By Mairead Stone
Capitalism has proved itself to work symbiotically with democracy in the Western world. Economic growth and subsequent technological advancement have arguably improved quality of life for a number of people. Yet, amid the current rising prices for education, healthcare and housing, it's possible to imagine how the world's emerging generation is recognising the shortcomings of capitalism.
According to a poll conducted by YouGov in 2018, 58% of Australian millennials favour socialism, and it is evident why. In Australia, student contributions have incurred a 1.8% rise each year until 2021. The minimum annual wage from which university students are required to pay back their debts has decreased from $54,869 to $42,000. Healthcare premiums have risen by 4.84% from 2017 and findings from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) reveal that Australian housing prices have increased at an average of 8.1% per year.
Additionally, figures such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have challenged the seemingly moderate precedent for global democratic leaders. The scale of political thought tips from one extreme to the other, and the rise of socialism can be partially accredited to the United States’ current conservative government.
However, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) provides a different opinion. Viewing socialism critically, they describe it as leaving “a warren of poverty, oppression and failed states in its wake”. Certainly, the Cultural Revolution initiated in 1966 by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party of China, proves this statement. Those who opposed communist ideology were harassed and even killed by Chinese youth. In total, up to 100 million people were affected by the movement.
The CIS believes that because millennials have not witnessed these such atrocities of socialism, they are informed about what the socio-economic ideology actually entails. The YouGov poll also concludes that 51% of millennials have not heard of Mao, and 43% have not heard of Lenin or Stalin.
One would be inclined to agree the rise of socialism among millennials is directly caused by misinformation. Given the premise of socialism as the rising cost of living, a range of social reforms that require a significant increase in tax would only detriment the millennials who call for it.
Taxing the wealthy would upset the balance of economic incentive that makes capitalism a successful economy. Those who earn over $180,000 per year already pay approximately half of their income in tax, making Australia’s government desirable by global standards.
Millennial socialism, whether deliberated or naïve, presents itself as a natural response to changing social conditions. Contrary to the conservative concern that such a surge will reproduce the socialist dictatorships of the 20th Century, a socially-centred generation will ideally contribute to a government that represents all Australians.