Skip to main content

Gen Z debates capitalism vs. socialism, meritocracy vs. equality

May 2


Capitalism and socialism offer two different economic models, each with their own unique pros and cons. And while it is rare to find any modern economy that is either entirely capitalist or entirely socialist, citizens frequently use these terms to represent the general direction in which they believe the economy and society should progress. Similarly, while it is rare to find any example of a purely meritocratic or a purely equal society, the public debate on meritocracy versus equality helps us clarify which laws or policies should be pursued in the years ahead.

In this 34-minute episode of America Speaks, Dr. Frank Luntz asks a panel of Gen Z Americans, ages 18-24, whether they prefer more socialism or more capitalism, and presses them to defend their answer against those who gave the opposite response. Following that conversation, Dr. Luntz asks them to choose between meritocracy or equality, and to defend their positions on that answer as well.

If you think you really know the next generation, when they think when they believe and what they know, think again, over the next 30 minutes, you will hear America’s Gen Z first and second time voters as they debate the principles and values that many of you viewers probably take for granted. Polling shows that the vast majority of Americans over age 40 support capitalism, and not Gen Z. Polling shows that the vast majority of Americans over age 40 Want a society based on meritocracy, not Gen Z. And in a moment, you will understand why I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. This is America speaks on straighter or news, let’s turn on mics and cameras over to a nationwide group from Gen Z, to get their perspective, I want you to call up, because it’s gonna get really, really rough.
America wants to know what you think. Because you are the next set of leaders, you are the next set of voters you. And what you decide now may determine a presidential contest may determine the economic system that we have made determine what we do with education and housing and healthcare, you matter. And so often, I feel like your generation isn’t heard. And that’s what we’re going to do. Twice, we’re going to be focused on what you think of the country, and we’re gonna be focused on what you think of the economy. So first, I want to start with the economy just by a show of hands, if you had to choose, do you think that socialism is better? Or do you think capitalism is better when you look at the country, and you look at which does more good, which helps more people who feels more comfortable with capitalism, raise your hands.
And who feels more comfortable with socialism? Raise your hands.
So I want America to see this because there is as many, almost as many who raised their hands for socialism as raise your hands for capitalists. So let’s start I’m actually the son of Cuban refugees. So I understand firsthand how the dangers of socialism, and specifically it’s linked to authoritarianism can really destroy a country and force people out of its country, become the UN. And obviously, we come to the United States, I really think people vote with their feet. And obviously, a lot of people come here, they’re, they’re fleeing socialist countries, for capitalist countries, not the other way around for a reason. So that’s why I support capitalism, socialism. So the reason why I don’t like capitalism is due to the fact that, you know, it’s basically private owners or businesses running, you know, how the how society works, and how the market works. You know, you can’t put all your trust into these people, because, you know, they can mess things up, they can, you know, make mistakes that can be brutal, and, you know, allowing people to have, you know, basic equality of wealth, like our country was founded on, you know, equality, equality for everybody. So, having equal wealth and equal economic security, that’s what, you know, should should happen in this country. I prefer socialism, I think that capitalism is not inherently bad. But in our country, where people don’t start with the same resources, succeeding in a capitalistic economy, is in becoming increasingly more difficult as our wealth gap, you know, quickens
capitalism, because it’s a free market. And if you want to put the work in, if your take up society with the work, anyone be rich, you can do it. Unfortunately, it’s not as much that way. It’s more equal. In terms of like, you’re kind of given social programs, that kind of stuff. I think if you work hard, and in a capitalist society, you could succeed, how you see fit socialism, because capitalism is inherently unequal and pins everyone against each other, when they’re issues of capitalism, but ultimately, capitalism is what makes
America you know, so sought after it’s, it’s why we, it’s why everybody wants to come here and not the other way around. So even though there are issues with capitalism, that certainly needs to be addressed. I think that just comparing this versus socialism, you see, by literally the people who want to come here, instead of us going to socialist countries, socialism, I agree with brandy, that it’s not inherently bad, bad, but in terms of capitalism, but we’re a country where people can barely afford to live. There’s very little class mobility, clearly something is not working right with capitalism in this country. It’s socialism because American capitalism has resulted in like modern day aristocracy in the form of billionaires and I think that’s immoral.
