Get Rid of Capitalism? Millennials Are Ready to Talk About It

One of the hottest tickets in New York City this weekend was a discussion on whether to overthrow capitalism.

The first run of tickets to “Capitalism: A Debate” sold out in a day. So the organizers, a pair of magazines with clear ideological affiliations, socialist and libertarian , found a larger venue: Cooper Union’s 960-capacity Great Hall, the site of an 1860 antislavery speech by Abraham Lincoln. The event sold out once again, this time in eight hours.

The crowd waiting in a long line to get inside on Friday night was mostly young and mostly male. Asher Kaplan and Gabriel Gutierrez, both 24, hoped the event would be a real-life version of the humorous, anarchic political debates on social media. “So much of this stuff is a battle that’s waged online,” said Gutierrez, who identifies, along with Kaplan, as a “leftist,” if not quite a socialist.

These days, among young people, socialism is “both a political identity and a culture,” Kaplan said. And it looks increasingly attractive.

Young Americans have soured on capitalism. In a Harvard University poll conducted last year, 51 percent of 18-to-29 year-olds in the U.S. said they opposed capitalism; only 42 percent expressed support. Among Americans of all ages, by contrast, a Gallup survey last year found that 60 percent held positive views of capitalism.

A poll released last month found American millennials closely split on the question of what type of society they would prefer to live in: 44 percent picked a socialist country, 42 percent a capitalist one. The poll, conducted by YouGov and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, found that 59 percent of Americans across all age groups preferred to live under capitalism.

“I’ve seen the failings of modern-day capitalism,” said Grayson SussmanSquires, an 18-year-old student at Wesleyan University who had turned up for the capitalism debate. To him and many of his peers, he said, the notion of well-functioning capitalist order is something recounted only by older people. He was 10 when the financial crisis hit, old to enough to watch his older siblings struggle to get jobs out of college. In high school, SussmanSquires said, he volunteered for the presidential campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist. “It spoke to me in a way nothing had before,” he said.

Although debate attendees leaned left, several expressed the desire to have their views challenged by the pro-capitalist side. “It’s very easy to exist in a social group where everyone has the same political vibe,” Kaplan said.

“I’m immersed in one side of the debate,” said Thomas Doscher, 26, a labor organizer who is studying for his LSATs. “I want to hear the other side.”

The debate pitted two socialist stalwarts, Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara and New York University professor Vivek Chibber, against the defenders of capitalism, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason’s editor in chief, and Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason TV.

And it was the attempt to rebuff criticism of capitalism that mostly riled up the crowd.

Chibber argued that the problem with capitalism is the power it has over workers. With the weakening of U.S. labor unions, “we have a complete despotism of the employers,” he said, leading to stagnant wages. When Mangu-Ward countered that Americans aren’t coerced on the job, the crowd erupted in laughter. “Every morning you wake up and you have a decision about whether or not you’re going to go to work,” she insisted, and the audience laughed again.

Sunkara summed up his argument for socialism as a society that helped people tackle the necessities of life—food, housing, education, health care, childcare. “Wherever we end up, it won’t be a utopia,” he said. “It will still be a place where you might get your heart broken,” or feel lonely, or get indigestion.

Mangu-Ward replied: “Capitalism kind of [fixes] those things, actually.” There’s the app Tinder to find dates, and Pepto Bismol to cure your upset stomach. “Those are the gifts of capitalism,” she said.

The arguments stayed mostly abstract. Sunkara and Chibber insisted their idea of democratic socialism shouldn’t be confused with the communist dictatorships that killed millions of people in the 20th century. Mangu-Ward and Gillespie likewise insisted on defending a capitalist ideal, not the current, corrupt reality. “Neither Nick nor I are fans of big business,” she said. “We’re not fans of crony capitalism.”

Talking theory left little time to wrestle with concrete problems, such as inequality or climate change. That frustrated Nathaniel Granor, a 31-year-old from Brooklyn who said he was worried about millions of people being put out of work by automation such as driverless vehicles.

