Professor Ralph Reiland reports on a Rasmussen survey of American adults in which only 53% of respondents agreed with the statement that capitalism is a better system than socialism. Some 20% favored socialism, and 27% were unsure which was better. Among young adults the results were even worse; only 37% of those under 30 favored capitalism versus 33% who favored socialism. Support for capitalism and opposition to socialism was higher in the older age groups.
Reiland suggested, with good reason, that many of the young respondents may not have had even the slightest understanding of the two economic systems. He reports on a survey he gave recently to 50 college-bound students, with several of the typical responses to the question “Define capitalism in 10 to 20 words”:
“Capitalism is making the most money for the government and having the government control the people.”
“Capitalism is the money that is in the government. It is when the government controls all the money.”
“Capitalism is based on a money-hungry nation, seeking to establish power through money.”
“Capitalism is when the government takes a bigger role in the economy and controls more things.”
“I have no clue what capitalism is because I’ve never paid any attention to politics or the world around me until this year.”
“Capitalism is everything that makes our government run properly.”
“Capitalism is how the government is run. It is the government system.”
“Capitalism is when the government has complete control over the decisions that the country makes.”
Reiland stated that these answers were from students primarily in the top half of their class. He also indicated that there were some better responses, in which students correctly identified capitalism as a free market system based on private ownership and private control of resources.
(1) Our political system does not adjust for voter ignorance. The less-informed majority can cancel out the votes of the more-informed minority.
(2) This is another example of the quality of our education system.
(3) Educating students and the general public on the meaning and effects of capitalism and socialism may be a wise investment.