By Michelle Adams, Staff Writer

With primaries and caucuses officially underway nationwide for the 2016 presidential election, millennials have taken to social media to share their feelings about the future of the United States. Amongst the numerous trending topics across social media platforms in the past week was #SocialismChecklist, a hashtag that grew with the intent of supporting Democratic campaign hopeful Bernie Sanders, along with his self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” policies.

Sanders is known for his popularity with millennials, as his propositions tend to tug at the heartstrings of the generation known for its passion for volunteering and community service projects. Many young entrepreneurs are unaware, however, of the detrimental effects that a socialist economy can have on their future careers.

Comparison-shopping: Capitalism versus Socialism

Although the United States has remained a mix of both capitalism and socialism for hundreds of years, we as a nation tend to lean more toward one or the other, depending on the values of the era’s generations.

When the Great Depression hit in the twentieth century, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was able to implement several socialist programs that helped impoverished Americans get back on their feet. He also began to regulate businesses and banks, in an attempt to avoid a similar catastrophe in the future. The success of these programs has led to an insistence from a few politicians that socialism is the answer, when in fact, capitalism is what truly drove the nation forward from that event.

Capitalism – in its true form – is an economic system that allows for little-to-no government interaction or regulation on businesses. There is freedom for all to attempt wealth via entrepreneurship, as a survival of the fittest situation comes into play. Competition between businesses, along with the simple supply-and-demand principles, define the economy and benefit consumers by ensuring that only the best products are on the market.

This laissez-faire form of capitalism is difficult to defend, because it allows for industry monopolies that could hurt consumers in the end. 

Contrastingly, the main feature of a socialist economy is redistribution of wealth. While a capitalist economy allows for economic classes in which some are extremely wealthy and others are poor, a socialist economy puts everyone on a level playing field. The prosperous entrepreneurs and business-owners are taxed heavily, and their monies go back to supplement the income of poorer individuals.

A branch of this economic system, known as “democratic socialism,” which Sanders supports, is quite similar in that it focuses on the abolition of high-profit careers in order to benefit the public need. According to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) webpage, it differs in the sense that supporters are adamant on maintaining a limited government: instead of the government owning businesses, the general public will “own and control…economic institutions,” making the government, and the economy, “by the people.” Democratic socialists also want to heavily regulate business until the governing body (the American people) completely controls each industry.

There are some socialist aspects of our economy that work well, such as Social Security and government health programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Additionally, it is foolish to think that without labor laws and other regulations, all businesses would be courteous to their employees and the environment. For these reasons, the U.S. has worked to develop a mix of capitalism and socialism, and this seems to work quite well in our modern society. As the nation begins to lean more toward socialism, however, we need to examine the benefits of the capitalist system that the U.S. was founded on.

Capitalism promotes self-motivation, hard work, and entrepreneurship.

If you have ever dreamed of working hard to become wealthy or even starting your own business, capitalism is the driving force of your aspirations. Entrepreneurship exists only in a free-market system, where business hopefuls are welcome to take risks and work long hours to make their dreams a reality. This dream dissolves, however, when socialism comes into play, and the competitive nature of the American dream is hindered – the American entrepreneurial spirit is lost in this equality-driven economy. 

As children, we dreamed of growing up to be successful adults, with nice houses and big families, because we knew we could work toward that goal. This is why many of us attend college – we want to make the best life that we can. From all-nighters to long hours in the library, we have worked hard throughout our schooling in hopes of becoming successful in the working world. It would be criminal to take this aspiration from hardworking college students, but socialism does just that: it eliminates the possibility of success, because the successful are stripped of their privileges when their wealth is taken from them via taxes.

Furthermore, product quality would be severely diminished, as socialism takes the aspect of competition away. Entrepreneurs and innovators would not have the incentive to create better products and services for consumers if they will lose the money in the end to high tax rates.

Contrastingly, in a more capitalist system, like we have now, those who work hard and take risks have the opportunity to rise above others. It is competitive, but, as is valued in American society, everyone has a chance at success in a capitalist economy. You can work your way up on the corporate ladder, or even take a chance on making your own business – whichever you think will make you the most successful, and be the most fruitful for yourself and your family.

The DSA argues that it is not only money that motivates people to work harder and smarter. “People enjoy their work if it is meaningful and enhances their lives,” they say in their Frequently Asked Questions. While this is true, a monetary reward to help improve the current quality of life and future in retirement for the hardworking risk-takers who deserve these benefits.

“Yes, there are winners and losers in capitalism,” writes Ashland University professor C. Bradley Thompson, “The winners are those who are honest, industrious, thoughtful, prudent, frugal, responsible, disciplined, and efficient. The losers are those who are shiftless, lazy, imprudent, extravagant, negligent, impractical, and inefficient.”

As hardworking millennials, we understand the need for intelligent and motivated entrepreneurs in the future of our economy. We know that the American dream is alive and well. All of us have the opportunity to become successful in the working world – all we need is perseverance, dedication, and a touch of entrepreneurial spirit. As we step out of college and into the real world, these are the skills we have learned to implement. It is time for our generation to flaunt these abilities, and change the world – but we can only do this if we have the freedom to do so.

As you head to the polls over the next few weeks to cast your vote for presidential candidates, consider how capitalism would help you succeed in your career goals. You have worked hard thus far for wealth and success in the future – don’t give it all away.