Capitalism, obviously, we need to regulate capitalism. But it’s important to have the separation between government and business. It’s safer for human rights. It’s more efficient. And it’s easier to regulate government business, when your business isn’t being run by the government. I’d say capitalism just because I like the idea of being rewarded for my efforts.
And I believe that private businesses are important for the economy. However, I would agree that there are some programs that should be state around brutalism, because in order to thrive in the country, you have to you want to work for your money, you want to just put yourself out there and go through life with that you don’t want socialism, we don’t want the government controlling things. We just, like have business, small businesses, big businesses, just running things works best, socialism. So I think capitalism inherently places power or concentrates power in corporations and companies that don’t have the incentive, like the average person in mind, I was expecting to hear more about fairness and justice, what I did hear is that socialism, at least to next gen voters is a better system for some of them, because it offers more opportunities for more growth for more people. Sure, some of our group disagreed, but the dominant discussion was co socialism, and anti capitalism. You guys are pretty well split, I want you to win each other over. I want you to say to the other side, why they’re wrong. I think capitalism certainly has a place, but not at the expense of people not getting what they need, like such as health care, or state run facilities, primarily that have Ward’s of the state like children, or prisoners or the elderly. And without
all of those facilities in different states,
or that are private run are incredibly unequal. I disagree. And I think the nuance here is that,
I mean, obviously, we’re looking at these things, really macro, but
cap capitalism, done, fairly done with sort of maybe a socialist mentality,
where people are just being fair and honest, and not exploiting works. And I think it works very well. And it incentivizes and motivates people to want to perform. I totally agree that money motivates people. But I think there are far more examples of
like government, for example, like the Child Tax Credit, like putting money into people’s hands, like literally resulted in less child hunger than we’ve seen in 50 years of American history. So I think that I agree that like, in theory, capitalism, where people are fair and equal and trustworthy, would be great. But clearly, that’s not where we’re at right now. And things are not working for the average middle class or lower class person that simply can’t afford to live like goodbye. Well, who thinks Maggie is wrong? Raise your hands.
Jordan 18. Go ahead.
Um, I mean, I know we keep talking about the programs. But my biggest issue with that is, where’s the money coming from? I know, everyone’s had, like team based efforts where they’ve had one person that’s, you know, not putting in as much work or not putting in any work. And most of the most often than not, they’re gonna be bothered by that. Well, if we’re in a socialist economy, then people can slack off, and they’re still gonna get the same thing that we are.
So do you guys by show of hands, do you want more government involvement in the American economy, or less government involvement? Just in a generic way? Which do you think is going to lead to a better economy? more government involvement are less? Who says more? Raise your hands?
And who says less? Raise your hands?
Okay, it’s once again, it’s about 5050. So someone who wants more government involvement, tell me why any of you log in go ahead, and then shares. Just to clarify, I think that this might be sort of like a false narrative, because I think that there should be plenty of government involvement under like our capitalistic system that gives private private business owners the means of production and the ability to have their own businesses. I do agree, though, that the US government could have a heavy hand in regulating industry, and that there are some things that are just simply under regulated. And so that’s why I think that there might be benefits from more regulation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I support socialism. Understand that. So why should there be more government regulation of the economy? Yeah, so where we’re at
Right now, as I said with my original statement that capitalism encourages the exploitation of workers for the benefits of everyone who’s at the top of the company. And I don’t think that privately owned businesses are inherently bad. But I do think that regulations need to be put into place so that people who are at the bottom rungs don’t get taken advantage of. And it’s not to say that people aren’t working hard. I’m working hard myself. And I am also living paycheck to paycheck. So saying that people aren’t working hard enough is not giving them a fair shot. So I just want to get rid of the exploitation of the workers. Is anyone here? Would you consider yourself less capitalistic now than you were five years ago? Is any of you more negative towards capitalism now? So Maggie, Sarah Raju, why are you even more hostile to capitalism now than you were a few years ago, I grew up in a very like wealthy suburb and the Chicago suburbs. And I always knew that, like there was, you know, I had a chance to succeed, I went to a great public school, I think when I went to college, I realized that there are so many levels to which inequality exists. If you do not have a certain leg up, or you do not have some stepping stone, it is literally impossible to get out of a situation you’re in economically, like, you know, social political groups in general, I think I’ve realized that it’s so ingrained and who we are as a country, like, economically, it is so impossible to get a leg up. If you are, you’re a very rare case, and you’re one of the few that succeeds versus the opposite.
