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Tucker Carlson | Flickr

One of the most mem­o­rable class­rooms expe­ri­ences of my life was during my sophomore year in History of Eco­nomic Thought, when Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele — no enemy of the free market, mind you — marched to the front of the class, dropped a copy of Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” on the table, and pro­claimed: “I’m going to make you all Marxists by the end of the week!” We all chuckled. This is the Hillsdale Eco­nomics department, we just don’t believe things like that. But throughout our dis­cussion Marxism and Soviet com­munism, not once did Steele describe these ideas as ridiculous, pre­pos­terous, or silly. I don’t think any of us left as Marxists that week, but we did leave Steele’s classroom with a deeper under­standing of these ideas and a rein­vig­o­rated appre­ci­ation for our own beliefs. Only through under­standing the other side could we ever begin to truly form our own jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for eco­nomic freedom. While this story is very much the norm at Hillsdale College, it is, unfor­tu­nately, unre­quited in many young con­ser­v­ative circles.

At Fox News, Tucker Carlson has infu­riated many a college socialist and Demo­c­ratic oper­ative through his dis­missive smirks. He has turned the split-screen deadpan into a work of art. This phe­nomenon con­tinues on the interwebs with the ever-popular “Inter­viewing College Lib­erals” or “Ben Shapiro Destroys” videos that rack up tens of thou­sands of views on YouTube. But while such low-hanging fruit pro­vides enter­tainment for young con­ser­v­a­tives (myself included), this trend of flip­pantly dis­missing argu­ments with which we dis­agree is destructive.

It is very easy to dismiss ideas like the Green New Deal, uni­ver­sally-paid for college, or just about all of Demo­c­ratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) platform as lunacy, but these pro­posals are sup­ported by wide swaths of the pop­u­lation. While young con­ser­v­a­tives laugh at the notion of America ever becoming a socialist country, our leftist peers actively work to make it so. The con­ser­v­ative argument might make sense to us, but that doesn’t mean it will come to pass.

One of the cliches of debate is that you must know your opponent’s argument better than he does. Unfor­tu­nately, this men­tality is an anomaly in the young con­ser­v­ative movement. Rather than seeking to under­stand the left’s ide­ology in depth, we try to learn just enough to offer what we see as a scathing rebuttal. Rarely do we ask our­selves: why do so many people my age openly embrace socialism? Rather, we resort to the easy mis­char­ac­ter­i­zation of all these budding Marxists as spoiled and entitled products of heli­copter parents. For those young Charles Krauthammers out there, have you ever con­sidered why the debunked doc­trine of socialism is so popular with your seem­ingly intel­ligent peers, or what the aca­demic or philo­sophical under­pin­nings of such an idea are? These may be important things to con­sider before rushing to laugh at the insanity of “that loon bag Bernie Sanders” staging his bid for the pres­i­dency.

According to a recent Reason-Rupe poll, 58 percent of college-aged Amer­icans view socialism favorably. Are these tens of thou­sands of people chomping at the bit to become the next Vladamir Lenin or Nicholas Maduro? Are they hell bent on enslaving the masses so they can live in luxury at the expense of others? The obvious answer is no. Perhaps, like most people our age, they see problems in the world and crave to fix them. Perhaps they see a broken healthcare system that leaves many with inad­e­quate insurance. Perhaps they see problems that are not being addressed by those in power. That does not mean their solu­tions are right, but unless we do our best to under­stand their per­spective, we will do nothing but throw stones from behind our ide­o­log­i­cally for­tified bunkers.

Many like to say that American con­ser­vatism has a mar­keting problem. Our message is obvi­ously correct (it’s the pro­mo­tions of eternal truths, for Kirk’s sake!), so we just need to figure out how to present it to the latest gen­er­ation. This men­tality may be agreeable, but it leads to an anemic under­standing of our core values. The “dunking on leftist” approach favored by your average college-aged con­ser­v­ative, and pro­moted by groups like Turning Point USA, may be deli­cious to those already in agreement, but it does very little to change the minds of the many fence-sitters.

Tucker Carlson’s smirking approach to pol­itics, while enjoyable, is toxic. Rather than laughing at your political oppo­nents, try to under­stand them, if for nothing more than to fortify your own posi­tions. Without the humility to question one’s own ideas, a person can never grow and learn. You never know, maybe in your crusade to rid the world of those Dum­my­crats, your mind might change once or twice along the way.

Erik Halvorson is a senior studying Eco­nomics.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    good article. take it a step further.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Most people don’t really under­stand the eso­teric con­cepts of con­ser­vatism or socialism until they have skin in the game. It’s easy as a HS or college student to accept socialist policies on face value, but get out in the work­place and it becomes more than a casual debate. The first time you receive a pay­check and see all the taxes taken out for Federal, State, SS and Medicare you’ll grasp what socialism’s tax-and-spend is really all about. A con­ser­v­ative is a socialist who has filed a few federal tax returns. Not sur­pris­ingly, the vast majority of public employees are Democrats and embrace socialist con­cepts.

  • Camus53

    So the RNC strategy is to hang the “socialist” tag around the necks of Dems. This after having dis­covered that “glob­alists” wasn’t really all that effective as a slur given Trump’s own propensity to supply himself with Chinese made goods and to rely on foreign monies to fuel his empire.

    Oh yes, I will, to be fair, mention the far-left’s use of “cap­i­talism” as their mantra for all things bad in the world.

    But here’s the thing that stands out as a sore thumb for any Repub­lican claiming to be con­ser­v­ative in their eco­nomics. Over the past many decades the party and persons respon­sible for blowing huge holes in our budgets, cre­ating massive deficits, igniting both inflation and recessions…sorry folks…those dern repub scoundrels!

    So the next time you hear about “trickle down” economics…try not to think of trump and the russian hookers…but do think clearly about what has worked and what hasn’t…let alone what will have to work as we con­tinue to fall blindly into the future.

    • Camus53

      For your homework…go read up on the MMT thesis…a recent though already aged eco­nomic posit cur­rently getting blown up in the media again thanks to repubs trying to throw socialist labels. Yes I agree with most of its pre­cepts given that we a re the world’s leading fiat pro­ducing nation whose fiat dollars are the basis for all world money val­u­a­tions.

      After gearing up on that, now please go read about…and I would hope this is included in current Hillsdale business courses.…The 4th Indus­trial Rev­o­lution thesis. IMHO this should be mandatory reading for all college age persons won­dering about the future, their future and how to best prepare for it, live it, and ensure that mankind can and will carry on in the best ways it can.
      The world can no longer live a “que sera, sera” future.…