As Millennials Embrace Socialism, Here Are 3 Facts You May Not Know

Another week, another win for socialism—at least, in the polls.

Based on a recent College Pulse survey, eight in 10 philosophy majors favor socialism over capitalism. Nearly two-thirds of anthropology majors say the same, while English majors were a close third at 58 percent. Most international relations, music, and sociology majors would also prefer a socialist system over a capitalist one.

That is, if they know what “socialism” actually means. Recent polling suggests that much of the general public’s understanding of socialism is either incomplete or misguided.

Socialism is an economic system in which the government owns and controls the means of production. This is often conflated with a government that maintains high levels of social spending without taking over all sectors of the economy. Still, many would-be Millennial socialists point to countries like Denmark or Sweden as models for the United States, hinting that such a transition would be easily accomplished and with little downside.

In light of such common misunderstandings, here are three facts that may surprise even a socialism aficionado:

Yes, more government spending means higher taxes

According to the right-leaning Tax Foundation, the federal government’s collection of individual income and payroll taxes amounts to 15 percent of America’s gross domestic product (GDP). In Scandinavian countries—often held up as a model by those enamored with socialism—such taxes are even higher: Denmark’s individual income and payroll taxes equate to more than 26 percent of GDP, while Sweden comes in at just over 22 percent.

This leaves less money for everyday people, and more for government bureaucrats. Denmark’s top marginal effective income tax rate is over 60 percent, while Sweden’s is 56.4 percent.

And, no, not just on the “one percent”

One popular misconception among Millennials is that the “Nordic Model” represents the Robin Hood of economic systems—taking from the rich to give to the poor. In other words, redistribution is achieved by taxing the so-called “one percent” at disproportionate levels, and leaving lower- and middle-class taxpayers alone.

That’s not entirely true: Scandinavian income taxes, for example, are characterized by “flatness.” This means that most residents pay taxes at high rates, not just the “one percent.” Take Denmark: The top marginal tax rate of 60 percent applies to all income over 1.2 times the country’s average income. In U.S. terms, all income over $60,000 (1.2 times the average income of roughly $50,000 in the United States) would be taxed at 60 percent.

That’s right: If you’re a teacher or a plumber earning $65,000, you’d be facing a 60 percent tax rate—most of your income gone, in Uncle Sam’s hands.

Don’t forget those waiting times

High taxation is not the only consequence of government-controlled economic activity, nor is Scandinavia the only victim.

Consider Canada, a country known for its universal healthcare system—the sort of system that appeals to most Millennials (and even Gen Zers). According to the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, the median waiting time in Canada for medically necessary treatment is roughly 20 weeks—an increase of 113 percent since the 1990s.

Yes, five months is your typical waiting time between referral from a general practitioner and treatment. On Prince Edward Island, the median waiting time is 40 weeks. In New Brunswick, you’re looking at a 45-week waiting time—almost a year before you’re treated!

In the United States, such waiting times are statistical anomalies. Even the left-leaning New York Times reports that the U.S. healthcare system “rank[s] better” than its government-controlled counterparts.

Unfortunately, too much of today’s debate over government programs occurs in the realm of goals and omits any discussion of costs. And, based on the empirical evidence, such ideas carry consequences aplenty.

Luka Ladan is the President and CEO of Zenica Public Relations and a Catalyst Policy Fellow. Prior to founding Zenica, Ladan served as Communications Director at a leading public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.
Catalyst articles by Luka Ladan