So using the capitalism, capitalism leaves everyone behind.
Yeah, I think that it leaves you behind. And not only that, if you do decide you want to get ahead, it makes it nearly impossible. Unless you have really a special situation or,
you know, you really have somebody to help you give you a leg up.
Sarah, why are you more negative towards capitalism now than you were recently?
Yeah, so I mean, I’ll be honest, whenever I was in high school, I really viewed the economy through some really rose tinted glasses. I used to be extremely pro capitalist when I was in high school, and even freshman, sophomore year of college. However, it wasn’t until about junior year, senior year after I moved out and actually started working in the workforce that I experienced that like for myself having to deal with rent and bills, and gas prices, and all of these other things that I suddenly had to focus on. And I have found that I don’t think capitalism truly benefits people the way that it’s portrayed to.
Like, but for example, working a job that I have a degree for, I get paid minimum wage. And I was, you know, I grew up believing that, you know, you get a degree, you get jobs that pay above that. But that’s not what I’ve experienced. You think that socialism would pay you more?
I think it would be a better starting point. I think capitalism encourages the exploitation of people. I think capitalism, capitalism supports people who are already at the top capitalism benefits them greatly because they get to see greater influxes of wealth year after year, whereas people who are working hard and these minimum wage jobs don’t ever see that type of wealth. It takes forever.
RAB Rab jewel,
yeah. Does Washington not understand?
And why does your preferred economic system make your life better? Um, so, you know, starting with the first question, what Congress does not understand about me and my life is, you know, they just trying to do things that puts money into their own pockets. Like what like, so far there has been like, two or three government shutdowns almost happened, but they are about they pass like around two to three bills. You know, it was just like, last minute decisions that they made, you know, I think, was one of them, that a program that they’re gonna shut down is the ACP plan, which is like free internet for everybody. They’re about to shut that down. I think it’s already shut down. They haven’t done anything about it. And, you know, it seems kind of selfish, you know, obviously, they’re making so much money. They’re so wealthy, but they don’t understand to the perspective of a middle class, working individual every day. You know, obviously, they can walk into the, you know, congressional office any day of the weak and do what they want to do, but they will never understand what is going on with the average person in today’s society.
And which economic system do you think will benefit you?
Over the long run, I would go with socialism because this country is built on equal opportunity equal pay equal, equal opportunity for everybody, everybody should have, you know, the chance to start at at a base of zero and then work their way up, I think everybody should have equal opportunity, why give somebody, you know, a higher leverage over somebody else, you know, everybody should have that equal playing field. And, you know, having that equal opportunity amongst people is very good as something that a lot of people here have brought up is that socialism gets everyone to a good starting point. But I think that we look at that, because we’re most of us are younger people who are not yet financially stable or secure. But while socialism might help us in the short term, I think something we have to think about is that once you have a socialist system, any of us who work to try to get ahead at that point, are constantly held down at the starting point, socialism makes people equal by holding everyone down. Margaret, do you agree or disagree? I agree. And both disagree to a point, I think that it holds you down. But I think that it also motivates you to keep going. Whereas with our current capitalist society, you can keep going and going forever, and you’re not going to see any progress. I just want to clarify, you believe that socialism is more of a motivating factor than capitalism, please tell me why.
Because with capitalism, it’s inherently unequal, and you’re never going to be able to get ahead, you are born with what you are stuck in whatever you are destined with. If you’re born into a rich family, there you are, if you’re born into a lower class family, it’s going to be hard as heck to pull yourself out of it, because the system does not support you. So I’m just gonna push back on that, because I noticed earlier, there was a girl on this zoom, who said, you know, she came from a upper middle class or middle class family and didn’t feel supported. I grew up on food stamps, and single mom and I know that, like we have talked about, are there certain circumstances where you can succeed.
