By now, you are probably aware that the millennial and “Gen-Z” generations are far more supportive of “socialism” and redistributive economic policies than any of their elders. And yet, according to Pew’s new survey, Americans under 30 are also way more distrustful of their fellow citizens and government than any other age group.
…Historically, socialism has been a utopian creed marked by its faith in humankind’s capacity for altruism. But Pew’s research suggests that America’s most socialistic age bracket is also its most misanthropic.
This will no doubt come as a shock to those of us blessed enough to have woke acquaintances on social media, where their cheerful equanimity, thoughtful consideration, and effusive delight in the motley variety of opinions belonging to their fellow citizens are on constant display. But yes, it seems that many people in these Yoo Ess of Ay are firmly in favor of spending vast amounts of other people’s money, especially when saying so raises one’s own status among peers with no cost to oneself. That’s a real head-scratcher, all right. Blinking in bewilderment, bereft of answers from the social-science literature, our correspondent concludes, “A definitive explanation of this paradox in public opinion will probably require a more credentialed authority.”
Well, I’m fairly sure Ivan Karamazov wouldn’t count as a credentialed authority, being a fictional creation and all, but he did note that it’s much easier to love one’s neighbors “at a distance,” where we can avoid being inconvenienced by their body odor, their clumsiness, and their stupid faces. Likewise, James Fitzjames Stephen probably doesn’t have any relevant citations to his name, but he recognized that the utopian socialist was precisely the sort of man “who is capable of making his love for men in general the ground of all sorts of violence against men in particular.” Christopher Lasch, though — I know he wandered off the reservation in his later years, but perhaps his credentials might earn him a perfunctory hearing? He traced the makings of misanthropic progressivism to a full century ago, when it started to become fashionable to demonstrate one’s political idealism by expressing contempt and disgust for one’s benighted neighbors. Too bad these men chose to express their observations in the vague, wispy form of novels and artful rhetoric rather than the data and studies of social science.
As to Levitz’s befuddlement over why the U.S. doesn’t seem inclined to replicate the welfare states of northern Europe, well, greater minds than his have found the question difficult and left it unaddressed.