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Earl R Smith II, PhD

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There is a sea change going on among millennials and the rest of us should pay close attention to it.

The Harvard University survey, which polled young adults between ages 18 and 29, found that 51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. Just 42 percent said they support it.

With the excesses of capitalism reaching the limits of the ability of a society to maintain a stable relationship among individuals, the new generation appears to be changing its mind about what constitutes a ‘good life’. Increasingly they are resisting the idea that capitalism is the only way to organize a fair and equitable society. And they have a point.

Modern society now seems to be structured so as to make the rich richer and deliver the middle class into servitude. The trends since the Reagan years are so well established that only through a severe and persistent exercise of self-deception could any reasonable person avoid seeing them.

The Rise of the Uber Class: Corporations are now people – but a strange sort of people. In the old days if a person committed a crime you hauled them before the court and subjected them to penalties under the law. But that is not the case with these uber-people. Now a group of people, in the name of a corporation, commit what is clearly a crime and what happens? They are bailed out. The government actually forces the human people to pay the bill for the crimes. Additionally the corporation can take the results of the surpluses generated by the workers and deploy them against the interests of the very people who generated the surplus. Free speech is now defined as a theft of those surpluses and their use against the very people who generated them. The uber-citizen now controls not only the economy but the government.

Destruction of the Idea of Equal Before the Law: These millennials have come to realize that there are two legal systems – one for the very rich and another for everybody else. They see it as an inevitable result of the capitalist system. The jails fill up with people who have committed relatively minor crimes while those who almost brought down the world financial system not only keep their jobs and privileges but collect bonuses for talking advantage of the system and draining the treasury.

Servitude from Study: Those seeking an education find themselves buried under mountains of debt and entering a job market that does not allow them to repay it. Many millennials look at the prospect and turn away. They see it as a ‘bad deal’. Their future has been stolen by the uber-citizens with the help of the very government that is supposed to represent them.

But most importantly, young people are questioning the dominant definition of capitalism.

“The word ‘capitalism’ doesn’t mean what it used to,” said Zach Lustbader, a senior at Harvard involved in conducting the poll, which was published Monday. For those who grew up during the Cold War, capitalism meant freedom from the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes. For those who grew up more recently, capitalism has meant a financial crisis from which the global economy still hasn’t completely recovered.

In an important way, the millennials are returning to the basic American values that the current form of capitalism has worked so hard to destroy. They read about how things were before. The efforts of the Franklin Roosevelt administration to pull the country out of the great depression. The positive impact of the rise of labor unions on the economy and the welfare of workers. They look back on a time when the dominant idea was a government of, by and for the people and are horrified at what has happened to their country.

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