But I go to a great university, for free because of the abilities afforded to me, through capitalism, which is, you know, rewarding a lot of meritocracy, we talked about this, in a sense.
And I agree with the previous statement, that socialism might be good for us in the short term, especially when you’re struggling, it’s very tempting. But um, you know, the US is responsible for over 50% of the world’s research and development. And I think that if there’s a country, or a group of scientists or people that’s going to find the cure to cancer, it’s most likely going to be in the United States. And I think that that’s something to consider that in the long term. You know, capitalism in this competition has afforded us a lot of great strides in humanity and progressing humanity as a whole. I disagree. Just to that wants to the point is that what’s the point of like, curing cancer, I can’t even afford that myself. But if I’m if I’m on food stamps, and I’m sure you can sympathize, like you’re saying, someone food stamps, I surely cannot afford private health care. That’s hundreds of 1000s of dollars for cancer.
I think the main problem that we’re all hitting on is that people are selfish and exploit other people. And that’s not a capitalism problem. That’s a people problem. I think that we have this idea that under socialism, we’re going to regulate and control all the selfish people. But we forget that the politicians are just as selfish themselves and are going to use that power against us. A DD that’s a very interesting thought, what’s your reaction to it?
I think that’s fair to say. But I don’t think I honestly don’t think it’s fair to say because I think when you’re in a capitalist society, you’re putting, like you go out of your way to put people in power, that don’t at all reflect the average person, like in socialism, like the actual people in government are going to be much more representative. In an ideal scenario, and I know it’s not fair to the ideal scenario, in any case, but the actual people that make a government are very different. So it’s not fair to say that okay, like you see politicians right now that are in power in a capitalistic society that are corrupt and saying Sandy’s gonna happen in socialism, and they’re gonna have more power. Like, I just don’t think it’s already quite the Doom. We then turn to the battle between meritocracy and equality. Once again, Gen Z took a position hostile to their parents wanting more equality or as they told me, equity. Why a feeling that meritocracy is good for some, but not for everyone. Let’s listen. By a show of hands. Which do you think
America needs more of
meritocracy, or equality. If you had to choose, does this country need more meritocracy? Or equality? Who says meritocracy?
Five of you who says equality?
The vast majority of you.
I’ll do the minority first, can I get three of you to tell me why meritocracy is more important at this point? A lot of people are upset that they’re not they feel they’re not being paid as they should, for a lot of their jobs. So meritocracy would be being paid on your ability or based off of your ability. So I think that if that is what people are caring about, that’s what they should be fighting for. Okay, Bianca, what’s wrong with that?
I’m having trouble. Because I do think that people should be paid based on their ability, and you know, how hard they’ve worked to get somewhere.
So i That’s why I kind of wasn’t sure where to raise my hand on this question, because I work hard, and I work extensive hours. So you know, I want to be compensated for all of the work that I put in.
So I’m a little torn there. Randy, are you torn?
No, I’m, I’m not torn. I think meritocracy has its place. And I think that people are often rewarded for how hard they work. But I don’t think equality is the right word. It shouldn’t be meritocracy versus equality. I think maybe we should be talking about a third option, which is equity.
Because equality, I think involves bringing some people down and raising others up. Whereas if we get everybody up just to the same starting place,
then we really could have a shot at meritocracy being very fruitful for people. Margaret, I saw you nodding your head, go ahead. Um, I would have to agree with what Brandi said that I think equity is the better term than equality.
I agree that I think everyone should be given the same starting points. And then absolutely, I think we can thrive under a meritocracy. But I think it’s inherently not fair. If we were to do that, at the place we are now everyone needs to be at the same starting point before we can then get to the meritocracy. So how you’re going to get everyone Margaret to the same starting point.
Not through capitalism, because capitalism is inherently pitting people against each other. You have to have something to bring them together. And in my mind, I see that as socialism.
Lucio How do you handle this challenge?
Well, I mean, the start, I think we shouldn’t be giving everybody the basic necessities to live. And then we can talk about meritocracy. So as soon as we get everybody health care, housing, food,
