Washington, DC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 11/16/2016 --Dawn Bennett: Chris Koopman is a senior research fellow with the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He specializes in regulation, competition and innovation with a particular focus on public choice and the economics of government favoritism. He's also a contributor at the Hill and was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016 for law and policy. This, of course, makes Chris the perfect person to ask about what is being labeled as 'America's dumbest generation' which is centered around millennials' unashamed embrace of the socialist label and their growing ignorance of communism's dark history and why, according to Koopman, if you dig, survey data reveals a cause for optimism. Chris, welcome to Financial Myth Busting.
Chris Koopman: Thank you so much for having me on.
BENNETT: College campuses have seen a spike in so-called safe spaces in the wake of Trump's victory Tuesday. Yet according to the stats, millennials didn't vote in high numbers this week although they did break heavily for Hillary. Besides being terrified of opinions they don't like, what has this election told us about America's rising generation, politically speaking?
KOOPMAN: I think the important thing here about millennials as a political force is that we now match baby boomers as the largest demographic in the electorate. So how millennials think, how they feel and how they vote should really matter to people and it should be taken seriously. And I think that's why this past election cycle there were a lot of questions about how do millennials feel about the future of capitalism and how do they feel about the future of free market. And more often than not, millennials are being pegged as embracing socialism but I think it's more about distrust and just growing frustration with the current system more so than capitalism per se.
BENNETT: You recently wrote that the youth or millennials really don't know what to believe. Do you think that's because there's just no single theory of governance and the economy that amounts to conventional wisdom? I mean, there's almost no agreement on anything related to politics.
KOOPMAN: I think it has a lot to do with that. I also think it has a lot to do with mislabeling the current system. I think that, as a generation, millennials are being told that we live in a capitalist system. And for the most part that's true, but for many big fundamental pieces of it this really doesn't represent a free market system. Millennials are getting the raw end of that deal. They don't like it and therefore when people ask them how they feel about capitalism they respond that they don't like it. Earlier this year a survey was done where almost a third of millennials came out in support of socialism. Not that surprising given college students and how they typically feel about the world, but probably the more disconcerting thing was less than half of them came out in support of capitalism. And I think that sort of reinforced this idea that millennials don't understand the world that we live in and we're sort of chasing dreams as opposed to living in any sort of reality about our current situation. But I think that kind of misses the mark when you put it into the context that millennials live in. That our generation is being brought up in and we came of age in a post-recession world. You know, we look out at the current system, and what have we known? Nothing but Wall Street bailouts, corporate greed, political scandals, tax codes riddled with loopholes for the wealthy and well-connected. And for the bulk of millennials this is all we've ever known. So when people ask us how we feel about it of course we're going to come out with a resounding negative response.
BENNETT: You've also written that in surveys it shows millennials really heavily favoring the term free market system over government-managed economy indicating perhaps this preoccupation with the word capitalism itself, right? So, would you suggest millennials' instincts are more free market?
KOOPMAN: Yes, I think as a generation, millennials are certainly much more free market than we are given credit for. Just to put it into context, think about something like occupational licensing. Our generation, more than any other generation before us had to beg for permission to practice our chosen profession. You know, one in three of us have to get an occupational license where if you go back just a generation or two, and it was like 5 percent. Now it's like 30 percent of the people require a license. These are things that have become just embedded in the system and people are attributing that to capitalism. It's no wonder they're frustrated but then you turn it and you say, 'Well, what do you feel about free market versus government control?' and, like you said, a resounding positive response comes from millennials when you talk about free market system versus government control. Something close to three quarters of millennials respond positively to the term 'free market system'. So it's not that we're misinformed. It's not that we're lazy or unable to think for ourselves. It's that we're frustrated. You compare us to other generations at this same age and we're poorer, we're more in debt and more out of work. And when you start thinking about it that way you can't help but to sympathize with the generation that says, 'Gosh, this hasn't really gone well for us so far in our adult lives. We're not very happy about it.' And I think you go back to the 2016 election earlier this week and you look at some of the numbers that are coming up and you see that 10 percent of millennials that voted, voted third party. So you go back and you see in 2012 that was somewhere near 3 percent. So this doesn't spike in an entire generation saying 'We're looking for a new way, a different way.' The Green Party and the Libertarian Party – granted, they're not similar in a lot of ways but it's still this need for millennials to find a different way. And you go to some states like Colorado: 20 percent of millennials that voted in Colorado voted third party. You have this desire in an entire generation to find a different approach, a different way, because they're just flat-out tired and frustrated with the current system as it stands.
BENNETT: Do you think the overall dissatisfaction that you're talking about is with the status quo and that's leading people to adopt any manner of anti-establishment beliefs?
KOOPMAN: I think you could look at it that way. In many ways people say 'We don't like what's happening. We want a different way,' and they will latch onto any different way. Especially a generation that is full of ideas but maybe not real world experiences is willing to try something different although it may have been tried before and turned out disastrously. I think that's something to be concerned about as millennials continue to rise in prevalence in the electorate but it's also something that should be a bit of a bright spot here, is that you have an entire generation just waiting to be won over. Anyone that would speak to them from their perspective and then advocates for free market – this should be a huge, positive spot here in sort of the postmortem of the 2016 election, is that you have this entire generation just willing to be spoken to if you're just open and honest with them about the fact that the current system clearly has failed them but we shouldn't confuse that with capitalism. Capitalism and free market economics has much more to offer than what they've been told.
