On Thursday, Bloomberg published a report concluding that, contrary to emerging liberal narratives, capitalism is an economic system that promotes equality. In light of the liberal college environment today, this report is particularly relevant, given the exclusion of capitalist curricula exploring the historical and modern benefits of this economic system from classrooms across the nation.
Students tend to be highly susceptible to teachings within the university environment, and according to figures from 2011, 12.4 percent of college professors openly identify as “far left” and 50.3 percent identify as liberal. Liberal professors at the nation’s top 40 universities outnumber conservative professors 11.5 to 1. At USC, faculty with voting records favoring liberal policies outnumber faculty with conservative voting records 25.6 to 1. Given liberal hostility to core free market values, this could speak to why more than half of college students shy away from supporting capitalism, according to a 2016 report conducted by Harvard College.
Granted, perspectives about capitalism vary widely among different disciplines and majors. Although business and economics classes embrace the free market, some political science or history courses may not. Additionally, while some students are deeply engaged in learning and understanding economic issues, many are indifferent, rendering college professors the sole drivers for their understanding.
The age of free market discussion increasingly seems long behind us. Capitalism has long been an academic scapegoat for the ills of society, the most popular counter-narrative capitalism is amoral, favors the rich or is somehow the root of evil.
It is no secret: Capitalism is the most equitable resource allocation mechanism in existence. It is not central planning or state control of the means of production which has lifted generations out of poverty. Capitalism, which encourages voluntary — not coerced — exchange, is incredibly efficient and is highly equitable.
Research by the Pew Research Center in 2015 found that nearly 700 million people internationally between 2001 and 2011 were lifted from poverty as a result of free market activity. In the words of famed economist Milton Friedman, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”
Disavowing capitalism is an easy, even indulgent practice. Opponents of capitalism may take comfort in disavowing a system they claim is driven by greed — an easy oversimplification that overlooks historically proven economic principles. Disowning capitalism provides a feel-good option for those who don’t fully understand the free-market economic system under which they live.
Sympathizing with a professor presenting left-leaning, redistributionist ideas offers students the opportunity to claim moral superiority by writing about idealistic, inaccurate hypotheticals for the less fortunate while living off their parents’ dime in the collegiate bubble.
One result of this is that former Democratic presidential candidate and professed socialist Bernie Sanders’ popularity exploded among millennials — the “me me me generation” — in the past election cycle. Students have yet to set foot in the free market they disdain, so sweeping support for socialist ideals is convenient and logical within their sheltered world. However, with age and life experience, the economic realities will begin to permeate the flimsy cultural basis of the socialist message. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Reason-Rupe, where 53 percent of Americans under 30 have favorable views of socialism, just less than a third of those over 30 do.
Students will continue to misunderstand capitalism unless classrooms begin to incorporate findings like those of Bloomberg’s latest report, which offer the real-world benefits of capitalism and contradict the anti-capitalism narratives that are increasingly permeating into the mainstream, especially among students and young people.