February 2019 Harris poll found that roughly half of younger Americans would “prefer living in a socialist country.” Millennials may not fully grasp the consequences of the government owning the means of production, but they certainly don’t like how American capitalism is working for them. They have a point. Over the past 40 years, insiders have increasingly captured the American economy—from homeowners opposed to new housing construction near them to incumbent firms that benefit from the overregulation of employment to interest groups that have transformed the federal government into the equivalent of a pension system with a nuclear arsenal. The young are usually outsiders; the bill for the insiders’ triumph has been laid in their laps.
The Covid-19 pandemic reinforces this dynamic. Middle-aged teachers, protected by powerful unions, Zoom their classes from the comfort of their homes, and students get lost in the shuffle. The mortality risk of the disease to the young is tiny; yet they are told to give up the freedom of their youth to protect the rest of us. The irony is particularly bitter because America’s lockdown policies did little to protect the most vulnerable older Americans who live in nursing homes.