As the United States and China face over trade — and more systemically about the extent and practicality of pro-market reforms in the Middle Kingdom —the commitment of President Xi Jinping and his government's commitment to Communist Party rule and a socialist-market economy has emerged as a significant challenge to the viability of the World Trade Organization.
At home, however, the success of the Chinese system — posting consistently strong growth — challenges the legitimacy of our own democratic and free-market institutions among our youths.
An October 2017 study found 46 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 indicated they believe states are more effectively governed by experts than elected officials— among those over 50, the figure was only 36 percent. Similar polls demonstrate wide youth dissatisfaction with capitalism.
Youth behavior on college campuses — demands for strict adherence to leftist orthodoxy from faculty, fellow students and visiting intellectuals, and reflexive dismissal of anything advocated by President Donald Trump — displays an alarming contempt for the essential building blocks of any democracy.
Those are free speech, respect for disagreeing opinions and the absolute obligation of the losing side in an election to accept the outcome, honor the winner and work with the new government until the next round of voting.
Young people have terrible examples to guide them. Academic administrators systematically punish faculty who fail to sanitize syllabi and classroom dialogue to the tyranny of political correctness and purge conservatives who challenge theology of identity politics.
Politicians like Charles Schumer, who obstructs Senate votes on nominations to staff the Trump administration, and Nancy Pelosi, who never admits value in anything the GOP proposes, refuses to collaborate on most legislation and disrespectfully protests during the State of the Union address. And Republicans were hardly wholesome in their conduct toward President Barack Obama when they were in the opposition — stonewalling Obama's final Supreme Court nomination and Rep. Joe Wilson shouting "liar"during Obama's 2009 State of the Union address.
For generations, universities have been run by pious ideologies and political parties populated by vainglorious sore losers. Nowadays, however, young people are quitting the faith for the same reasons so many rural and smaller city Americans rejected the establishment Republican Party of Jeb Bush during the primaries and Hillary Clinton in the general election to put Donald Trump in the White House. America has failed many of them, and the leadership of the major political parties is callous to their pain.
From the 1930s to 1960, most workers had less than a high-school education, and many more were on farms, in factories, unionized and identified with the Democratic Party, which won most elections. Republicans represented the merchant class, financiers and industrialists, who were generally better educated and resisted New Deal redistributionist policies and encroachments on free markets.
Since then, freer trade, more open immigration, the digital revolution in production and communications, and the civil rights and women's movements have greatly changed the economy and realigned political parties — omitting the genuine interests of many millennials and blue-collar workers.
These days, both political parties reflect the values of highly educated elites. Democrats champion the mind set of liberal academics, successful professionals on the two coasts who profit from globalization and the digital economy, and professional advocates of race and gender issues.
Republicans still hue to an agenda advocated by high-income, high-wealth individuals who also have benefited grandly from changes in our economy. One need only point to their success cutting corporate taxes and failures on health care to see the ties that bind.
The typical 26-year-old is not a Harvard or University of Michigan graduate with a promising career at a software startup, law firm or investment house, but rather a second-tier, private or public college graduate — or less — often stuck in a dead-end, low-paying job and burdened with huge student debt he may well take to the grave.
Millions of young adults bought into a capitalist promise — borrow thousands of dollars for college to get a good job — and got stiffed.
Ultimately, young people will assess the efficacy of our political and economic systems — and assign their loyalties — by how well those address their basic needs.
American democracy and capitalism are not doing well in the eyes of young people and the marginalized.