All Commentary
Friday, December 1, 2023

This TikTok Video Shows How the Right Is Scaring Young People Away from Capitalism

Young people aren't snowflakes for wanting a better life.

Image Credit: Alexis Brown - Unsplash | CC0 1.0 DEED

Recently, a TikTok video of a zoomer in tears about her nine-to-five job went viral. In the video, she complains that she has to take a long commute to work since she can’t afford to live in the city. With an early rise and a late return, she explains that she doesn’t have time to do anything else.

With millions of views, the video received a mixed bag of responses. On TikTok, the video received a mostly positive reception. Some commenters said they could relate, others blamed capitalism for having their own annoying nine-to-five job. Meanwhile on Twitter, right-wing pundits took it as an opportunity to make a dig at young people being sensitive and spoiled.

It is sadly common that when any young person complains about an inconvenience, they tend to be mocked by others online, especially boomers. People in older generations are quick to bring out well-worn talking points, like “maybe if you stop buying so many Starbucks coffees, you’d be better off!” They might also try to compete by saying that in their day they had it worse. Too often, young people are seen as “lazy” or “snowflakes.”

But do young people really have it better?

In some cases, yes. Our parents didn’t have the same technology or access to entertainment that we take for granted every day. It was only a few decades ago that you would have to go to Blockbuster to rent a movie. Now, not only do we have access to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu at a relatively cheap price, we also have endless free video entertainment on YouTube.

But that’s not the full story.

The Kids Aren’t Alright

As with all generations, zoomers face disadvantages. One of the biggest challenges young people face today is finding an affordable place to live. It’s hard enough for many young people to afford rent, let alone save up for a mortgage. As the Tiktoker describes in the video, she’s unable to afford to live close to her workplace.

The housing crisis has a big role to play in this. Due to red tape and planning regulations, the supply of housing is severely limited. This is especially true in cities, where the demand greatly outweighs the supply.

It might seem as though there is an easy solution: just build more housing. But expanding housing in cities is unpopular. As Patrick Carroll has explained:

With respect to supply, there are basically two ways to expand: up and out. On the one hand, cities can build taller, higher-density residences. On the other hand, they can build on new land at the outskirts of the city.

The problem is that both of these options are seriously unpopular. With respect to building up, many people are fiercely opposed to high-density developments in their local communities, and as a result, most municipalities have strict zoning laws that prevent or at least limit these kinds of initiatives.

If you suggest building out, however, you quickly encounter the wrath of environmentalists who are on a mission to mitigate urban sprawl, and the environmentalists have passed many land-use regulations, too. The Greenbelt in Ontario, for instance, is a 2,000,000 acre swath of land surrounding Toronto that is permanently protected from development because of environmental considerations.

On top of this, young people also face other financial challenges that boomers did not at their age. When it comes to saving up for rent or a mortgage, the government’s policies, including inflation and taxation, are eating into our incomes more than in the past. In addition, young people have fallen into the trap of predatory student loans—a trap which has been getting worse in recent decades—which means that graduates have less money in their pocket at the end of the month.

The Zoomer to Socialist Pipeline

Young people clearly face issues. Yet boomers turn a blind eye and scoff at the luxuries of Netflix and Starbucks that zoomers and millennials take for granted.

As a result of feeling unheard and patronized by the older generations who refuse to acknowledge their problems, many young people turn towards socialism, which recognizes their issues and diagnoses them as the fault of capitalism. The majority of young people in the United Kingdom prefer socialism over capitalism, and they blame issues like the housing crisis on the free market. But this just exacerbates the problem. When they cheer for government intervention, young people are advocating for more of what is causing their issues in the first place!

If we want to stop young people from being disillusioned with capitalism, we need to honestly acknowledge the problems they’re facing instead of dismissing them. The reason why the TikToker can’t afford the same standard of living that her parents probably did isn’t the fault of capitalism. It’s the fault of the government. If we address these issues with the consideration they deserve, we can stop young people from digging their own grave.

  • Jess Gill is the Communications and Social Manager for Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA) and a Hazlitt Fellow with the Foundation for Economic Education.