New York City millennials flocked to a debate on overthrowing capitalism over the weekend and caused the event to be sold out in hours. In fact, ticket sales were so good, the event was moved to a larger location — Cooper Union’s Great Hall, where Abraham Lincoln gave his anti-slavery speech in 1860.
The libertarian outlet Reason and the pro-socialist outlet Jacobin held the event, “Capitalism: A Debate.” According to Bloomberg, the mostly young, male audience “leaned left” and represented the slow death of capitalistic ideology among millennials.
“I’ve seen the failings of modern-day capitalism,” said an 18-year-old Wesleyan University student Grayson SussmanSquires. He added that while in high school, he volunteered to work on Bernie Sanders campaign because the Vermont senator’s socialist views “spoke to me in a way nothing had before.”
Another attendee, 26-year old labor organizer Thomas Doscher said, “I’m immersed on one side of the debate. I want to hear the other side.”
Asher Kaplan, 24, said he wanted to see if the capitalists on the panel could convince him to change his views: “It’s very easy to exist in a social group where everyone has the same political vibe.”
Speaking for the socialists in attendance were New York University professor Vivek Chibber and Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara. For the capitalists, it was Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward and Nick Gillespie. Bloomberg noted that it was “the attempt to rebuff criticism of capitalism that mostly riled up the crowd.”
It’s not clear if anyone was convinced of the other side’s offerings — both sides admitted faults in their systems: the socialist side admitted there would be no utopia at the end of its collective rainbow, and the capitalists condemned cronyism and big business. At least one attendee was frustrated that inequality or climate change wasn’t part of the debate. The only conclusion he reached was that perhaps elements of both systems could be used to “improve the world.”
But the biggest takeaway is that millennials are bailing on the very system that keeps them clothed and fed, as Bloomberg points out:
Young Americans have soured on capitalism. In a Harvard University poll conducted last year, 51 percent of 18-to-29 year-olds in the U.S. said they opposed capitalism; only 42 percent expressed support. Among Americans of all ages, by contrast, a Gallup survey last year found that 60 percent held positive views of capitalism.
A poll released last month found American millennials closely split on the question of what type of society they would prefer to live in: 44 percent picked a socialist country, 42 percent a capitalist one. The poll, conducted by YouGov and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, found that 59 percent of Americans across all age groups preferred to live under capitalism.