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Sorry, Socialists: Capitalism Still Polls Way Better Than Politics

One has generated more wealth for more people than any other system ever tried, while the other has produced a long track record of failure, misery, and death.

SteveSands/NewYorkNewswire/MEGA / NewscomSteveSands/NewYorkNewswire/MEGA / NewscomIt hasn't exactly been the best year for capitalism.

Self-professed socialists (or "democratic socialists") are winning primary elections and promising massive new entitlement programs on the left, while free trade is under attack and tariffs are back in vogue on the right. On Twitter, #LateStageCapitalism has become a catch-all, post-post-ironic criticism for things that seem just a little too superflouous—supposedly revealing the essential flaws of a system that critics see as valuing stuff above all else.

Despite enjoying a growing economy, low unemployment, and a standard of living that was out of reach for the upper middle class just a few decades ago, Americans of every socioeconomic stratum seem more disgruntled than ever.

Zoom out, though, and capitalism is still doing pretty good.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last week found that capitalism is viewed favorably by 52 percent of registered voters, while a mere 18 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of it. That's almost the exact opposite of how Americans view socialism, with only 19 percent of voters in the poll saying they have a favorable view of socialism, compared with 52 who view it unfavorably.

But capitalism vs. socialism is almost an unfair fight. One system has generated more wealth for more people than any other economic system ever tried by human beings, while the other has produced a long track record of failed states, famines, economic catastrophes, and human misery almost without comparison. I mean, it's actually kind of impressive that socialism polls as well as it does.

But it turns out that Americans like capitalism better than—well, anything related to politics.

From the poll:

NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll (Sept. 16-19, 2018)NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll (Sept. 16-19, 2018)

The aggregate numbers do hide part of the story. Democrats are far more likely to have a favorable view of socialism—33 percent, versus just six percent of Republicans who feel the same way. And the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll did not include cross-tabs based on the age of respondents. If they did, their poll might reflect what others have shown, which is that young people are far more likely to favor socialism. Some recent polls show that as many as 50 percent of 18-29 year-olds holding favorable views of it.

But even under the rosiest set of scenarios, it's clear that a socialist revolution is not about to sweep across America. As The Wall Street Journal's Joshua Jamerson notes in his assessment of the poll results, the real capitalism/socialism divide is not between the right and the left of American politics, but rather between factions of the Democratic Party. Democrats who feel good about socialism are generally white, educated, and urban, while those opposed to it are generally older and more racially diverse.

Political victories for people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might help "normalize the s-word" in American politics, but it remains difficult to see the democratic socialists' "moment" as being more than an internecine fight on the left—the type of thing that happens when one political party has suffered a string of national defeats (see: Tea Party, 2010, Republicans).

More importantly, capitalism isn't going anywhere.

Sure, it's not perfect—systems operated by human beings never are. But we shouldn't be surprised that voters have a higher opinion of an economic system that generally makes things cheaper and more plentiful, especially when contrasted against the crapstorm of contemporary politics.

Photo Credit: SteveSands/NewYorkNewswire/MEGA / Newscom

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    That picture makes them look like an awesome British comedy duo bumbling their way through socialism.

  • ||

    My first thought was Democratic Socialist Gothic.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • D.D. Driver||

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg cosplay.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I see RBG as Dath Sideous' less attractive older sister.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Nobody bangin those two.

  • Anomalous||

    C. Nixon has a wife.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    while free trade is under attack and tariffs are back in vogue on the right

    Two things that never went out of vogue on the left. So... what you're saying is we're fucked in every hole.

  • Dillinger||

    chick in the photo standing next to the blonde dude could go as RBG for Halloween

  • Zeb||

    I'm pretty sure that's someone who is deliberately dressing as RBG.

  • CDRSchafer||

    Looks like Minnie Pearl's and Ruth Buzzie's love child.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Socialism is for fools who refuse to read the history of the 20th century.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    It's for fools who read "history", not history.

  • Anomalous||

    As written by Howard Zinn.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Socialism is for vermin who have read the history of the 20th century and want oremountains of corpses produced by socialism.

  • BigT||

    "Democrats who feel good about socialism are generally white, educated, and urban"

    That's a very strong condemnation of suburban/urban public schools.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "supposedly revealing the essential flaws of a system that critics see as valuing stuff above all else."

    So what if someone else values stuff above all else- you don't have to if you don't want to. But that's not good enough for the left. They want to force everybody to value things the way they value them and if that's not possible, to keep others from having things the left disapproves of. Shitheads.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "But that's not good enough for the left. They want to force everybody to value things the way they value them"

    What they really want is to get their paws onto other people's property.

