Here at BFI, we try not to get tangled in politics too much. It’s always messy and the world is not black and white – it is a massive quagmire of grey shades. Nevertheless, a recent article published on September 11th by libertarian Jacob G. Hornberger is worth reading. It addresses an important trend you do have to wonder about: Why do so many young people (and older ones too) still fall for socialism?
Public opinion polls reflect that large numbers of Americans in their 20s and 30s (i.e., Gen Z and millennials) support socialism. When one considers the indoctrination to which these young Americans have been subjected in their state-run educational systems, their preference for socialism actually makes sense.
From the first grade, American students are indoctrinated with the notion that they live in a free country, one that has a free-enterprise economic system. By the time they graduate from high school, students have no doubts that this is true. The notion is refortified in those students who go on to college. By the time Americans start their careers, their mindsets are set in concrete: They are grateful that they live in a free country. Many of them continue reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which they learned in school and which they were expected to recite every day, a pledge that confirms that in America there is “liberty for all.”
Now, look around you. Examine the society in which you live. There are crises, chaos, and mayhem everywhere. Social Security. Health care. Immigration. Federal spending and debt. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Korea. Russia. China. Drug war. Forever wars. Secret surveillance. Assassinations. Death. Destruction. Bombings. Terrorism. Mass killings. Tribunals. Torture. Indefinite detention. Militarism. Invasions. Occupations. Coups. Regime-change operations. Trade wars. Sanctions. Embargoes. Police states. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Homelessness. Poverty. Suicides.
It’s not a pretty picture, is it? It’s a picture of a quite dysfunctional society.
In the mind of the Gen Zer and the millennial, that is what comes with freedom and free enterprise. Thus, it’s perfectly logical to want something else, and that something else happens to be socialism. It even makes sense that so many young people decide to check out of life early through suicide. They’re thinking, “If this is freedom — if this is the best there is — no, thanks. I’m leaving and hopefully going on to something better.”
Conservatives and liberals
Moreover, it’s not just people in their 20s and 30s who believe this. Conservatives and progressives (i.e. liberals or leftists) believe the same thing. They all fervently believe in the words of the Lee Greenwood song, “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.” That’s why whenever they see a U.S. soldier, they go out of their way to thank him for “his service” in keeping America free. They have absolutely no doubts that they live in a free country, one that has a free-enterprise economic system.
Ironically, however, conservatives and liberals divide into two camps: Conservatives decry socialism and defend what they are convinced is America’s free-enterprise system. Liberals decry what they too are convinced is America’s free-enterprise system and want it replaced with a socialist system.
It’s all one great big confused mindset, one that is the direct result of state indoctrination.
The libertarian breakthrough
What distinguishes us libertarians from non-libertarians is that we have succeeded in breaking through the state’s system of indoctrination.
The truth is that Americans are not free, and they don’t live in a free-enterprise system. What the state ingrained during those long years in the state’s education system was a lie from the start. Americans live their lives as serfs on a giant government plantation, one that is based on the statist principles of socialism, interventionism, militarism, and imperialism.
America’s system is based on massive mandatory charity. Through such programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, farm subsidies, foreign aid, and thousands of others, Americans are forced to be good, caring, and compassionate. There is no way to reconcile that type of system with freedom. Freedom necessarily entails the right to make charitable decisions on a purely voluntary basis.
America’s system is also based on control, regulation, and management of peaceful activity. The drug war is a good example. President Trump’s trade wars and unilateral impositions of tariffs, sanctions, and embargoes is another. America’s system of immigration controls is another. There is no way to reconcile such a system with the principles of a genuinely free society. A free society necessarily entails ingesting whatever you want, no matter how harmful, traveling wherever you want, and doing whatever you want with your own money.
America’s system is also based on a national-security state, a type of totalitarian government structure, one that comes with assassination, torture, coups, invasions, bombings, sanctions, embargoes, wars of aggression, occupations, indefinite detention, military tribunals, death, suffering, and destruction. There is no way that such things can be reconciled with the principles of a genuinely free society. A free society necessarily entails a limited-government republic type of governmental system.
Thus, we libertarians lament the dysfunctional state of American society, just as many Gen Xers, millennials, and leftists do. The difference is that they think that the dysfunctionality is the result of freedom and free enterprise and, therefore, want socialism to replace it. We libertarians, on the other hand, realize that the dysfunctionality in American society is owing to the socialist, interventionist, militarist, and imperialist system under which we live, which is why we favor a genuinely free society, a genuine free-enterprise system, and the restoration of a limited-government republic.
The hope for America
Given the popularity of statism among Gen Zers, millennials, conservatives, and liberals, is there much hope for putting Americans back on the right track?
Of course there is! Since we libertarians have succeeded in breaking through the indoctrination to which the state subjected us in its educational system, so can others. We libertarians just need to keep speaking the truth and sticking to our principles. That’s the best way to help others achieve the same breakthrough that we libertarians have achieved.