Winston Churchill could give a stump-winder of a speech.
The iconic, stiff-lipped son of the British Empire delivered orations not seen since the days of Cicero. Mr. Churchill is celebrated to this day for his quick wit and keeping the flame of liberty alive in Europe as the darkness of the National Socialist Party movement spread across the continent.
Another Churchillism seems to have become the mantra of the Millennial generation: "If you aren't a liberal at 20, you have no heart; if you aren't a conservative at 40 you have no brain."
Ouch. I don't like to pigeon-hole individuals as conservatives or liberals, but one could characterize my economic views as fiscally conservative. According to Winston Churchill, I have no heart.
This raises the following question: do individuals who hold a strong belief in the free market do so out of cold disdain for those less fortunate?
If you ask the average young person – many of whom do not share my economic convictions – they might tell you yes. A recent Pew Research survey found only 46 percent of individuals ages 18 to 29 responded positively to capitalism, whereas 49 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds responded positively to socialism.
In other words, more Millennials hold a positive view of socialism than they do of capitalism.
Why is this?
Young people have been influenced by a popular culture that demonizes the profit motive. From Henry F. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life" to nearly every Bond villain, the most notorious bad guys seem to be business owners.
These formative influences shed light on the nature of Millennials. Some truly believe socialism is the best way to uplift people. Others simply might not understand what socialism truly is.
It's difficult to measure the value to society of people who are financially well-off helping out those who are going through a rough patch, or using their gains to increase opportunities for others.
Consider how philanthropists such as Bill Gates have worked to rid the third world of disease and how the Haslams have helped create new opportunities for students here at UT. I applaud this, as would any decent person. These actions are vital to the economic health of our society. Social cohesion of this sort is the mortar that holds together the bricks of society.
This behavior must be voluntary so the incentive-based structure of the free market remains unmolested – a notion that is the antithesis of the redistributive tenants of socialism.
Socialism allows government to confiscate market output, which is then distributed by government. While this might sound benign in passing, it amounts to thinly-veiled tyranny masquerading as compassion.
Would it be compassionate of the administration at our university to confiscate scholarships from students to give to other students? If Millennials are such fans of redistribution, then why have so few signed up for the overpriced health insurance policies offered by the Affordable Care Act? Is this our compassion at work?
In my view, the people of Mississippi demonstrate genuine compassion.
Mississippi consistently ranks among the lowest states in per capita income and among the highest in obesity and illiteracy rates. Yet, Mississippi often leads the nation in charitable giving as a percentage of earnings.
The least among us gives the most. We should try to be more like Mississippi, rather than championing the false prophet of socialism. As magician Penn Jillette said, "You get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint."
History attests that the most effective mechanism for maximizing social mobility is the free market. Equal opportunity and the free exchange of goods, services and ideas have done more to benefit humankind than any economic system ever devised.
The sooner Millenials learn this, the sooner we can begin to solve the problems our country faces.
Believing in fiscal conservatism at a young age doesn't make you heartless; rather, it demonstrates a mature understanding of the best way to help those who need it the most.
Adam Prosise is a senior in economics. He can be reached at email@example.com.