We do not think it means what you think it means.
There are a lot of polls about what millennials think about capitalism and socialism. According to these polls, millennials like socialism, but not capitalism.
But what do they mean by capitalism and socialism?
For reference, here are the definitions of capitalism and socialism according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:
Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market
Socialism: a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies“]
But, as B.K. Marcus explains in a piece at the Foundation for Economic Education, that’s not what young people interpret the words to mean:
But the results tell us more about semantic reflexes than they do about specific positions on economic policy.
In the Harvard poll, only 27 percent said the government should play a substantial role in regulating the economy. Doesn’t that imply that 73 percent support relative economic freedom, no matter what terminology the respondents embrace? Even if millennials don’t reject socialism as a dirty word, just 30 percent believe in a large government role in reducing income inequality. Even Keynesianism, stripped of its label, fails to garner support: a mere 26 percent think government spending can effectively increase economic growth.“]
With support for economic freedom and skepticism about government’s ability to solve problems, it seems young people are more bothered by government intervention and the status quo than by free markets.
So, despite the poll results, there’s still reason to be optimistic: while they don’t like capitalism in name, millennials are less fond of socialism in practice.