When millennials reject capitalism, what are they missing?
An FKD Feature exclusive

Why do millennials reject capitalism, and should it really come as a surprise?

In case you didn’t know, capitalism is the framework in which all U.S. citizens live their lives, from the jobs you work to the goods you buy and sell.  

With an increasingly competitive job market and the mounting student debt crisis, some millennials are blaming capitalism for their problems. Here’s why they’re wrong.

The issue

About a year ago, a survey conducted by Harvard University found that a majority of millennials reject capitalism. When Congressman Bernie Sanders was asked, “Are you a capitalist?” Bernie made the headlines when he said, “No, I’m a democratic socialist.”  

Recently, millennial skepticism of capitalism came back into the spotlight after Warren A. Stephens published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Do the Young Reject Capitalism?”

As millennials find themselves in an economy that continues to work against them, it makes sense that young people would direct their anger toward the economic system that has led to their financial misery. So, how exactly is this anger misplaced?

Strengths and weaknesses

Capitalism is based on competition. Because of their competitors, businesses are incentivized to maximize their efficiency and ensure the quality of their products. Not all businesses succeed, but the ones that do are strong, productive and efficient as a result of our system. So, then, are the products that we consume every day.

Think about what you consume and use on a day-to-day basis. Food, electricity, transportation, from the job you work to the clothes on your back. All of the goods and services you use provide you with efficiency, convenience, and quality thanks to capitalism.  

The ‘room to fail’ component is often viewed as one of capitalism’s greatest weaknesses.  Poverty, unemployment and market crashes are all unfortunate realities that occur within the U.S. economy. When millennials reject capitalism, they fail to understand that their rejection doesn’t solve these issues, nor does it take into account the power and opportunities of free-market economics.

By giving businesses the chance to fail, capitalism simultaneously gives them the incentive to succeed.

Why Rejection?

While it may not be smart, millennials rejecting capitalism does make sense. After all, young people rejecting the status quo has been happening since the foundation of our entire country.

A common thread of logic for young people in the world of economic turmoil is to blame the system as a whole for one’s troubles. Capitalism isn’t perfect; it can be easy and even tempting to look at any economic downfall in our society and blame the system as a whole.

But this rejection is fundamentally misguided and stems from a lack of understanding of how capitalism works. While there are ways our version of capitalism could be improved or worked upon, a total rejection of the system is problematic. The U.S. is called the ‘land of opportunity’ for a good reason.


While many young people feel that capitalism’s flaws are working against them, these same young people can tend to forget why the U.S. chose it in the first place. Our system is designed to give everyone a chance at opportunity, but our rapidly changing markets and flawed regulations can make it difficult for some to see the strength of our economic setup.  

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Header image: Getty Images



Posted 06.09.2017 - 12:07 pm EDT

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capitalism Economy incentives Millennials