The widespread support for Bernie Sanders on college campuses speaks volumes and not in a good way.

Allan H. Meltzer of the Hoover Institution.

College Students Flunk Economics

The enthusiastic response of college students to Senator Bernie Sanders’ “democratic socialism” is one of the most surprising and dispiriting events of the current presidential campaign. Apparently students have not learned that, historically, all socialist systems—democratic and authoritarian alike—failed to satisfy public demands and were abandoned after much suffering. Capitalism is the only economic system that offers freedom, opportunity, and increased living standards to the greatest numbers of people.

These students must be unfamiliar with Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, a brilliant critique of the 1945 British decision to adopt democratic socialism. Hayek insisted that socialism could not work. If voters chose to elect a non-socialist government, the socialist economic plan would be discarded. The alternative was an authoritarian government that prevented voters from rejecting the plan.

In the 70 years since the British decision, we have seen both outcomes. Britain kept its democracy. Voters eventually elected Margaret Thatcher in 1979. She transformed the economy, sold the socialized industries, strengthened the market system, and enhanced freedom. Growth of per capita income and productivity rose. Socialists never forgave her for successfully achieving what they failed to achieve. Subsequently, labor governments returned to office, but they did not restore socialism. Socialism failed.