UK Youth are Generally Left When They Should Prefer Libertarianism


The election in the United Kingdom has demonstrated that, once again, young people are far more left-leaning than the rest of the electorate.

A recent poll has shown that the socialist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is far more popular among young people than his competition with 69% of 18-24 year olds saying that they would vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

As a young person myself I find this hard to understand; libertarianism as an ideology strikes a chord with the new-found freedom and opportunity I have in adulthood. Socialism, in my opinion, represents the exact opposite of this.

It represents control.

This article looks to examine the reasons why the left has such a clear advantage amongst younger people within society and why those same young people would be more suited towards a libertarian political viewpoint.

Perhaps the main reason left-wing parties do well with young people is that they actively target that specific group.

Jeremy Corbyn has recognised that the elimination of tuition fees will mobilise young people. There is quite clearly an empirical advantage to students under a Labour government as they will save £27,000 on tuition fees.

To many, this symbolises Corbyn’s campaign slogan, “For the many, not the few,” as it opens opportunities for all to seek higher education.

Another example of this (clear targeting of young people by the left) comes from Tim Farron, the leader of the centre-left Liberal Democrats.

During this election, Farron called for the decriminalisation of marijuana and clearly campaigned for Britain to remain a member of the European Union, despite the result of the referendum. These two policies poll extremely well with young people.

Another possible reason for young people’s left-wing tendencies is the fact that throughout their education they are subject to mostly left-wing teachers and professors.

A report by the Adam Smith institute found that eight out of ten university professors in the UK sympathise with the left.  As a student myself, I can count many times where this has occurred.

My philosophy professor criticised a careers advisor for talking to us for five minutes saying that it undermined education as careers advice fed us into some sort of capitalist machine. This presents socialist ideas as some sort of “counter-culture” to the “evil capitalist corporations” that steal people’s livelihoods and turn people into robots working for some form of elite that governs our every motion.

This populist left-wing rhetoric does little to improve the lives and prospects of the students.

Thirdly, my generation is the first generation to have been brought up solely on media culture.

There have been no noticeable youth culture movements that have started in the last fifteen years, only copies of pre-existing culture.

This has led to a group within society that is dependent on celebrities and the internet to build their beliefs and character. Unfortunately for free market capitalists, celebrities and public figures have traditionally been more leftward leaning.

This can be evidenced by the clear anti-Republican speeches at the Academy Awards in the US or through campaigns such as Grime4Corbyn in the UK.

We can therefore see that an environment has been created to pull young people to the left whilst making “capitalism” a dirty word.

However, is a socialist ideology the best suited ideology for young people? I would argue that it quite clearly is not.

The slogan “For the many, not the few” is in fact remarkably similar to a quote from the former Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, where she stated, “That is what capitalism is: a system that brings wealth to the many, not just the few.”

Thatcher couldn’t be more correct.

On the other hand, Corbyn’s idea that ridding universities of tuition fees will benefit the many is obscene.

The people who go to university, are the people who get the grades to enter. The Higher Education Funding Council for England found in 2012 that only 38% of 18 year olds go to university and most of these students are from more affluent areas such as London.

What also needs to be pointed out is that this will be paid for by an increase in corporation tax, to 26% for large companies, and increased borrowing.

The increase to corporation tax will undoubtedly result in companies making up for these losses by increasing their prices and stagnation of their worker’s wages.

The UK economy will also be subject to increased debt that will be paid by the taxpayer.

To summarise, the elimination of university tuition fees will benefit a minority of middle to upper class young people while the rest of the country takes on the burden through indirect taxation.

This seems to be a policy that benefits the few and taxes the many.

If young people really are so bothered about helping “the many,” they should adopt a more libertarian attitude and pay for their own education.

In addition to this, many of the topics that young people are concerned with such as legalising marijuana, abortion and overall trust in the government, are in fact, libertarian policies.

Capitalism seeks to liberate the free market from the state so that things such as cannabis can be legally purchased.

A Harvard poll in the US found that trust in government among young people is at a historic low; this can be evidenced by popularity of conspiracy theorists on social media.

Socialism aims to increase the power of the state whereas libertarianism seeks to decrease its power. We can therefore see that libertarianism is the better suited ideology for young people.

Why then, would so many young people want to increase the level of government control within society?

It seems like the left’s anti-establishment rhetoric instilled in young people through education and the media has made socialism seem like the rebellion against the government’s elite.

When you look at the political philosophy of the situation, nothing could be further from the truth. It is libertarianism that seeks to limit the governments powers, it is capitalism that allows people to be free and it is socialism that seeks to give more power to “the few” in government rather than “the many” citizens that inhabit the nation.

Therefore, for young people who want less government, less money taken away from ordinary people and a freer society, a vote for a socialist candidate is not the correct path to take.

* Rupert Maher is a 19 year old undergraduate student at Queens University Belfast studying politics and philosophy. He is originally from Reading in England. Rupert believes his generation isn’t well informed about the differing views on the political spectrum and would like to try to make libertarianism more popular among people his age.

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