    All their blather is just making rationalizations for doing exactly that.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    Sounds about right.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I disagree. The Left are perfectly willing to use Socialism as an scuse to steal, but it isn't their driving desire. What they desperately want is to be in a position to tell other people what to do.

  • creech||

    "revealing the essential flaws of a system that critics see as valuing stuff above all else."
    But isn't this exactly what socialism/collectivism does? "Free stuff for me and those I favor." At least capitalists expect to earn their stuff and, excluding the crony variety, don't expect to take it from you and me at the point of a gun.

  • Zeb||

    The funny thing is, socialists are more "all about stuff" in general than non-socialists. The entire project of socialism is completely concerned with who gets what stuff and is completely materialistic.

    I'm the worst consumer in the world. I don't buy a lot of stuff, I keep things until they are used up and I'm not terribly ambitious when it comes to career and money. And that fits perfectly well with my strong preference for freedom in all aspects of life. It works and it allows people to value whatever they want. It doesn't hurt me that some people are all about making money and having expensive stuff. In fact, it helps everyone.

  • aajax||

    Right now, the main opposition to capitalism is Trump's protectionist rampage and "crony capitalism". Anyway, I'm not sure that prioritizing public education, universal health care and fewer barriers to running for office has to be a huge negative. I look at Switzerland and I see a pretty free and robust society and economy, and in Scandinavia as well. In the US we spend too much money on illiberal projects like controlling the world and suppressing minorities through an archaic penal system, and all sorts of unnecessary regulation that amounts to crony capitalism.

  • Drave Robber||

    Mandatory:

    Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

    Robert A. Heinlein
  • Jerry B.||

    Listen to Bob. He knows.

  • Kirk Solo||

    Great Quote

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    A decent effort by Cortez, but the blue ribbon for Best HRC Cosplay is going to have to go to Tricky Cynth.

  • ||

    So, if you look at just the positives, Trump is more popular than Democrats, the GOP, or the Media. Only Obama or capitalism itself is more absolutely popular.

    Huh.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    But he is hated just as much as socialism is. They are the most hated things in America now. It doesn't make much sense, but polls can be misleading.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Great photo. I'm glad to see Ruth Buzzi back in the game.

  • JeremyR||

    Yeah, old people like capitalism. But they are going to die off.

  • Don't look at me.||

    We all will at some point.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Socialism gooses that effort a bit.

  • ||

    Yeah, old people like capitalism. But they are going to die off.

    And young people like socialism, but they will grow out of it (most of them).

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Dumb and Dumber" would be the appropriate alt text for that picture.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    More like Hot and Hotter...

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Only if you're blind in one eye and can't see out the other.

  • DiegoF||

    But is your third eye blind?

  • Anomalous||

    Is your third leg lame?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm pro sex-robot, so take my opinion with a grain of lithium.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Just looked closely at the poll. So The News Media is only slightly not as awful as socialism. Kay.

  • WhatAboutBob||

    Doesn't look good for the Democrats this November.

    GOP's favorability hits highest mark in seven years: Gallup

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its gonna be a bloodbath for Democrats.

    I dont think I will ever get tired of winning.

  • vek||

    I might get tired someday... But it will be after the public hanging for treason of half the politicians in Washington, and after their acolytes are all in forced labor camps... But once that has happened I might get tired of winning :)

  • DiegoF||

    Re that #LateStageCapitalism shit:

    "Anti-consumerism" is the most morally perverse ideology ever conceived that did not directly involve slaughtering innocent hordes of people. Even when I was a leftist myself I utterly loathed it. It is a socialism that wears its total detachment from the working class so obviously on its sleeve that even Communists who grew up poor can notice it. It's the socialism of people who are so comfortable that they have become bored with having the stuff they have, and turned against the very idea of wanting to live better.

    The real space to watch nowadays, as I'm always prattling on about, is the most potent hook this ideology now has--"concern for the evironment." In its most extreme manifestation we see literal "zero-growth economics," a concept so profoundly evil that there is little that can match it left on this earth. Perhaps we're not ready for that quite yet. But its softer, incrementalist versions abound and are not only tolerated but celebrated--various planet-woke pronouncements that humans are "a plague upon the earth," such as said by cuddly global treasure David Attenborough, who even got away with laying that specifically on the feet of reproducing Africans...

