Sen. Rand Paul: Experience is the best teacher -- But that's not how I want my kids to learn about socialism

What is it about socialism that casts such a spell that people refuse to acknowledge history? Time and time again socialism leads to the impoverishment of nations. Perhaps it is the allure of equality or fairness. Surveys in America alarmingly show about half of today’s youth have a favorable opinion of socialism.

Continue Reading Below

When I was researching my forthcoming book, “The Case Against Socialism,” I was horrified to discover a Gallup poll finding that only 45 percent of young American adults (age 18–29) have a positive view of capitalism, while 51 percent of this same group see socialism positively. These surveys link approval of socialism to a corresponding desire among young Americans to live in a “fair” world. Blasi and Kruse of Rutgers University write that “today’s youth reject capitalism; what they really want is fairness.”

They cite a “2016 Harvard University survey that found that 51 percent of American youth age 18 to 29 no longer support capitalism,” and another 2015 poll by “conservative-leaning Reason-Rupe, [which] found that young adults age 18 to 24 have a slightly more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.”

When asked to explain their answers in the Harvard Study, participants in a focus group reported feeling that “capitalism was unfair and left people out despite their hard work.”

The mantra of fairness is one that is inculcated from a young age. The assumption is that in order for one person to become rich someone else must suffer. Leftists preach that the economy is a zero-sum game where the rich enrich themselves on the backs of the poor, a claim that is revealed to be false when you examine the facts.

The mantra of fairness is one that is inculcated from a young age. The assumption is that in order for one person to become rich someone else must suffer. Leftists preach that the economy is a zero-sum game where the rich enrich themselves on the backs of the poor, a claim that is revealed to be false when you examine the facts.

The great industrialists of the nineteenth century are often tagged as robber barons. Yet as Andrew Carnegie’s wealth grew so did the economy. According to Our World in Data, a group of researchers based at the University of Oxford, poverty declined from over 90 percent of people living in extreme poverty worldwide in 1820 to around 75 percent of people living in extreme poverty in 1910. By the time the industrial revolution was in full swing, wages were rising and the standard of living known previously only to kings was becoming far more accessible.

From the time of Carnegie’s death in 1919 until the present, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined to less than 10 percent.11 As much of the world embraced capitalism in the twentieth century, childhood mortality plummeted from nearly a third of children dying before the age of five to less than 1 percent in wealthy countries and 4.3 percent worldwide.

And still, American youth mistakenly are attracted to socialism.

We must be teaching history in all the wrong ways.

Blasi and Kruse warn us that “the share of the overall population that questions capitalism’s core precepts is around the highest in at least 80 years of polling on the topic.” Gallup, in a 2016 poll, records 55 percent of millennials as favoring socialism. Yet, when millennials say they are for socialism, do they have any idea what socialism is in a historical sense? How many of them are even aware of the famines under Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot? Reason Foundation asked millennials to define socialism and discovered that only 16 percent could identify socialism as government ownership of the means of production.

The only good news about these surveys of young people is that they were overwhelmingly canceled out by the views of older people.

A study published in sciencemag.org concluded that although “children start off like Karl Marx, . . . they eventually become more like a member of the International Olympic Committee. The study ‘finds that children’s views on fairness change from egalitarian to merit-based as they grow older.’

The question is—will this next generation follow the path of previous generations? Will today’s youth, when they leave their parents’ basements and begin to earn a living, discover that their success depends on their merit and hard work, or will they succumb like Venezuela to the allure of something for nothing?

The future of our nation depends on the answer.

Republican Rand Paul represents Kentucky in the United States Senate. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Case Against Socialism" (Broadside Books, October 2019).

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM FOX BUSINESS