Election 2016

Here's a Great Question for Tonight's Debate: What Are Clinton and Trump Going To Do about 'Mutant Capitalism'?

Millennials are rightly skeptical of an economic system that rewards politically connected cronies rather than innovation and hard work.


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Ah, the kids these days!

Those millennials hate capitalism, don't they, the very bedrock of the country? Holy hell, 42 percent say they prefer socialism as the best way to organize society! As pollster Frank Luntz has pronounced, "the hostility of young Americans to the underpinnings of the American economy and the American government ought to frighten every business and political leader."

An excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal by Christopher Koopman of the Mercatus Center pushes back on this, noting, among other things, that millennials don't actually know what socialism means (in making this point, he relies on the Reason-Rupe poll of millennials, a benchmark of that cohort's attitudes towards politics, business, and culture). Koopman points out that most millennials have come of age in an era of bank bailouts and rampant cronyism, in which certain players (say, taxicab owners) get government protection from new and competing ways of delivering services and goods (think Uber).

Strip away the titles of "capitalism" and "socialism," and the responses become drastically different. A…Reason-Rupe poll found that college-aged respondents are far more supportive of a "free-market system" (72%) than they are of a "government-managed economy" (49%). In reality, millennials—regardless of party or ideology—have arrived at a surprising consensus: We support free markets, are very much unhappy with the current state of affairs, and are still looking for change.

This is good news, but it should also serve as a warning. Perhaps at no time in history has it been more important to differentiate genuine capitalism from the mutant system that has dominated economic policy over the last decade. Yet Mr. Luntz's analysis is still absolutely right: Millennials are hostile to the underpinnings of the American economy. We simply shouldn't confuse that economy with capitalism.

That's exactly right, and it suggests a great question for tonight's debate between the two most-disliked presidential candidates in the era of polling: "Donald Trump, you've made your fortune in large part by leveraging political connections to get preferential zoning, land-use, and tax treatments. Hillary Clinton, you've bragged about being the senator from Wall Street and Wikileaks shows that you have a very tight, profitable relationship with the financial industry. You're both running on openly protectionist economic platforms. What will each of you do to make free enterprise great again? Or at least free from intervention in which the government picks winners and losers based on political considerations?"

Check out Reason's special page about "Why Millennials Aren't Listening To You. And That's a Good Thing."

Back in 2008, Emory English prof and The Dumbest Generation author Mark Bauerlein argued that, no, really, millennials really are that stupid. Take a look: