Does Everyone Hate Capitalism or Are You Tweeting Too Much?
As Generation Z-er (sort of) that is online (extremely), it is common in my circles – both online and offline – to hear occasional “eat the rich” comments used as a climax. It is an acronym that reflects what appears to be the frustration or anger of an entire generation towards the system. If you are younger, progressive, and live on social media, you can assume that virtually everyone hates capitalism. But how do our views stack up against the general population? Am I in an echo chamber that acts too much like those who, say, worship the altar of the “trickling down economy”?
Look, I want to get through my conversation with my dad without giving up my views on the dangers of capitalism. At the same time, I don’t want to show myself off my ass by giving the impression of an out-of-touch internet left wing. So I delved into a recent poll about capitalism not to change my beliefs, but to prepare to defend them.
But before we get to the numbers, let’s take a look at the perspective of a politically-minded, young, online person.
What it feels like to be extremely online
If you’re hooked up to television and social media, you may have watched the phrase “eat the rich” go from being a radical battle name to an occasional refrain often used for comedic purposes by Gen Z. capitalism, at least in certain groups of the population.
Take, for example , the trend of last winter , “eat the rich” on TikTok or recent memes about the festive dress of Met Gala AOC . You can also watch some of the most popular TV shows of the past few years like Squid Game, Succession and White Lotus, or even documentaries like WeWork and LuLaRich. In a recent episode of the NPR is that it was the moment , the owner Sam Saunders points out, all of these programs have one thing in common: they are all critical analysis of capitalism.
From those who make memes for free to those who make multi-million dollar TV shows, there is a growing message surrounding the super-rich that they are the Other. That we, ordinary viewers and users, live in a completely different world than them. That we cannot play by the same rules as They. That we shouldn’t charm them.
Particularly on social media, it’s important to consider what our memes say about our beliefs. When a meme or climax reaches the “low hanging fruit” status, which I would say eat the rich has, it’s a sign that something in the mood is in some way an obvious conclusion. For example, “eat the rich,” everyone believes in that. This means that enough people think there are rich people – this is a matter of course. But how much of a “given” belief really is outside of these young online communities?
In general, most people in the United States support capitalism.
According to an Axios / Momentive poll in June 2021, most Americans view capitalism more positively than negatively. Split – 57% said they had a positive opinion and 36% said they had a negative opinion, a slight decrease from the 61-36 split since January 2019.
All polls show that the majority of the country’s population supports capitalism, or at least does not support socialism. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers , found in 2019 that 59% of Americans view the word capitalism positively and 39% negatively. In contrast, 39% of Americans have a positive view of the word “socialism” and 59% have a negative view of socialism.
This brings us to a remarkable aspect of all these polls – even those that do not come from libertarian think tanks: to find out how American views of capitalism are changing, you will simultaneously find their views of socialism.
A recent Pew Research poll found that 55% of respondents view socialism negatively, while an NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll found that the divide was 19% positive and 53% negative. The Monmouth poll found that 57% of Americans believe socialism is incompatible with American values. In a 2020 poll, Gallup found that 39% of Americans have a positive view of socialism , compared with 57% who hold a negative view.
Capitalism and socialism are almost linked between younger generations
While most Americans remain positive about capitalism, polls show that change is rapidly gaining momentum among the younger generation. According to an Axios / Momentive study in June 2021, adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are “almost equally divided between those who view capitalism positively and those who view it negatively.” If you look at the younger segment of this group, the majority (54%) of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 said they did not have a positive attitude towards capitalism, while 42% said they had a positive attitude towards it.
This even division is a significant change from two years earlier, when a full 20 percentage points separated those who were positive about capitalism from those who did not. Looking back, since 2010, youth’s general perception of capitalism has deteriorated to the point where capitalism and socialism are linked in popularity among this age group, according to a 2019 Gallup report on attitudes towards socialism and state power . When it comes to Gen Z and young millennials, the gap between positive and negative views of capitalism is closing.
Overall, 41% of respondents said they have a positive attitude towards socialism, while 54% said they have a negative attitude. 51% of young Americans said they have a positive view of socialism, up from 55% in 2019. At the same time, Sarah Jones points out for the Intelligencer that 66% said the federal government “should pursue policies to narrow the gap between the wealthy and the less well-off in America,” in line with earlier similar polls.
What about the rest of the world?
A 2019 global study found that capitalism does “more harm than good.” This view was shared by 56% of more than 34,000 people surveyed in 28 countries, from Western liberal democracies such as the United States and France to countries based on a different model such as China and Russia. Australia, Canada, the United States, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan were the only countries where the majority of respondents disagreed with the assertion that capitalism is currently doing more harm than good.
Things to keep in mind when you speak outside of your bubble
While capitalism is still more popular nationally than socialism, “there is little evidence that Americans have more outright contempt for anti-capitalist ideology,” says Sarah Jones for Intelligencer . Be that as it may, anti-capitalist sentiments among adolescents should not be dismissed as mere memes. Last year’s TeenVogue may have posted articles about what not to wear, but today’s TeenVogue is reporting on how the pandemic demonstrates the failures of capitalism . A 2019 Gallup report concludes the following on what may be driving the younger generation’s view of capitalism:
… their varying reactions to terms suggest that young people have a preference for basic American economic freedoms, but have heightened concerns about the power that accumulates as companies grow, and that younger generations are more comfortable using the state to contain that power.
The role of capitalism in America has changed throughout history , and we may be prepared for another such shift. The question is whether the future of capitalism in America will require little change, or whether the rich will ever be on the menu.