Opinions on capitalism reveal a deep generational divide between America’s oldest citizens and its youngest. Boomers see capitalism as one of the great things about America, something that allows even the lowest of individuals the opportunity to become the next Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. Gen Z seems to have a different opinion, though, which has become clear in a new report.

Introducing: Gen Z

Gen Z are the newest slate of workers that are entering the workforce, with thousands of individuals coming of age to work every year. They’re known for their trendy fashion choices and their love of technology, which makes sense given that they’ve grown up in the age of the internet.

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Gen Z are known for another feature, though, one that is only becoming more and more apparent with each passing month. They’re deeply distrustful of capitalism, of billionaires, and of anything that they see as the result of America’s “fascination with excess.”

Down With Capitalism?

In fact, there are many young people who think that the capitalistic system needs to be thrown out altogether, and replaced with something more like a socialist system. The difference between these two systems is who ultimately owns the means of production. Capitalism allows private individuals to own the means of production, where socialism requires it to be community-based.

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There are pros and cons to each of these systems, and unfortunately, proponents of both are unwilling to see the downsides of the side they espouse. Gen Z are no different, seeing capitalism as the source of everything that is wrong with the economy, but being unwilling to hear about the downsides of socialism.

Not Rooted In History

The concept of capitalism being bad for America is not only wrong, it is ahistorical. America has, since its inception in 1776, boasted one of the more successful capitalist economies. It is a system that has allowed companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon to grow and become the successes that they are today, despite Gen Z’s opinions on the matter.

Source: Amazon

These opinions have been put into raw data and numbers in a recent survey done by Business Insider in July of 2023. In the survey, more than 1800 individuals were asked their opinions and thoughts on money, their jobs, and the economy. This total number included around 600 Gen Z’ers.

Gen Z Had Strong Opinions

One of the specific questions that those who answered the survey were asked was their opinion on socialism versus capitalism. While a good number, over 40%, of respondents stated that they had no opinion on the matter, a staggering number – nearly one-third-stated that they would prefer a socialist system over a capitalist system.

Source: Tiktok

Of those who stated that they outwardly disagreed with capitalism, Gen Z had the highest percentage voting “yea” on socialism. Thirty percent of Gen Z respondents expressed discontent with the capitalist system, and on further reflection, the reason why seems obvious.

Some Wealth Numbers

Gen Z’s discontentment in what they state colloquially is a “late stage capitalism hellscape” stems from their perception of economic inequality throughout the country. The “eat the rich” movement on social media appears to stem from the fact that America has the highest level of income inequality in the developed world.

Source: Wikimedia/Congressional Budget Office

Recent data reveals that the top 10% of earners in America held two-thirds of the total wealth in the country, a number that is only growing. In a country that sees some of the highest levels of homelessness and food insecurity in the developed world, it’s understandable why the upcoming generation might think there’s a better option out there.

The Problem Isn’t the Wealthy, It’s Those Who Aren’t

The crux of the matter appears to be simple: Gen Z don’t have a problem with wealthy people, per se. What they see as the problem are individuals and corporations who hoard wealth at the expense of those who help them make the money. Plainly, it isn’t because they have money, it’s because the lower class do not.

Source: Wikimedia/U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

In a country that touts itself as the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, it’s understandable why there would be frustration that many seem to fall through the cracks. The “eat the rich” movement has opened up discussions about what is an acceptable bottom floor of life quality, and the role of the government in ensuring that standard of living for its citizens.

The Conversation Around Money

The frustration that drives the conversation around wealth inequality is understandable. Many everyday Americans are struggling. The rising cost of living, inflation, and housing costs have far exceeded the average earning potential of individuals, leaving many strapped for cash and unable to live as comfortably as generations before.

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This is not necessarily an issue with capitalism as a whole. There are two schools of thought regarding capitalist economies. One is a “raise me up” mentality, which follows the common adage “the rising tide lifts all boats.” The other is a “push me down” mentality, where people are willing and able to making money by stepping on others, and this second system is what leads to the income inequality that Gen Z are seeing in America.

Solutions On The Horizon

While there is a small subset of Gen Z who want to get rid of the capitalist system altogether, they’re a small – but very loud – number. Most people who take issue with capitalism don’t have a problem with capitalism as a whole, merely the fact that it’s wholly unregulated in America.

Source: Instagram/anarchistposters

Some solutions that have been proposed by younger individuals include raising the minimum wage, taxing millionaires and billionaires their fair share, regulating industry, rent and mortgage ceilings, and more. While many of these are big issues that would require years of change, Gen Z are going to have their first opportunity to speak their mind with the 2024 election. Whoever wins will have the opportunity to either make great change or keep the status quo, and Gen Z are certainly going to make their opinions known about that.