At a time when polls indicate young adults are embracing socialism in greater numbers, a new project from the Washington Policy Center touting the power of the free market has gained significant online traction.
The project, titled “Free Markets Destroy,” launched in May and has reached more than 10 million social media accounts along with one million views for its videos highlighting the role the free market plays in eradicating problems including hunger and disease.
The unusual brand name is part of an effort by WPC’s creative partner Emergent Order to appeal to the target audience between the ages of 18-34. Emergent Order created the popular YouTube video featuring a “rap battle” between economists John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich A. “F.A.” Hayek over their respective philosophical views of the market. Keynes argued that governments should increase spending and expand the currency supply during an economic recession, while Hayek advocated the economic belief that government meddling in the economy by manipulating interest rates results in a “bust-boom” cycle. The video currently has 7.4 million views.
During the project’s unveiling in May, Emergent Order CEO John Papola said that “we are fundamentally focused like a laser on this young audience, what they love, what they want to see…versus triggering them.” He added that the campaign’s tone and approach may not be “what you and I might like, or want to hear, or understand. We judge creative things by our gut, whether it feels right to us.”
Creative Director Marshall Walker Lee said during the May unveiling that the emphasis on “creative destruction” reflects the mindset and temperament of young adults. “They are seeing problems they want to fix…regardless of whether their political institutions lead them left or right.”
He added that “this audience is politically engaged, they vote…but they’re also very politically malleable. More than half of them don’t have a stated strong (party) preference.”
The campaign’s various videos examine topics such as poverty, climate change, and educational inequality, and how the free market offers remedies, as opposed to government control or intervention. There are also videos explaining what exactly a “free market” means.
Free Markets Destroy Campaign Director Chris Cargill told Lens that it offers “a message people really haven’t heard before. For a long, long time the free market movement has tried to come up with a way to speak to millennials and Gen. Z that is attractive to them, that they can understand. This is still a positive campaign, but it’s with a twist.”
He said another reason for the campaign’s success so far is that college-age students aren’t exposed to these ideas, noting the results of an audience survey following a WPC-sponsored tax policy debate at Gonzaga University last year. More than 80 percent of them said they had never heard those arguments made before.
However, “the older generation has examples of what happens in socialist countries,” Cargill said.
Like Walker, Cargill believes their efforts are also tapping into the political earnestness in many young adults. “If you want to fix what’s broken, if you want to move fast, if you’re tired of politicians or some generations telling you ‘no,’ the free market is the best avenue. When you allow the people the opportunity to innovate and creatively destroy things they don’t like, they usually come up with something better.”
Cargill said their hope is that the campaign will influence how young adults look for solutions to problems, particularly in the political realm. “Its goal is to make it so young people, when they hear about these issues in public debate, they might recall an ad about the free market being able to solve climate change.”
He added that they’re planning to ramp up online engagement with new infographics and videos. The campaign also maintains a “Free Markets Improve!’ blog.
“We were very strategic about this,” he said. “(It’s) something we’ve committed to as an organization.”