  • DiegoF||

    ...And, even more moderately than that, the science-free war on plastics, where we have reached a point where the crusaders are now confident in the public mood enough to openly declare that their bans will make little or no difference but are merely part of a long game to get people to "think differently" and "raise awareness" and soften them up for a complete revolt against modern convenience. These are people who are guilty about how easy life has become. "We started with straws because no one really needs them," they say from so firmly inside their solipsistic bubble of privilege that they cannot even conceive of anyone who does. Or rather, they don't care--as when the disabled (for whom whole businesses are regularly bankrupted for putting in a ramp a few degrees off from regulations) beg that they need straws for basic human dignity and suddenly get a cold FYTW. And of course the fanatics are celebrated for their fanaticism by the elite classes of all stripes, because green politics like woke politics has become the latest way to signal your social sophistication. They are winning, and they will win. The future is theirs.

  • chipper me timbers||

    A+ rant. Really great. Loved it. Would read again. Seriously.

  • BigT||

    "And of course the fanatics are celebrated for their fanaticism by the elite classes of all stripes, because green politics like woke politics has become the latest way to signal your social sophistication. "

    Just like religions.

  • Kirk Solo||

    First they came for the straws

  • swampwiz||

    Uh, like the "science-free" fact of the giant oceanic gyres of plastic?

  • Don't look at me.||

    Well, we have totally depleted the earths resources. Don't you know we like ran out of oil in the 70's?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    What do you expect, with the global ice age that happened back then?

  • Homple||

    Sorry, Socialists: Capitalism Still Polls Way Better Than Politics

    Revealed preferences say otherwise.

  • Rockabilly||

    I don't get it.

    If they want to leave under a socialist regime, why not move to Cuba?

    It's not that far away.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Because they want the "good" socialism, where they're in charge and we're in the labor camps.

    And they don't realize that win or lose, most socialist revolutionaries end up against the wall.

  • vek||

    I do want them to try to violently overthrow the government... I've never got to shoot a commie before, all I need is a good legit excuse like that they're violent insurrectionists!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the real capitalism/socialism divide is not between the right and the left of American politics, but rather between factions of the Democratic Party. Democrats who feel good about socialism are generally white, educated, and urban, while those opposed to it are generally older and more racially diverse.

    Ouch.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Older, as in "have seen the effects of socialism"?

  • Microaggressor||

    Educated, as in "have been taught a lot of things that aren't true"?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Thank you. Someone had to say it.

    "'Go to college' is to education what 'put things in your mouth' is to nutrition" -- Iowahawk.

  • buybuydandavis||

    " while the other has produced a long track record of failed states, famines, economic catastrophes, and human misery almost without comparison."

    But don't you know, those weren't *true* socialism.

    Ask Nick:
    "Totalitarians professing communism killed millions of people, but this analogy is flawed. Hitler was the leader of Nazism, Stalin the leader of...Stalinism, not communism."
    https://goo.gl/xnJ8CT

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    99% of Totalitarianists agree! Communism is the inherently perfect vehicle to hi-jack for terror and mayhem! Try it today!

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    More importantly, capitalism isn't going anywhere.


    Exactly. Otherwise all those rich Scandinavian countries won't be able to afford their Socialism.

  • BigT||

    Sweden is less socialist than the USA. You are stuck in the 80's.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    It hasn't exactly been the best year for capitalism.


    That's because Trump is president and so for Socialists ─and Trumpistas also(*)─ he is the face of Capitalism.

    (*) Gullible Trumpistas think Trump is a capitalist. And a stable genius who plays chess with his eyebrows or something.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Any Republican President would be the race of capitalism for the democrats. So?

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    But capitalism vs. socialism is almost an unfair fight.


    Not only unfair. It's an incorrect comparison. Capitalism is a process where Capital (postponed consumption, i.e. Savings), Capital Goods (land, tools, etc.) and Labor are mixed together to transform goods of a lesser value into goods of a higher value that can be traded for the purpose of wealth accumulation. Capitalism is thus not a philosophy but the result of two things: economic freedom and private property rights.

    Socialism, instead, is a political system based on the negation of a person's sovereignty and his or her right to property. Socialism is thus based on a totalitarian viewpoint where human existence is a means to an end, instead of humans being the measure of all things. Some people who fancy themselves 'Socialist' don't understand the implications of their beliefs, or have a completely wrong idea of what they think they believe. They use the term mostly to establish themselves as a virtuous good soul, which is ironic considering that Socialism is an attack on individual achievement.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Not only unfair. It's an incorrect comparison. Capitalism is a process where Capital (postponed consumption, i.e. Savings), Capital Goods (land, tools, etc.) and Labor are mixed together to transform goods of a lesser value into goods of a higher value that can be traded for the purpose of wealth accumulation.

    Check out Adam Smith over here.

    Look, all I want is my college and healthcare paid for by someone else. I hardly call that socialism.

