The Millennial generation, born between 1980 and 1996, is the smartest, best-educated, most tech-savvy generation that has ever walked this planet. Australian Millennials have grown up in the longest single period of economic growth in our history. They are the first generation in which most expected to attend university as a matter of course. Most of them have lifestyles their parents could only dream about, having been told from birth how wonderful and special they are, growing up in a world where every child gets a prize and no-one’s allowed to fail.
Only the oldest of them would remember John Howard, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in their economic reformist primes, let alone the political geniuses who made the 1980s and set the scene for the fall of communism and the Berlin Wall, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
It’s no surprise a YouGov Galaxy opinion poll, commissioned by the Centre for Independent Studies, has found six out of ten Australian Millennials believe socialism is a good thing, capitalism has failed, and that Australian workers today are worse off than forty years ago. Furthermore, those polled showed abject ignorance about the reality of life under communism and socialism, let alone Whitlamism. Few even knew of murderous communist leaders Stalin and Mao, despicable characters who imprisoned, tortured and killed millions of their own citizens who, like Millennials, dared to try and think for themselves.
We shouldn’t be surprised. This most cossetted, pampered and, frankly, spoiled generation has had everything handed to it on a plate. In those rare moments when they aren’t taking selfies or posting their bowel movements on Instagram, they rarely show a skerrick of interest in the world beyond, let alone its history and what made us who we are today. In too many instances, this is a narcissistic, self-obsessed, and naive generation. The poll commissioned by the CIS, now run by former Speccie editor Tom Switzer, shows Millennials want to redistribute wealth, that they believe that governments must not only regulate but control the economy, and that they insist public services including healthcare and education must be free and paid for by taxing those whom they view as rich. Yet they decry the very capitalist system that rewards hard work and personal responsibility, and allows enterprising individuals and hard workers to create the wealth and prosperity underpinning the community infrastructure they take as their God-given right. Millennial refusal to accept that failure can be a consequence of taking risks is, it seems, outweighed by the seductive comfort of cradle-to-grave government control over their destinies.
Findings like these are alarming but need to be understood. Too often their parents, baby boomers and generation Xers, themselves raised by people who lived through the Depression and the second world war, simply tried too hard to protect their Millennial offspring from bad things. In doing so, they helped create a risk-averse, mollycoddled generation that wants everything handed to them on a plate. But it’s also clear from the CIS poll that the memories of the horrors of socialism and communism, and the likes of Stalin and Mao, are not so much fading from the collective consciousness, but have practically disappeared altogether.
The plain ignorance of Millennials and the following generation of the full sweep of history, particularly the rise and deserved fall of socialism in the twentieth century, must be addressed. That is why the Ramsay Centre’s push for a comprehensive degree course in Western Civilisation, highlighting the great contributions to mankind of Western culture, politics and capitalist economics, must be successful.
Ironically, many of the university activists trying to shout and shut down Ramsay are the epitome of Millennials who, despite all the advantages they’ve been given, instead display the intolerance and narrow-mindedness of Salem’s notorious witch finders.
But instead of simply decrying the foolishness of Millennial socialists, centre-right political leaders must try to understand why Millennials think capitalism has failed. They need to reignite younger people’s enthusiasm for hard work, entrepreneurship and reward for effort. They need to channel Millennials’ undoubted idealism and desire for a better world into encouraging them to make it so for themselves. Above all, they need unceasingly to lead by positive example and constantly explain how, despite all its faults, capitalist free enterprise is the only economic system that guarantees the prosperity that funds the public services, government spending and social conscience Millennials see as their due.
If they don’t, leftist false prophets like Bill Shorten and Jeremy Corbyn will capitalise in the short term, but in the long term entitled and naive Millennial socialists will run not only our country, but the Western world in general. Perish the thought.
And finally: this week, Mark Latham looks at the towering success so far of Donald Trump, arguing that if anyone can save ‘Western civ’, it’s him.
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