We free marketeers are talking past millennial socialists. We tend to replay old film footage of the horrors of the USSR, China under Mao, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, hoping to frighten them out of their puppy love with socialism. Millennials respond by saying they don’t want to repeat any of those disasters; all they want is for the rich to share their wealth with others, like the Nordic countries. It won’t lead to tyranny. What’s wrong with that?
Some millennials find just the existence of billionaires disgusting and want to euthanize the class. Those whom envy consumes I can only recommend that they learn to love their rich neighbor as they love themselves. Those who think that billionaires have caused poverty by taking from the poor need to learn real economics.
For the rest, there are quite a few reasons why forced “sharing” at the end of Uncle Sam’s gun barrel is wrong. For one, it’s immoral for the state to discriminate against citizens based on wealth. Americans understood that until the 20th century. Then they quit caring and let their envy have free rein.
Another reason is similar to the old Lays potato chip commerce that said, “You can’t eat just one!” We can’t have just one regulation. State power is a force for good when kept within its God-given barn of protecting citizens’ rights to life, liberty and property. But once let it out of the barn, it does a lot of unintended damage. As Mises used to say, every state intervention into the market fails to accomplish the goals of those who proposed the intervention. But instead of removing the intervention, they double down and add a dozen more interventions trying to correct the bad results of the first one.
That was the main point of Hayek’s famous book, The Road to Serfdom. Partly, he wanted to convince his British countrymen that Nazism is socialist and not the terminal point of capitalism as was popular in his day. Mostly, he argued along the lines of the slippery slope. Each intervention causes more problems than it solves, which inspires socialists to demand more interventions. After enough interventions you end up with tyranny like that of the Nazis and Stalinists.
Millennials will argue that “in the long run we’re all dead.” So let’s experiment and let the chips fall where they may. We can always fix things later. After all, paid family leave, universal healthcare and free college won’t lead to the rise of Hitler.
Except it can. Not next year, clearly. We can ignore the long run for quite a while, but she shows up eventually and when she does she is ugly and mad as any scorned woman. Most of the problems that millennials see in the US today are the result of our grandparents ignoring the long run consequences of their decisions.
For example, millennials are appalled at the high cost of medical care and they should be. They should know that the American Medical Association has used the power of the state to keep medical care expensive for over a century. The AMA started by making it illegal for non-licensed doctors to practice medicine at a time when traditional herbal medicine was safer than going to an MD. Then they made all medical schools illegal except AMA approved ones. They made medical students get a BS degree before they could go to medical school. The AMA acts as the doctors’ union that bribes law makers to pass laws or make regulations that continually raise their pay, all in the name of health and safety, of course.
Millennials think medicine is too expensive, but they don’t know that big pharma controls the FDA and uses that power to keep smaller competitors out through massive regulations that only the largest corporations can afford, all in the name of health and safety, of course. And the government gives big pharma long term patents on new drugs which creates monopolies. There are no monopolies in the country that the state hasn’t created. Then millennials are shocked that big pharma acts like a monopoly and raises prices.
Millennials don’t like the fact that their college degrees don’t earn them the income that schools taught them to expect, if they can find a job. Then they have massive debts to pay off when they graduate. College used to be the playground of the rich while most people could get good paying jobs with only a high school diploma. Socialists thought that if they could get every person in the US a college degree it would reduce the income inequality that they saw as the root of all evil.
So they had the government give grants and loans to anyone who could spell his name and colleges flooded the country with newly minted diplomas. But just as happens with money, diploma inflation erupted. In other words, with so many new diplomas chasing so few jobs, diplomas became worth a lot less. In addition, employers began requiring college degrees for street sweeping jobs as a means to weed out applicants. After all, who wouldn’t prefer a street sweeper with a master degree in street maintenance over someone with a high school diploma?
I could write an encyclopedia on the many ways the state has caused the problems that millennials complain about and yet want the state to solve. I sometimes play a game with people and ask them to name a problem and I’ll show them how state intervention has caused it.
Millennials need to learn from the Nordic countries they admire so much. Over the past two decades they realized that creeping socialism was impoverishing them and if continued would lead to tyranny. So they have rolled backed much of their socialism. Today they’re hardly more socialist than the US. Free to Choose has a great documentary on the real Sweden, produced by a Swede, called Sweden: Lessons for America? Millennials probably don’t know that Sweden has replaced its public school system with a voucher system.
Every generation for the past century has wanted to add one more socialist program that they thought could do no harm. Today the US is far more socialist and closer to tyranny than ever.