Why is America so fervently capitalist? Why do they reject socialist/liberal policies with such indignation? What makes them so different from Europeans?

Thanks for the question. Here are some of the top reasons why folks in the U.S. are so “fervently capitalist” and suspicious of “socialism” and social liberalism:

1. Our commercialistic and religious fundamentalist cultures have made us a lot more gullible. We respond to advertising and marketing as if it is truth — which is great for companies selling products, and great for ideologues, con artists, and cult leaders selling lies. Consequently, when right-wing propaganda (Red Scares, “cultural marxism,” McCarthyism, Trumpism, Jordan Peterson, and other neoliberal disinformation) demonizes socialism and liberalism — or makes socialists and liberals scapegoats for outcomes that are actually caused by capitalism (like unemployment, income inequality, influx of immigrants, etc.) — Americans are just more likely to believe the hype. When I lived in Germany, I was stunned by how much more informed and cautiously critical even German kids were than most American adults.

2. Partial reenforcement is powerful. It is absolutely true than one-in-a-million people in the U.S. can work their way from poverty into affluence, and an even smaller number can become extremely wealthy. America really is the land of opportunity. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. Most businesses fail. Most people do not realize their dreams. And most people who try to become wealthy remain poor. Psychologically, though, this reality doesn’t matter, because if even one person in the U.S. wins a major national lottery and becomes a millionaire, people will still believe becoming a millionaire by playing that lottery (or starting a business, or inventing something, or writing books, or performing music, etc.) “is a real possibility.” Which, of course, it is…it’s just not very likely at all.

3. Americans actually don’t reject socialist/liberal policies — or, rather, they are raging hypocrites about it. The regions of the U.S. that are the most heavily pro-capitalist and anti-socialist are also reliably where the largest dependency on government programs can be found (see PolitiFact - 'Red State Socialism' graphic says GOP-leaning states get lion's share of federal dollars). It’s pretty funny, actually. Also, according to most polls, whenever socialist and liberal policies are described to respondents without loaded trigger language (for example, describing features of the Affordable Care Act but not calling it “Obamacare”), the response from a significant majority polled is positive. Most Americans actually like “liberal” policies — until they are told by right-wing media outlets and authorities that they shouldn’t (see Majority of Americans support progressive policies such as higher minimum wage, free college, and Working-Class Americans in All States Support Progressive Economic Policies - Center for American Progress Action).

4. Lastly, there are nut-job market fundamentalist outliers who are very vocal. Just like Twitter “cancel culture” doesn’t represent most left-leaning folks, there are frothing-at-the-mouth far-right crazies who get a lot of attention on the Internet and in mass media, but who don’t represent a majority of more centrist right-leaning Americans. I’m speaking of course of fans of Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, and other thought leaders for the broken brain crowd — many of whom subscribe to the right-libertarian movement funded by the Koch brothers.
As a consequence of one or more of the above influences, U.S. citizens have the appearance of being rugged individualists who conflate freedom with laissez-faire capitalism. But that really isn’t true. In the U.S., as elsewhere, the embracing of socialist and liberal policies has actually made capitalism much more successful and enduring (see ). At least…they have up until now…

My 2 cents.


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