Socialism at a Glance

Published April 5, 2024

As a former public high school teacher, I am not surprised that most young Americans have a warped view of socialism.

For example, according to a poll conducted in 2019, 70 percent of Millennials and 64 percent of Gen Z are “somewhat or extremely likely to vote for a socialist candidate.” Moreover, one-in-five Millennials believe that The Communist Manifesto “better guarantees freedom and equality for all” than the Declaration of Independence.

Make no mistake, that poll is not an outlier; it simply represents the fact that the vast majority of American youth have been severely miseducated when it comes to the topic of socialism.

To prove how woefully misinformed the overwhelming majority of today’s youth are concerning socialism, more than half of American students cannot even accurately define the term “socialism.”

The reason that so many American students have a distorted view of socialism is simple: they have been spoon-fed a sugar-coated version of socialism on social media, in classrooms, and throughout the entertainment universe.

While teaching world history, U.S. history, and American government in Illinois and South Carolina in the mid-2010s, I was initially shocked when I witnessed how my colleagues framed the issue of socialism to their students. Typically, it would go something like this: Socialism is inherently virtuous, but it just has not been implemented in the proper manner, yet. On the other hand, capitalism is intrinsically immoral, oppressive, and has no redeeming qualities.

Of course, that could not be further from the truth. However, in schools throughout the nation, millions of students are being taught that the future would be better if the United States would embrace socialism.

The problem is that these so-called educators are conveniently ignoring socialism’s depraved history of mass murder, human rights violations, widespread poverty, and general misery. Even worse, they are outright misleading young vulnerable minds into believing that socialism aligns with human nature, will create equality, and will erase all vestiges of class warfare.

In order to rectify this troubling development, wherein more and more young Americans are enthusiastic supporters of socialism, it is time for a socialism reality check.

The reality check I speak of comes in the form of a new book, Socialism at a Glance, which I have co-written with Jack McPherrin. Jack and I are research fellows with The Heartland Institute’s Socialism Research Center, which is committed to informing the American public at large about socialism’s history, ideology, and contemporary offshoots.   

Our objective in writing this book was quite simple: to provide all Americans with a fact-based, impartial, concise account of socialism, from its origins in antiquity to its latest iteration as “democratic socialism.”

In Socialism at a Glance, readers will learn about the overarching differences between socialism and capitalism, the relationship between socialism and human nature, The Communist Manifesto, and the rise of “democratic socialism” in the late 20th century. In addition, readers will embark on a historical journey as they absorb what life was really like in several socialist nations. From the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany to the People’s Republic of China, readers will receive inside accounts of daily life under a socialist government coupled with the flowery rhetoric espoused by several influential socialist leaders.

Have these socialist regimes achieved their ultimate aim of alleviating poverty and eradicating class warfare? Has socialism resulted in an enhanced human experience where it has been implemented? Was Karl Marx correct in asserting that a worldwide socialist revolution is inevitable? Is the proletariat still being exploited as Marx assumed would continue until capitalism is finally replaced with global socialism? These are just a few of the topics addressed in Socialism at a Glance.

When I was teaching, my philosophy was simple: teach students how to think, not what to think. Socialism at a Glance follows this model by challenging readers how to think about socialism rather than what to think about socialism.

Photo by Alec Perkins. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.