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The dangers of disaffected youth

Bernie Sanders campaigning in 2020. Brittany Greeson/Getty

The biggest threat to America’s economic and political system isn’t “oligarchic elites”, says Joel Kotkin in National Review. It’s the “growing number of underemployed, overeducated” people. Half of all recent college graduates make under $30,000 a year, and 40% work in jobs that don’t actually require their degree. This is a “global phenomenon”: in China, more than a quarter of graduates are unemployed; one in three graduates under 29 in India doesn’t have a job, more than three times the country’s overall unemployment rate. This generation were promised riches from the “new economy”. Instead, they’re scrapping it out for unstable, low-paying jobs.

The worry is that young, discontented people generally “push toward the extremes”. Underemployed graduates helped drive disruption in the Arab Spring, the Balkans, and even Nazi Germany, where much of the “often near-destitute” educated population embraced national socialism. In today’s America, our “young proto-proletarians” are looking to the public coffers for their fortunes. The proudly socialist Bernie Sanders outpolled Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined among under-30s in the 2016 election. It’s easy for us older folk to dismiss this extremism. But a “nation of struggling renters, with no hope of ascending into the middle class, are fodder for authoritarians”. If we don’t address their concerns, they may become “agents of our social and political deconstruction”.