Last year, when my son was a senior in an Illinois high school, he told me he never throughout his education had any class or teacher discuss the meanings of socialism and capitalism, or the debate between the two.

Since then, I’ve held an admittedly unscientific survey by asking other young people about that. I’ve asked maybe a couple dozen, about his age, from a variety of Illinois schools. I have yet to find even one who had a different experience. My daughter, now a high school junior, says the same.

That’s an educational failure of the highest order.

The debate between socialism and capitalism is now among the most pivotal of our time, especially for young people. A recent Harris poll found over 49% of millennials “prefer to live in a socialist country.” The two current front runners in the Democratic presidential primary are Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Sanders identifies himself as a socialist and Biden as a capitalist.

Maybe the mere omission of learning about socialism and capitalism accounts for socialism’s popularity with young people. When they eventually encounter it, the impression undoubtedly is about equity and free things. That’s very appealing for anybody who hasn’t thought it through.

The Democratic presidential primary offers a splendid chance to remedy this educational failure because it goes beyond Bernie Sanders and the traditional definition of socialism, which was public ownership of the means of production.

Today, socialism is commonly seen as something different – a very large public sector providing sweeping public benefits, substitution of government decisions over market mechanisms, heavy emphasis on equality of wealth and income, strict regulation and less concern about individual liberty and individual responsibility. Most of the other Democratic candidates are offering various mixes and degrees of those things, so each can, in a classroom, be considered individually.

That makes it an exceptionally good teaching opportunity.

Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

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i can remember having to read marx basic manifesto back in hs a million years ago. but what the ill schools should be teaching is not marxism/socialism–but MADIGANISM!!!–your ticket to a upper class socialist utopia for the FEW in the machine, where if you can stay awake at some city job for 30 years your gaurenteed a $multi million$ retirement deal if you live 20 years past 55 and gold plated health insr. forget about taking risk trying to run a business or get advanced degrees. or worker productivity. hijack the legacy of organized labor in private industry to dupe… Read more »

S and P 500

Zero hedge had a great article about how QE created a generation of young socialists. Young people who have 1 minute iPhone attention spans see simple problems and want simple answers. They think in a socialized country, you can go to any new medical office and get free state-of-the-art care. Never mind that no country has that kind of medical care. Instead of endless documentaries about the civil rights era, they should see two movies from the 60’s–“7 Days in May” and “The Manchurian Candidate (1962)”, Even their teachers probably wouldn’t appreciate those films that perfectly capture the fear of… Read more »


Agree. A simple one time 1-2 hour class on the history of socialism would be sufficient. Perhaps it could be included in a history curriculum during study of the former cold war with the Soviet Union.

Side note: I would also suggest a class on individual money management.

Mark M

The introduction to Raul Gallegos’ brilliant book on Venezuela contains a pithy statement to his daughter:

“Be skeptical. Be pragmatic. Understand money.”

It speaks for itself.