Conservatives are losing the battle with the next generation, and fear tactics aren’t the solution.
One must concede the simplistic beauty of a conceptual national commune — a society of men that need not and want not by design. I lay no blame at the feet of my millennial counterparts that have found philosophical refuge in such beliefs. Indeed, the American conservative movement has been quick to dismiss this subscription as the result of an endemic laziness or addiction to instant gratification, granting little (if any) consideration to what may be a well-informed train of thought. To our own peril, we have forgotten the “next generation” has a historical trend of bucking the status quo in search of a better alternative, or perhaps we have simply forgotten the allure of socialistic policies in the young mind. Regardless, it is time to reflect on this failure, recognize the ineffectiveness of our current tactics, and adjust our future strategy accordingly.
If one reads Marxist literature, you’ll see no mention of Mao’s Five-Year Plan or the mass starvation of an entire nation, nor will you see any endorsement of tyrannical dictators such as Joseph Stalin. That is worthy of our attention in the realm of informed debate and discussion. Conservatives ought not allow an endemic laziness force us to regulate our arguments to atrocities of the past committed in the name of communism or socialism. While the memes that highlight the number of those killed under these dictators may rile up the base, we must recognize that the base isn’t who we’re trying to convince.
If you’ve ever spoken to an informed communist, they’ll be the first to denounce these “communist” dictators and their shameful actions.
Firstly, we must attempt to understand the differences between socialism and communism. While conservatives tend to view them as interchangeable, communism is really the extreme camp within the broader tent of socialism. One common trait shared by even the most moderate socialists, though, is the use of power to reach more-desired outcomes. Marxist theory dictates that capitalism must come before socialism, which is state control of all industry, which then leads to communism, which is the dissolution of the state and the power being transferred to the workers.
Obviously, Marx’ definition of socialism doesn’t necessarily fit our modern view, as “democratic socialists” in the United States aren’t calling for full government takeovers of all industry, but again, they share the common belief that government must act to “right the wrongs” that capitalism has brought, it’s more or less an argument of how far.
Regardless, a 2016 poll proved that 69% of voters aged 18 to 29 were willing to vote for a socialist, and a 2017 poll found that 44% of millennial voters preferred to live under socialism, and a 2018 poll found that 62% of those age 18 to 34 believe “we need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems.” While it is easy to state that these individuals will follow the trend of becoming less inclined to favor government solutions throughout their lives, that isn’t a risk we should be willing to take. I shudder to think what the numbers in 2019 are.
Secondly, I suggest a turn towards the importance of individualism. Individuality remains a driving force in the minds of the youth, compelling them to differentiate themselves from their peers, trailblaze new paths through their blossoming careers, and continually push the boundaries of human ability. Millennials are no fans of authority, yet their willingness to cede power from themselves to it should cause conservatives pause, not ridicule.
If, in fact, this generation of cultured, educated, and hungry individuals are turning away from the system that will allow them the most freedom and the most opportunity, perhaps it is due to the defenders of that system lacking the ability to effectively defend it.
Third, conservatives must embrace compassion once again. Compulsory charity is nonexistent by its nature, and as such, conservatives should practice what they preach in being involved in our communities, givers to our churches and charities, and committed to helping our fellow man. This requires no new legislation, but it does require a personal commitment from those that seek to stem the rising tide of statist philosophy.
The early-19th century French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote that, “every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.” Those words still ring true today, but by championing charitable solutions and their successful applications, we can begin to present a superior alternative to government growth.
As younger generations turn down a path that seems inconceivable to those who think of themselves as wiser, recognize that both prosperity and despair are relative and subjective. Consider that suicide rates in both the United States ($62,518 per capita GDP) and Eritrea ($1,253 per capita GDP) are extremely similar, despite any objective analysis showing that those living in the United States are far more fortunate by any measurable economic analysis. The younger generation is constantly in search of meaning, of purpose, of belonging, and the burden lies with us to communicate that perhaps we have already discovered that light at the end of the tunnel. Let us convey to them the most self-empowering, individual-centric system that the Earth has ever seen: capitalism.
Photo: United States Senate, Public Domain