“It didn't touch on what I feel is the heart of the matter,” Granor said. Both capitalism and socialism might ideally be ways to improve the world, he concluded, but both can fall short when applied in the real world. 

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/get-rid-of-capitalism-millennials-are-ready-to-talk-about-it

    Americans Are Officially Freaking Out

    For those lying awake at night worried about health care, the economy, and an overall feeling of divide between you and your neighbors, there’s at least one source of comfort: Your neighbors might very well be lying awake, too.

    Almost two-thirds of Americans, or 63 percent, report being stressed about the future of the nation, according to the American Psychological Association’s Eleventh Stress in America survey, conducted in August and released on Wednesday.  This worry about the fate of the union tops longstanding stressors such as money (62 percent) and work (61 percent) and also cuts across political proclivities. However, a significantly larger proportion of Democrats (73 percent) reported feeling stress than independents (59 percent) and Republicans (56 percent).

    The “current social divisiveness” in America was reported by 59 percent of those surveyed as a cause of their own malaise. When the APA surveyed Americans a year ago, 52 percent said they were stressed by the presidential campaign. Since then, anxieties have only grown.

    A majority of the more than 3,400 Americans polled, 59 percent, said “they consider this to to be the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.” That sentiment spanned generations, including those that lived through World War II, the Vietnam War, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. (Some 30 percent of people polled cited terrorism as a source of concern, a number that’s likely to rise given the alleged terrorist attack in New York City on Tuesday.)

    “We have a picture that says people are concerned,” said Arthur Evans, APA’s chief executive officer. “Any one data point may not not be so important, but taken together, it starts to paint a picture.”

    The survey didn’t ask respondents specifically about the administration of President Donald Trump, Evans said. He points to the “acrimony in the public discourse” and “the general feeling that we are divided as a country” as being more important than any particular person or political party.

    Yet he and the study note that particular policy issues are a major source of anxiety. Some 43 percent of respondents said health care was a cause. The economy (35 percent) and trust in government (32 percent) also ranked highly, as did hate crimes (31 percent) and crime in general (31 percent). 

     

    “Policymakers need to understand that this is an issue that is important to people, that the uncertainty is having an impact on stress levels, and that stress has an impact on health status,” Evans said, pointing out that the relationship between stress and health is well-established

    • And keeping up with the latest developments is a source of worry all its own. Most Americans—56 percent—said they want to stay informed, but the news causes them stress. (Yet even more, 72 percent, said “the media blows things out of proportion.”)

    The APA survey did find, however, that not everyone is feeling the same degree of anxiety. Women normally report higher levels of stress than men, though worries among both genders tend to rise or fall in tandem. This year, however, they diverged: On a 10-point scale, women reported a slight increase in stress, rising from an average 5.0 in 2016 to 5.1 in 2017, while the level for men dropped, from an average 4.6 to 4.4. 

    Racial divides also exist in reported stress. While the levels among blacks and Hispanics were lower in 2016 than the year before, they rose for both groups in 2017, to 5.2 for Hispanic adults and 5.0 for black adults. Among whites, meanwhile, the average remained the same, at 4.7. 

    The report also notes that many Americans are finding at least one healthy way to feel better: 53 percent reported exercising or doing other physical activity to cope. Social support is also important,  Evans said. “Third,” he says, “I think it’s really important for people to disconnect from the constant barrage of information.” 

    1. The 2017 Stress in America survey was conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the APA. It was conducted online between Aug. 2 and Aug. 31, and had 3,440 participants, all ages 18 and up living in the U.S. It included 1,376 men, 2,047 women, 1,088 whites, 810 Hispanics, 808 blacks, 506 Asians and 206 Native Americans. Data were then weighted by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education and household income to reflect America's demographics accurately. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-01/americans-are-officially-freaking-out