Socialism vs Libertarianism: Battle for the Soul of the Millennial Generation
Many people have described the character traits of the Millennial Generation. There are positives and negatives assigned to us. We are selfish and narcissistic, but also free thinkers and passionate about truth and justice. Although socialism and libertarianism are at odds philosophically, they both appeal to many of the same attributes of our generation. We are already seeing a split forming within our age group as we enter politics and the work force. The essential divide is between those who value equality, and those who value liberty.
Ron Paul introduced Millennials to libertarianism in 2008. He was a different kind of Republican, one who spoke out against the wars on terror and drugs. He first came onto the national scene at the end of the Bush presidency, a time of great angst over our involvement in the Middle East, and increased public awareness of medical marijuana.
In the end, Obama won the 2008 election by playing on the same themes. In reality, he turned out to be just as hawkish as any neoconservative and actually increased raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. He also continued the bailouts and economic interventions for the benefit of his Wall Street backers. These facts are conveniently ignored by his rabid supporters.
A similar, but more deranged, series of events is now playing out in the current election. Bernie Sanders energized the youth vote by appealing to the sense that we have been screwed over by people more powerful than us. He blamed the super-rich, and certainly he is right about some things. The elites in our society buy politicians like we buy a gallon of milk. The solution to this problem is not to give more power to the politicians, who will continue to sell out. Even Bernie sold out in the end, and endorsed Wall Street’s preferred candidate.
Although Donald Trump doesn’t have the same pull with Millennials that Barack Obama did, he plays on the same sense of lost hope, and his opponent might have even less appeal. He knows how easy politicians are to buy, because he used to be the one buying them. On foreign policy he is no Ron Paul, but doesn’t appear to want to start a war with Russia. His solutions may be a step up from Hillary Clinton, but they are certainly not good ideas. At most, he stops the downward spiral, but doesn’t start us back up in the right direction. At worst, he is just as much of a con artist as Obama.
There is no question that Millennials are disillusioned with the status quo, and are looking for different solutions. We are truth seekers and justice fighters, and we aren’t willing to accept the mainstream consensus. Many of us are reading the kinds of books that were never assigned in school. Some of us are reading Chomsky, and others are reading Rothbard.
We want transparency and honesty. We know that the current system is corrupt, perhaps even evil. We know that the little guy is being stepped on and rolled over by powerful elites. We question authority, and we want real change. The appeal of both Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders is that they both appear to be consistent and truthful, and the establishment feared them.
The left wing has a strong advantage in this struggle for the Millennial generation. We spent over a decade forced to attend public schools controlled by The State, run by unions, and filled with progressive indoctrination. I can probably count on one hand the number of conservative teachers I had growing up, and I never had an open libertarian. I did have several Marxists, however. What the left does not have on their side is truth, or history. Their ideologies have failed repeatedly, and led to millions of deaths.
As Millennials enter the private sector, we are starting to realize just how much our education has failed us. We know now that we were lied to. We can’t be whatever we want, we can’t just go to college and major in Sociology with a minor in Gender Studies and expect to have a job waiting for us. We do have tremendous opportunities available to us thanks to the Internet and our networking skills. The most successful of us are free thinkers, anti-authoritarians, and entrepreneurs. Some of us are starting to realize that participation in a free market is about providing value to others, but some are simply angry and expect others to take care of us.
The Internet has also connected us with people around the world. Millennials are highly individualistic, but also consider themselves to be part of a global community. In some ways we are very collectivist, and identify with the groups where we inherently or selectively belong. We also place value on our ability to stand out from the crowd. Our collectivist tendencies draw us to Socialism, and our individualism draws us to libertarianism. The sense of connection we have to the rest of the world makes world government entities like the UN attractive to some, and unimpeded global trade attractive to others.
This global outlook has also led to a strong appreciation for diversity and tolerance. We value the life experiences and perspectives of others. Given our Statist indoctrination, this leads many to the conclusion that multiculturalism and diversity should be promoted by government. In practice, however, this leads to separation and grouping of individuals based on race, ethnicity, sex, and a number of other characteristics. The State views people like ingredients, and try to create the perfect mixture.
As individuals, we are more than the sum of these characteristics. Libertarians believe in free association, and don’t believe in the use of force. If people wish to group themselves voluntarily, they should be allowed to do so. If they wish to restrict access of private property to people who are not like them, we have no problem with that. Universities should be allowed to have safe spaces and classes that only allow ethnic minorities, but I will never give a rotten cent of my money to one of these abominable institutions, or any other that discriminates based on race.
Millennials are passionate, and have a strong sense of morals and fairness. How these values translate into ethical rules and the way that society is organized differs between socialists and libertarians. Socialists are mostly concerned with the wealth disparity between rich and poor. They consider it to be unfair that some people have more money than others, and that some people work hard but struggle financially.
Libertarians think that it is unfair not to treat everyone equally, and immoral to use violence for any purpose other than defense. Some people naturally accumulate more wealth because they provide more value, and deserve to be compensated accordingly. Libertarians are concerned with personal freedom and detest the use of aggressive force. Using violence to take wealth from the people who provide the most value and distribute it to those who provide the least is no less evil than robbing the poor to give to the rich. What’s more, the socialist ideal does not lead to a higher standard of living or improved lives for the poor. I would rather be poor in a wealthy capitalist country than a poor person in Venezuela.
Most of the Millennial Democrats are socialists, and most Millennial Republicans are libertarians. Young Democrats want radical wealth redistribution, and a large government safety net paid for by the rich. They don’t think of this system as authoritarian because the establishment they fear are the wealthy corporate fat cats. Young Republicans want less government control over their lives, and an end to the failed wars on drugs and terror. There is currently a tinge of nationalism and protectionism, as well as a love of police and military, however. The weak point for both young Democrats and young Republicans is an understanding of economics. I blame this on the public school system.
The shifting of our major political parties toward socialism on the left and libertarianism on the right will continue over the coming decades. Millennials are quickly becoming the largest voting demographic, but getting us out to the polls is not easy. We are idealistic, and aren’t willing to carry water for a candidate who doesn’t meet our standards. It is frustrating for us right now, but I have no doubt that more candidates similar to Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders will enter the arena.
I believe that Socialism will lose in the end. At one point I thought that Sanders was the final return of socialism, like the monster coming back to life for one last scare at the end of a horror movie. In order to prevent a replay of the roughly 100 million of deaths in the 20th century caused by socialism, we will need to be constantly vigilant, and support candidates who oppose this failed philosophy.