Americans Thankful for Small Business and Entrepreneurs

By at 26 November, 2019, 1:56 pm

by Raymond J. Keating-

Thanksgiving is upon us, and with it comes new poll results from Gallup focused on a host of business and economic issues. The good news is that Americans appear very thankful, if you will, for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Specifically, Americans possess positive views of some key economic terms or players. In fact, 97% of Americans have a “positive image” of small business, 90% view entrepreneurs positively, and 87 percent have a positive view of free enterprise.

Gallup reported, “There are no meaningful differences in the various generations’ views of small business or entrepreneurs, with high percentages of all age groups viewing both positively.”

As an economist, I’m thankful for these results.

Capitalism vs. Socialism vs. Free Enterprise

This survey also serves up a few findings that are more troubling, particularly when findings are broken out by generation. Gallup defines Millennials/Gen Zers being 18 to 39 years of age, Gen Xers 40 to 54, and Baby boomers/Traditionalist 55 and up.

When comparing positive views of capitalism and socialism, among Baby boomers/Traditionalists, 68% view capitalism positively with 32% seeing socialism positively. Among Gen Zers, it was 61% for capitalism and 39% for socialism. Now, that’s troubling enough. After all, even though socialism – that is, government ownership of the means of production – makes no sense in terms of basic economics and understandings of human nature, and has proven a failure every time it has been tried, a third of Baby boomers/Traditionalists and almost 40 percent of Gen Zers view it positively.

They should know better.

But then we see that only 51% of Millennials/Gen Zers view capitalism positively while 49% view socialism positively. Is this merely a reflection of a longtime trend of younger people being more liberal, and then becoming more conservative as they gain experience and knowledge, or something else? Well, unfortunately, it also must be noted that in 2010, 66% of Millennials/Gen Zers viewed capitalism positively while 48% viewing socialism positively. So, the drop-off in these age groups of those viewing capitalism positively is noteworthy.

For good measure, how much of these results are distorted by a basic lack of understanding or being swayed by a change in terms (which again would go to a lack of understanding definitions)? After all, while only 51% of Millennials/Gen Zers view capitalism positively while 49% view socialism positively, a whopping 83% view free enterprise positively.

There’s an obvious disconnect here, given that free enterprise basically is another term for capitalism, and each stands in direct conflict with socialism.

The media and politicians certainly carry blame in terms of how they misuse terminology when it comes to economic matters. But in the end, much of the failure must be put at the feet of the U.S. education system – from junior high through college – for failing to properly instruct young people on basic economic terms and issues, as well as economic history.

And yes, that includes my own economics profession. If one fails to teach the basic facts and realities about how the economy works, then no one should be surprised if people are duped by economic fictions.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

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