BENNETT: You recently wrote in a piece for The Wall Street Journal about how millennials and their feelings towards the economy, which isn't necessarily anti-capitalism as you've said, but anti-current 'mutant system' – to borrow your terminology – that we have today. What do they see in today's economy that they find just detestable?
KOOPMAN: Yeah, I think it goes back to something I was mentioning before and that is the fact that, as a generation, our experience with the economy is the last 8-10 years, right? It's been this post-recession government intervention in the economy and we're looking at things like Wall Street bailouts, you know, things like just corporate greed and political scandals and tax codes that benefit some at the expense of others. So much so that when you ask millennials to free associate with capitalism and say 'What word comes to mind when you think of capitalism?' The three most frequent terms that millennials come up with are greed, corrupt and control. None of those really have to do with capitalism per se – corrupt and control – but it has to do more with the current system that millennials have been brought up in, that they came of the age in. And it's just this idea that most people who are free market advocates and people who are not have more or less come to the agreement that the current system is capitalism or some brand of capitalism and so millennials are saying, 'Well, we don't like this. Clearly, we're not doing well. We're not faring very well in this system.' And our moms and dads are telling us that this is capitalism, American capitalism, and they're responding with 'We're not doing well and we don't like that. So we don't like capitalism.' Really what it comes down to is they're not anti-capitalism per se. They're anti-whatever the heck this current system is. You can call it mutant capitalism, crony capitalism. Whatever term you want to put on it, I think it's really important for people who want to make the case for free market and for capitalism that this system really isn't that textbook definition. This is something far beyond and grossly mutated from the idea of capitalism or free market as they exist in theory.
BENNETT: Do you think millennials just have a different outlook. For example, they see themselves as hip and sophisticated and see traditional values as square. You know, they like political correctness rules. You know, Kardashians seem to be the new role model. I don't know. I mean, the very idea of America is in this dispute and held in contempt. Is that what you're thinking the millennials are right now?
KOOPMAN: That could explain some of it and I think that isn't something unique to this generation but every generation sort of goes through that phase. I mean, you can go back to every decade of it almost the last 50 years and see some strand of that occurring. You know, you get to a certain age and you say, 'I want to find my own way.' As a generation, we go through this. But I would also say that a lot of the things that have been attributed to millennials—you know, this idea that millennials are lazy or entitled or unwilling to work or unwilling to be challenged and challenge others—I think some of that explains pieces of this generation but not all of it. When you think about something like the most innovative part of our current economy right now, I would argue the sharing economy – you know, Uber, Lyft and all of these apps and platforms that are coming up over the last three or four years – it's really being driven by millennial preferences, millennial tastes and millennial entrepreneurs. So the idea that millennials aren't go-getters or millennials aren't willing to go out and work hard and aren't capitalists—these are all profit seeking ventures. Maybe they're built on ideas different than business models before them but they're all being driven by, I think, this unique strand of capitalism that exists in millennials.
BENNETT: There have been a lot of disturbing reports since Trump got elected. You almost wonder if real civil war is possible out there. In The New York Times it was reported that millennials are increasingly turning against free speech, describing various student led movements on college campuses. Another survey showed that millennials have no clue about communism's dark history of mass murder. How much do you view these kinds of trends as a consequence of our schools or just the sign of the times?
KOOPMAN: It's probably a mixture of both now. Keep in mind now I haven't been following those issues specifically so the free speech issue, other than what comes up in the headlines—I think there were reports recently about millennials misunderstanding the Stalin regime in Russia. I think some of that is a failure of education. I think some of that is just millennials unwilling to accept reality as it is and I think some of it has to do with the fact that people on both sides, not just in the traditional education system but people who actually want to advocate for ideas like free market and capitalism have not been doing a good enough job teaching and communicating to millennials about the benefits of things like free speech and entrepreneurship and the free market while at the same time they haven't been doing a good enough job educating people about the failures of communism and the failures of socialism. It's just a matter of understanding our history. And again, it goes back to—you strip away the titles of capitalism and socialism and you see that there is an overwhelming majority of millennials that are in support of a free market system and it's just a matter of people, who want to reach this generation and talk to them about things they care about, need to recognize that trying to use particular labels may fail right off the bat. You're not going to reach them if you go in and start talking about capitalism and socialism. It's a matter of understanding the context that they come from and being able to speak to them about what they care about and that's free market, that's getting them jobs, that's having them realize their potential and their opportunity. And that's about free enterprise, it's not about government control. It's about a free market system.
BENNETT: Do you have any ideas on how to help the millennials understand the actual causes of the economic turmoil. I think we're heading into a pretty tough time here. Do you think that's even possible?
KOOPMAN: Yeah, I think it's a mixture of two things. I think people who really want to reach millennials have to understand that they aren't thinking about it the same way that we were 20 years ago, but at the same time it's incumbent on this generation of millennials to educate themselves.
BENNETT: Thanks, Chris.
For over a quarter century, Dawn Bennett has been successfully guiding clients through the complexities of wealth management. Her unique vision and insight into market trends makes Bennett a much sought after expert resource with regular appearances on Fox News Channel, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and MSNBC as well as being featured in Business Week, Fortune, The NY Times, The NY Sun, Washington Business Journal in addition to her highly regarded weekly talk radio program - Financial Mythbusting. Through prudent and thoughtful advice, Dawn Bennett has strived to consistently provide the highest quality of guidance.
About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com.
She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN a as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
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