Fraser Forum

Large percentage of Aussies want socialism—but don’t want to pay for it

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Large percentage of Aussies want socialism—but don’t want to pay for it

According to a new poll commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs and Canada’s Fraser Institute, a significant percentage of Australians, particularly those 18-34 years old, are embracing socialism. But few are prepared to pay for it.

Specifically, 40 per cent of Australians polled support socialism as the ideal economic system—that percentage increases to 50 per cent among only 18-34 year olds. Australia also had the second-highest level of support for communism (20 per cent) for this age group among the four countries involved in the poll (Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom).

Interestingly, only 35 per cent of Australian respondents, regardless of age group, defined socialism using its traditional meaning—that is, the government owning the means of production.

Instead, like respondents from other countries, more Australians defined socialism as either the government providing more services (65 per cent) and/or guaranteeing a minimum level of income (57 per cent). Put differently, Australians defined socialism as government spending much more money rather than controlling companies and the economy.

However, very few Australians want to pay higher taxes to finance the modern-day version of socialism identified in the survey. Indeed, like people from the other countries, Australians by and large want someone else to pay for their socialism.

Specifically, according to the poll, only 39 per cent of Australians support a broad-based increase in personal income taxes while even less (23 per cent) support a substantial increase in the national Value-Added Tax (VAT). Most respondents likely assume both of these tax increases would affect them.

Conversely, however, 73 per cent support a new wealth tax on the top 1 per cent of earners while 54 per cent support a narrowly targeted increase in personal income taxes on the top 10 per cent. Of course, neither of these tax options would come close to raising the revenue needed to finance the type of expanded government implied by the definitions of socialism favoured by respondents.

The data from this poll seem fairly clear—a significant proportion of young Australians want a form of socialism that entails large-scale increases in government spending, which Aussies broadly are unwilling to pay for themselves. If Australians want expanded government, the trade-off is much higher taxes. As Nobel laureate Milton Friedman often explained, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, even for those who want socialism.

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