Despite mountains of historical evidence revealing the dangers associated with socialism, support for Karl Marx’s collectivist ideas is steadily increasing.
In an August 2018 Gallup Poll, 51 percent of young people aged 18-29 said they have a favorable opinion of socialism, compared to just 45 percent who said they view capitalism positively. Compare that to 2010, when 68 percent of young people said they view capitalism favorably. That’s a remarkable 33 percent decline in just eight years.
Many parents who support the traditional American values of self-responsibility, individual liberty and free markets, have been left to wonder how they can teach their children the truth about collectivism and resist the rise of socialism.
Below are strategies for talking to young people about the dangers of communism, socialism and other progressive ideas.
Explain the meaning of socialism and why it’s immoral
Every conversation about socialism should begin with a discussion about what it actually entails. Survey data show most Americans have no clue what socialism is, despite the fact that it’s regularly discussed in the media.
Socialism is the collective ownership and management of property. In a purely socialist society – an idea Karl Marx called “communism” – all or nearly all property is owned and managed by the collective.
Under such a scheme, people have very little power over their own lives. Even their homes are owned collectively. In the case of democratic socialism, this means that people are forced to live according to the desires of the majority. In many situations, a small group of people is given power by the majority, and that group typically ends up becoming tyrannical, as we’ve seen in China, North Korea and Venezuela.
With this model in place, minorities don’t really have any rights. If the majority thinks people should live or work in a certain way, everyone is required to obey, even if it violates their deeply held beliefs. For example, in a socialist country, vegetarians would be required to be part owners in a slaughterhouse.
In socialism, individual “rights” are mere illusions. Even free-speech rights are limited if they are deemed “harmful” to the rest of society – which means these “rights” don’t really exist at all. This is why human rights abuses are so common in countries that try to enact socialism.
Emphasize charity, not government coercion
For most young Americans, socialist ideas are appealing because they genuinely want to help those who are suffering. They believe single-payer health care, a “Green New Deal,” and other similar policies are compassionate. Conservatives have a tendency to dismiss these ideas without providing alternatives. This leaves younger people feeling frustrated.
“Government social programs might not be perfect,” young liberals and socialists often tell me, “but at least liberals and socialists are trying to fix difficult problems like poverty. Conservatives and libertarians don’t care what happens to people who are suffering.”
Whenever parents discuss socialism, they should always explain that it’s important to engage in charitable activities. Advocates of freedom do support helping others, they just don’t believe the government is best equipped to do it.
This idea is best reinforced when families engage in charitable activities together. Parents must show their kids that motivated, compassionate conservatives care for those most in need and make the world a better place.
This conversation allows parents to make a very important moral argument: Charity is morally positive, because it means people are voluntarily helping those in need, but government welfare programs – however well-intentioned they might be – are not forms of charity. They require the government to use force and coercion. Those who don’t want to pay for a government program because they think it isn’t helpful – or perhaps believe it’s harmful – are forced to pay their taxes and participate anyway. Those who refuse can end up in prison.
Or, put simply, conservatives support people freely helping others, while those on the left advocate for forcing, manipulating and controlling people to accomplish their goals.
Explain that there’s never been a successful socialist nation in world history
Here’s a startling fact about socialism that every child should hear: During the past century, tens of millions of people have been killed, exiled or imprisoned by socialist and communist parties, and no country has ever successfully enacted a system that matches Marx’s vision for the world – a reality even the staunchest Marxist will admit.
Kids often respond to this fact by saying that there are many examples of socialism working successfully. Like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., they point to Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
The idea that Nordic nations are little socialist utopias is a gigantic myth. Denmark, Norway and Sweden are absolutely not “socialist” nations. Some parts of their economies have been socialized, like health care and higher education, but they are still market-based economies, and in many respects, their citizens are freer than Americans.
For example, in the Heritage Foundation’s “2019 Index of Economic Freedom,” Denmark, Norway and Sweden all score higher than the United States in numerous categories, including “property rights” and “business freedom.”
Furthermore, history has repeatedly shown that government can’t fix many of our most complex societal issues, even when it socializes just one part of the economy. For example, since the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges first opened, insurance premiums have doubled and deductibles have skyrocketed.
Talking about the dangers of socialism with kids isn’t easy. Children are constantly being bombarded with pro-socialist messages from Hollywood, the music industry, professional sports and, most importantly, their teachers and professors.
But if parents aren’t willing to put in the time to address these important ideas, who will?