the poor, and that “democratic socialism” is much different from actual socialism.
But there isn’t such a thing as a free lunch – whether we label it “free college” or not, for example, the costs still must be paid – whether by the student who is reaping the benefits of the education, or by the taxpayers who had nothing to do with the student’s decision to enroll. Additionally, free-market economics isn’t a zero-sum game – in fact, the free market hinges upon voluntary transactions that benefit both parties who transact. And “democratic socialism” at its core is still socialism – central planning is still central planning, and public production of non-public goods is still public production of non-public goods, whether such policies are enacted by a dictator or by the majority in a popular vote.
In order to make any progress with forthcoming generations, myths like these have to be busted. Parents must teach young people the value of economic freedom, and the education system must start teaching students how to think, rather than how to emote. Until these things happen, the future of the country will remain grim.