Benjamin Shelton: Young people in America understand the benefits of capitalism

UVU professor was wrong to claim that young people see a ‘capitalist hellscape’

Why would a professor at Utah Valley University incorrectly claim that “today’s young people are quite aware of the capitalist hellscape they’re going through and they are turning to the vision of a rationally planned socialist economy”?

Recently, Professor Kelli Potter attacked young individuals’ faith in capitalism through an op-ed appearing in the Salt Lake Tribune. Disappointingly, Potter uses misguided evidence and falsities to support her opinions. It is incredibly misguided and flawed to put forth the assertion that youth are moving away from one of America’s defining features, capitalism.

Porter is correct in stating that youth understand these economic systems. However, a more critical and rational perspective, than what Potter provides, of young people’s understanding regarding capitalism, focuses on the fact that well over 80% of young adults hold a positive view of free enterprise. Additionally, 97% of young people view small businesses as a positive thing.

Youth know that America can provide enormous opportunity, innovation, and stability through capitalism. Young people today also value freedom, liberty, and individuality. These are all things socialism fails to provide.

Today’s young individuals are increasingly embracing capitalism through their entrepreneurial spirit. This generation is even starting twice as many businesses as the baby boomer generation did.

Examples of capitalism providing youth with astonishing opportunities through entrepreneurship are not hard to find. These stories are rampant within our society and in the media.

Just look at the story of Makaila Ulmer. At just 11, Makaila started her business, Me & the Bees Lemonade. Makaila has been able to rapidly grow her company and even appeared on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank.

Makaila’s story doesn’t just highlight how capitalism provides youth with opportunities but also demonstrates how capitalism can aid social causes. Makaila is using her business to help save the bees, something all Utahns can support, through donating a percentage of her profits.

Success stories like Makaila’s would not be prevalent under socialism.

In Potter’s analysis of why youth are becoming socialist, she uses climate change as a factor that demonstrates capitalism’s evils.

Capitalism should not be chalked up as the cause of climate change but should be viewed as its solution. In the face of the government’s ineffectiveness in addressing climate change, capitalism provides the only pathway to create innovative solutions to this issue.

Specifically, capitalism and the free market can act as a catalyst to society generating cost-effective solutions to climate change. Capitalism working to address climate change is already occurring with businesses promoting solar power, wind power, and electric cars.

It is clear that capitalism provides a quick working mechanism to create innovations that better lives and society.

Potter levels perhaps what she believes to be her most damning criticism of capitalism by detailing how she sees it creating inequality. Equating capitalism with inequality enthralls individuals as it is easy to see that some individuals have more money than others.

The current economic system in the US is not, as some like to claim, unfettered capitalism. Our labyrinthine licensing and regulatory rules do pick winners and losers and do exacerbate inequality. But that’s not on capitalism. That’s on government and its interventions into the free market.

A more accurate term for our current economic system is “cronyism” (which “capitalists” almost universally oppose). The cronyist economic system is, indeed, harmful and immoral. The solution to government interference is not, and never will be more government interference. No matter how well-intentioned socialist central planning might be, it will never be able to accommodate the needs and wants of the hundreds of millions of individuals who live in the US.

Potter claims that economic immobility is a result of capitalism. This is false. While it’s true that capitalism has created wealthy individuals, it has also evened the playing field for individuals to achieve wealth. The vast majority of people do, indeed, move around among the economic quintiles with a lot of regularity. Yes, the middle class is shrinking, but that’s because they’re moving into higher economic quintiles, not lower ones.

Capitalism has pulled entire countries out of poverty, supplied important innovations, and increased living standards. Now, almost anybody can achieve financial success, not just a small group of people.

Youth understand that capitalism is not to blame for all of the world’s troubles. Instead, today’s youth recognize that capitalism provides opportunities to create a better world.

Young people want freedom, liberty, equality, and the ability to express themselves as they see fit. Capitalism aligns with these desires. Socialism, instead, harms democracy, can violate human rights, and increases levels of intrusive government control.

Benjamin Shelton is a policy fellow at Libertas Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Lehi.