  • Qsl||

    This isn't too far from the truth in my experience. While Americans support capitalism in the abstract, they also want numerous government programs. It's not even a left/right divide anymore as you can separate the two by which government programs they support (popular on the right is mandatory military service to get free college).

    That pretty much leaves the small government folks out in the cold, with the pragmatist navigating public whim in the least damaging way possible.

    In fact, an interpretation of Wagner's law is that increased welfare spending is an inherent byproduct of capitalism. You only get to choose the forms.

  • vek||

    Well, it is what it is. I've never thought we are ever going to get anywhere close to Libertopia.

    BUT the fact is that the types of programs, and the specific details of them matter A LOT. Well structured and incentivized "welfare" programs could work 10x as well as horribly thought out ones. $100 billion towards infrastructure that's actually needed is probably a better use than spending it blowing up the middle east. Etc.

    So while I never expect the world to work the way I think it should, if we could get a little more sanity and common sense in the mix, it would produce a lot better country overall.

  • Qsl||

    Try getting libertarians to even contemplate what a well structured welfare state would look like aaannnd you realize how fucked the future is.

    Even better, since libertarians refuse to participate short of slogans, that invariably means the actual policies will be set by people like Ocasio-Cortez and McConnell.

  • vek||

    Pretty much. Which is why I don't have high expectations! At best, I think we might get a real conservative/right wing movement in the USA again. We might trim dumb stuff a bit through such a movement, but we're not going to end up in libertopia.

    Despite that I mostly identify as a libertarian, IMO most libertarians are pretty much just as big of idiots as true believers in communism. ESPECIALLY the super purist anarcho-capitalist sorts. It's basically what I'd like to see, but it just ain't ever gonna happen, and having zero real policy proposals towards incrementally improving things mean it's just a non starter.

    But again, low expectations keep me sane :)

  • mpercy||

    "popular on the right is mandatory military service to get free college"

    Paid-for college as a part of compensation for military service is just that, part of the overall compensation. As such, it's capitalistic.

    I don't think very many people on the right want "mandatory military service" for anyone (unless there's a war). The right certainly doesn't want to give college away for free to everyone, but are willing to pay for college for military volunteers who've served their country.

    You've got your forcing functions out of alignment.

  • Qsl||

    Um, no.

    As it is, you are increasing the dole for THE largest jobs program in the US (hard to shrink the size of government when you are incentivizing adding more people [with the potential for lifetime careers and pensions] to the government payroll). On top of, you're going to add an earmark for education, which is nothing more than a subsidy with extra steps.

    That's capitalistic? Really?

    And out of all the possible people you could subsidize, you're going to pick the most able bodied; the most capable of getting by without a handout, or will you develop a wheelchair infantry and continue to erode standards for enlistment?

    Brilliant!

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "Some people who fancy themselves 'Socialist' don't understand the implications of their beliefs, or have a completely wrong idea of what they think they believe."

    I think a fair number of them do understand the implications, but also believe they'll be the ones holding the whip.

  • Gracchus||

    Capitalism is thus not a philosophy but the result of two things: economic freedom and private property rights.

    There's a distinction between capital accumulation (i.e. what you just described above) and capitalism. The former is a process, while the latter is a system. Also it's not entirely clear that "economic freedom" is the cause of capitalism; it is surely a necessary component, but generally speaking the majority of capitalist societies were either founded via colonization (i.e. North America) or the expropriation of feudal aristocrats and peasants (i.e. enclosure).

    Socialism, instead, is a political system based on the negation of a person's sovereignty and his or her right to property. Socialism is thus based on a totalitarian viewpoint where human existence is a means to an end, instead of humans being the measure of all things.

    I keep hearing different definitions of "socialism" being thrown around on this thread (and other conservative/libertarian sites). Quite frankly, the only meaning "socialism" really has in the U.S. is "stuff I don't want the government to do."

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Piss off, you statist fuckwit.....no one's buying what you're selling.

  • Gracchus||

    Piss off, you statist fuckwit

    That's your comeback? Try holding off on the ad hominems and actually debate the argument, shithead.

  • dgh888||

    Yeah says the shithead who allows thousands of people to starve to death and are homeless because he is a capitalist pig dog who should rot in hell for his sins

  • Grumpa||

    Six percent of Republicans, 33% of Democrats have a favorable view of socialism.
    Who are these people?
    I have a few additional questions the pollsters can ask...
    Do they get all their information from comedians?
    Do they believe in UFO abductions and Bigfoot?
    Are they the same people who have a favorable opinion of politicians?

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Yawn. These types of polls are so meaningless.

    When people on the left think of socialism, they tend to think of Denmark.
    When people on the right think of socialism, they tend to think of Venezuela.