I think after that is when you can start talking about, okay, you’ve been doing this job for longer, so then you should get paid more than the other person who’s been only doing it for a year.
I think that you were a direct result of what you put in to the system. I understand people work hard, I get that. But I think there is another level of working hard that happens. And what you put in I think people have made decisions when early on in your life, we went to college, which are major, these are major going to be a high paying major good, what are you going to college? Are you going to pay off your debt from your major, you know, STEM fields, typically speaking are where you get paid more. So if you go into STEM field, your college was most like a bit for yourself. If you go to liberal arts, you probably won’t, you’ll probably get paid less. If you have more debt, you don’t blame the government for that. You have to you did basically blame the decision for going to a section of the economy that doesn’t pay as much. I think you are a direct result of what you make a decision making how hard you work. And if you put in a lot of work and hard work, you will be successful. Ideally, go ahead.
I just I don’t think it’s point blank at that. Like I get what you’re saying. But like I don’t want to say where I go, but I go to a university. That’s a really good school. And there’s kids here who come from Oregon complete financial aid, but and there’s kids who pay 80k a year. So it’s like, sure they you’re saying they start up at the same point. And they both worked hard. And they should both do STEM have a great life. But there’s kids who are on financial aid here who still don’t get the same opportunity because they’re working to pay for basic needs and that others kids whose parents paid for them can afford to take harder classes and harder majors whereas this kids who are trying to take gems of classes because they physically do not have the time because they’re working 40 hours a week at Pete’s coffee because they need to pay basic living expenses like shampoo and conditioner and things like that. So I think even when you say you’re putting someone on a fair pedestal, there’s always going to be that inherent equality. And so does that mean that people who work
okay, so so give me the consequence of that. What is the
As policy based on your point of view, or the, like meritocracy versus equality, yes, I would say equality because I don’t think it’s perfect. But I think with meritocracy there, you’re saying that, okay, you’re saying one person works harder. They’re taking harder classes, but the only reason they can take harder classes, spend more time in school, do internships in a job, do unpaid internships, this is because their parents can afford for them to pay an apartment in Boston for you, I’m talking about like, whereas other people like my prioritize a paid internship, it’s not as like going on their resume because they physically need to, like afford to live somewhere.
It was a good conversation. But when we got specific, and I challenged them to personalize the debate, people’s attitudes actually began to change. This is America speaks at his very best. Okay, anyone worked as a waiter or a waitress? erasure hands? 123456? Okay, a majority of you. So let’s say that you did.
What is the proper way to compensate a waiter or waitress? To give tips based on what you earn? Or to pull tips so that everyone gets the same amount?
Do you get what you’re given? Or Should everyone get the same amount? Who would pull tips so that everyone gets the same amount? Raise your hands?
I don’t see a single hand going up. Not one of you. So if you agree that that’s a legitimate
Why does it apply to other things? Well, I think that if you know, using the example of waiters and waitresses,
you get paid or you should be paid a base wage for all the same work that you do, as all the other waiters and waitresses for your side work for, you know, closing whatever the case is, you know, it should be more than minimum wage, but you everyone gets paid that same amount. And then on top of that, you get paid for the additional work and service to provide. And so in that sense, meritocracy, meritocracy works, and you can be rewarded for how hard you work and how dedicated you are. But that doesn’t mean that that should be completely based off of,
or that you completely base your livelihood. You know, if you are a waiter or waitress, you show up to work and you have a terrible day before you go in for your shift, you’re probably gonna make less money because you’re not going to be as friendly. And that should be okay. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat that week, you still should be making that base wage underneath. So just using your example not talking about can be true. We’re not talking about the base rates, everybody, this is tips. This is above and beyond. Aaron, should those who get
bigger tips, should they be able to keep them? Or would you pull them?
I think based on tips alone, people should be able to keep them.
That’s a meritocracy. Is it not?
He Yes. But there’s a bunch of other factors, like Brandy said with base wage, but you’re excluding that from the conversation. Let’s say everyone, I want to pay everyone better, everyone. But in tips, which is the reward for service? Should some people get paid more? Because they’re better at?
Yes. Does anyone disagree with that?
