Vail Valley Voices: What are we teaching our kids?
On June 26, 1963, in what was to become John F. Kennedy’s most significant speech, the young American president told an adoring crowd of 1 million West Berliners, “There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world. … Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. … Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. To them I also say, let them come to Berlin!”
Modern socialism originated with late-19th-century intellectuals critical of the effects of industrialization and private ownership on society. Karl Marx posited that socialism would be achieved via class struggle and a proletarian revolution and would represent a transitional stage between the capitalist and communist modes of production and distribution.
We know from our civics classes that socialism refers to a broad set of economic principles advocating state ownership and administration of the means of production and the distribution of goods in a society. In theory, we’re told that such a society would
be characterized by equality for all individuals with a fair method of
However, after socialism evolved from a theory to being an actual economic system, the fact became painfully apparent that people living under socialistic governments had a far more difficult time affording goods and services that people living in capitalistic societies could not only afford but in many cases took for granted.
In all of recorded history, the only verifiable instances when the masses have escaped oppressive governments and grinding poverty are in nations where capitalism and, by extension, free markets flourish.
A quick glance around the world illustrates clearly that the economically worst-off societies are those that have never embraced capitalism.
Nevertheless, according to Rasmussen Reports, only 53 percent of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism. The latest Rasmussen national telephone survey found that 20 percent disagree and say socialism is better, while 27 percent are not sure which is better.
On balance, adults in their 30s believe in the free-enterprise approach, with 49 percent for capitalism and 26 percent for socialism. Adults older than 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13 percent of those older Americans believe socialism is better.
Meanwhile, investors by a 5-to-1 margin choose capitalism. As for those who do not invest, 40 percent say capitalism is better, while 25 percent prefer socialism.
There is also a significant partisan gap. Republicans,by an 11 to 1 margin, favor capitalism, while Democrats are much more closely divided. Just 39 percent say capitalism is better, while 30 percent prefer socialism.
As for those not affiliated with either major political party, 48 percent say capitalism is best, and 21 percent opt for socialism. (As a sidebar, Eastern Europeans who have had actual firsthand experience living under socialism believe by a ratio of 9 to 1 that capitalism is unconditionally superior to socialism.)
However, young Americans between the ages of 17 and 29 don’t quite see it that way and are, as a practical matter, evenly divided on the issue. To wit: 37 percent prefer capitalism, 33 percent prefer socialism, and 30 percent are undecided.
Which brings me to the point of this commentary: What have our schools been teaching our kids about government for the past 20 years?
Nearly every great invention and advance in medicine, transportation, engineering, mass production and agriculture has emanated from capitalistic societies.
Meanwhile, the instances of one capitalistic nation going to war against a nation with a similarly based economy are almost nonexistent.
Socialistic nations, including those run by despots, have been warring with one another throughout modern history, killing millions in the process.
Socialistic theories are fine as a matter of academics, but with regard to actually lifting the have-nots from the depths of privation, history has conclusively demonstrated that no other form of economic system holds a candle to capitalism.
So why do only slightly more than a third of adults between the ages of 17 and 30 believe that capitalism is superior to socialism?
Perhaps there are too many Ward Churchills who under the protection of the First Amendment feel they can disseminate disinformation and poison the minds of our young people.
But with the billions the Obama administration intends to spend on education, perhaps some of that money should be earmarked for an in-depth study of the real-world facts regarding capitalism and socialism. And instead of the egalitarian nonsense being proffered by too many of our educators from grade school through the university level, perhaps they should contrast the actual standards of living spawned by these two systems. If the debate is predicated upon reality ” i.e., the general well-being of those who live under the respective systems ” well, as they say in the vernacular, it’s a slam dunk. Capitalism wins!