    So this poll really says nothing at all.

  • Kirk Solo||

    well said.

  • ||

    When people on the left think of socialism, they tend to think of Denmark.

    Socialism in it's most palatable form is opposed by only 66% of democrats.

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    When people on the left think of socialism, they tend to think of Denmark which is actually a Mixed Economy.

    When people on the right think of socialism, they tend to think of Venezuela which actually IS Socialism.

  • Martin Brock||

    Yeah, but 70% of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, favor "Medicare for all", and 60% of Americans including a plurality of Republicans favor "free college", so while the word "socialism" remains unpopular, the welfare statism that "democratic socialists" advocate are not.

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    Yeah, but 83% of all polling stats cited without sourced references to the poll are made up.

  • Martin Brock||

    Yeah, but 100% of people reading this post can google as easily as I can.

    https://bit.ly/2xCbVLU

    https://bit.ly/2wBeFux

    You're not seriously surprised by these stats.

  • CDRSchafer||

    Capitalism is a Marxist term. Never allow Marxist scum to define terms.

    Free market is the proper term.

  • Rob Misek||

    Greed is popular.

  • CDRSchafer||

    More popular than bread lines, secret police and asshole progressive Marxists in charge. Yes it is.

  • mpercy||

    But bread lines are good, Bernie says, because that way people have food.

  • Spookk||

    Stupid premise for an article. Made stupider by sloppy terminology and even sloppier polling techniques.

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    It was also completely unnecessary. "What economic system is overwhelmingly preferred by humans on the planet Earth?" wouldn't exactly appear on the Jeopardy game as a stumper.

  • swampwiz||

    There is only a "low" unemployment rate because so many folks have simply given up working. Of course, since per capita output has continued to grow, the net per capita growth has still been going up.

    The real problem is inequality, with solutions from the Right & Left in the form of tariffs and Guaranteed Work, respectively. Capitalism cannot solve the problem once labor demand has structurally collapsed. Perhaps the solution is rationing of the ability to work or earn an income.

  • vek||

    As a capitalist pig, the potential for insane levels of automation, including replacing cognitive tasks with AI, thus rendering the vast majority of the population unemployable DOES kind of freak me out. Capitalism was undoubtedly the best form of economics in ALL of human history, and IMO still is right this minute... But if in 50 years 90% of the population is unemployable, that kind of throws a wrench in the whole concept. Granted, we'll be so wealthy and productive we very well could just have UBI and bread and circuses and whatnot... But the idea still just kind of creeps me out.

    Hopefully I, and many people smarter than I am, who think that type of scenario is the most likely one are simply wrong. The only way I can see this happening is if the market decides to employ people just because to do lots of things. Like no robo barista, we want a cute chick doing it, even though it's 5x the cost etc. I guess we'll find out...

  • dgh888||

    Wow are you really this stupid our economy is getting worst while you sit there are read a lie made by the government pig dogs who want you to think this maybe quit being such a moron and look around you jobs are still scarce people are unable to have proper homes and thousands of people are homeless because of Capitalism. if you support it you are a devil worshiper and should burn in hell for you sins. Read the real guide on the Wikipedia made by the people and not some damn government made website who rather make you think everything is okay instead of telling you the truth

  • ||

    Capitalism = economic freedom. Socialism = economic authoritarianism. Capitalism isn't perfect? Neither is life. There are no guarantees in a free society. If you want a guarantee, live in a full-blown socialist society, like Cuba, Venezuela. I guarantee you, it is hell for voluntaryists, i.e., those who value the freedom to chose.

    Unfortunately, most want the freedom to chose for themselves, others, not so much. They want a ruler who enforces their prejudices, their way of life, their society. Freedom for me, because I'm right, you're not. And if I find I made a mistake, no matter, I thought I was right, and I forgive myself because I had the common good as my goal.

    Of course, the collective (common) good is the sum of individual successes. That is not achieved by sacrificing the individual (a concrete) to an abstract (imaginary?) concept that is a fantasy that varies with everyone who holds it.

  • dgh888||

    Capitalism is why so many are hungry and starving to death you people sicken me to honest I feel you are a bunch silver spoon feed rich pompous idiots who been handed everything in your whole life and never understood what it means for young people like us we struggle day in and out to because of scumbags like you who think capitalism is okay it will soon be dead and you old pompous farts will be gone and America will have the rights and freedoms we deserve while people like you rot either in jail or rot in creaky old apartments like we do every day someday the tables will turn or god will throw you in hell for your sins against humanity you pompous old fart you are the reason why murder and mayhem still happen here in this country do us a favor and just drop dead you capitalist pigs.

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