You have to use your hands. Anyone disagree? That if you if you get better tips, you should be able to keep that benefit. Does anyone disagree with that?
Isn’t that a good example of meritocracy?
Ron Frank, can I can I build on that? Yeah, let’s do it quickly. Okay, so I think that in your example, it’s a really good example, Frank. I just think that I just thought about it. And I’m just saying that the nuance there is
it should be based on how good service you get, for example, and not like, you think this waitress is hot, you know, or how somebody looks, versus this person just gave amazing service. So if, if all of the
the patrons have the appropriate mindset are going to be fair with their assessment of the work, then that works. The problem is like implicit bias, I think.
Should someone be able
if they park more cars, because it’s the same skill in parking cars, some people run to the car and bring them back. Other people walk should a valet get the benefit of more tips if they are willing to run back and forth as their parking cars. If they’re willing to get if they’re basically that’s what I’m saying? If they’re willing to do more work if the reward is based on the hard work rather than any other, you know, factor.
Mmm then I think that meritocracy totally works. That’s that’s the only thing. Just anyone disagree with that? Let’s use the valet as an example, because it’s actually the same thing. You’re parking the same cars. One person runs the cars because they want to get more tips. Does anyone disagree?
With a valet who runs to their car that day? Does anyone think they should get paid the same as the person who walks.
So at least in that level, you agree on meritocracy. Anything else you want to add to this conversation? I would like to just chime in and say that we’re, you know, Sebastian made a good point that we all agree that there should be equality and opportunity. And in these examples, we’re comparing people who are in the same positions.
And that’s exactly it. They’re in the same position. They’re doing the same job. But some people do it better than others.
Okay, anything else that we should be raising about meritocracy, versus equality?
Anyone else want to raise anything on this? I think something to just keep in mind during this argument is it’s kind of based on the assumption that there’s good faith within everyone. I currently work as a waitress and I will go above and beyond all the time and not get a single dollar in a tip. And I make 213 An hour hourly. And so I walk out the door with 50 bucks. And sometimes I walked out the door with 150 bucks, but I could put in the same energy in those days. And I think that’s important to realize that it’s not going to be across the board, you’re getting the same customers who have the same attitude. There’s people who view service workers and people as that’s their job, and I don’t need to tip them because they’re just doing their job. And I think that’s a flawed point of view. But I just think it’s important to have that background in mind. But does but because you don’t like those customers, because you don’t think they respect you. Is that a reason to level the playing field in income and payment? Because some people are bad people. Aaron?
I think that’s when raising the base pay would come in. That’s not we all agree with that.
The question is meritocracy.
I’m gonna give you a chance one more time. And Henry, you’re on the side. You’re sideways again, try to fit there you go.
You now have heard this conversation. waiter or waitress? Valet? The same job?
Does anyone still believe
that equality is better than meritocracy?
Yes. So you would take money from the person who’s running to their vehicle,
you would take money from the person who hustles in service. That’s why I made the point earlier that we should be talking about equity. I don’t think you should be taking money from anybody. But I do think that we should be providing the same amount for doing the same amount of work. And if somebody wants to go above and beyond and do that work. You know, the conversation and talking about tips, I don’t think is analogous to talking about meritocracy on a grand level. It just does not work. It’s not the same. There are too many other factors. I think the problem here is I think everyone deserves to make a living wage, putting people in a situation where they feel like they need to go above and beyond performing their job that they’re passionate about. Is the problem paying people enough to live is as I think what’s more important here. We’re out of time, but before we go, I want to give our Gen Z panelists credit. These were very divisive topics discussed in a civil and respectful way. And that’s an accomplishment a lot of their parents can claim. So on behalf of everyone here in America speaks I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. See you next time

Video Library

Latest Commentary

We know it is important to hear from a diverse range of observers on the complex topics we face and believe our commentary partners will help you reach your own conclusions.

The commentaries published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Latest Opinions

In addition to the facts, we believe it’s vital to hear perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. We hope these different voices will help you reach your own conclusions.

The opinions published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Weekly Voices

Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion