Saturday, February 01, 2003


There is a well-known and much misattributed saying: "If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain." It might be interesting to note that the earliest version of this saying is by mid-nineteenth century historian and politician Francois Guizot, who said: "Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head". He was referring to the controversy over whether France should be a republic or a monarchy. France did of course have various experiments with monarchy even after the decapitation of Louis XVI. So foolish young people want Presidents and wiser old people want Kings? Perhaps.

Nonethless, it IS true that people who are Leftist in their youth often become more conservative as they get older. In one of my research reports, I found in fact that most older people are quite astoundingly Right-wing (Ray, 1985). So how come?

I think that there are in fact four (sometimes interrelated) main reasons why the Left is more attractive to youth:

1). Simplicity:
The young do not know much so try sweeping generalizations in order to help them understand the world. Leftists supply such oversimplified generalizations ("All men are equal" etc.). So when one is young, the drastically simple "solutions" and mantras proffered by the Left simply seem reasonable. Leftism has the appeal of simplicity. When many a young idealistic person sees a problem and realises that he or she cannot fix it, the natural response is simple: �The government should do something�. Given what they are constantly bombarded with through the media and the educational system this is an understandable response to the problems of the world. It is however based on the fairly amazing idea that we can create a Utopia through the actions of governments.

As Aaron Oakley once put it to me: The problem is that the arguments for individual liberty, free markets, limited government etc are complicated but correct. The Left have it easy. Their philosophies are simple but wrong. The public grasp simple ideas much more easily than complicated ones.

So some of the young are attracted to simple solutions to the world�s problems. Most of the young do not bother, however. They are interested mainly in the opposite sex so just want politics not to bother them -- a thoroughly conservative response. Those who do adopt the Leftist simplifications do often eventually find through experience that the world really is a complex place so tend to give up the simplifications and Leftism along with that.

2). Idealism:
Some people in general, but particularly the young, are idealists -- and, as such, they find the imperfect state of the real world unsatisfying. That there is some genuine idealism even among extreme Leftists is shown by the exoduses from Communist Parties in the economically successful "Western" democracies that followed the violent Soviet suppression of the East German, Hungarian and Czechoslovak uprisings against Communist rule in 1953, 1956 and 1968. Once the real nature of Communist regimes became too clear to be denied, honest decent people whose wishful thinking had led them to believe Communist protestations of benevolence and good intentions saw the light and abandoned Communism. In the USA (in New York particularly), some liberal intellectuals even saw enough in the Soviet actions of those times to cause them to abandon "liberalism" and found neo-conservatism. Similarly in Australia of the 1950s and '60s, the Andersonian libertarians of Sydney were also intellectuals who might otherwise have been Leftists but who were united by realism about Soviet brutality.

3). Impatience:
Just as dangerous to society as the idealist is the �practical� reformer. Some people in general, but again particularly the young, are genuinely outraged by things that they do not understand and are unwise enough to want to change those things willy nilly rather than endeavour to understand what is going on. They are impatient with what they see as �obviously� wrong. In particular, they may be genuinely grieved by the unhappy experiences of others and want to fix that ASAP without being wise enough to seek for means of fixing it that have some prospect of working or that are not self-defeating. They might, for instance, be disturbed by the impact of rising rents on the poor and propose rent-control as a quick-fix solution -- though a few minutes of thought or the most elementary inquiry should tell them that rent control will after a time also have the effect of degrading and shrinking the existing stock of rental accommodation and drying up the supply of new rental accommodation, both of which make the poor much worse off in the long run.

4). Ambition:
The young are ambitious, want to have it all NOW and want to get the top -- so see "The Establishment" as an obstacle to that. So the more unscrupulous and vicious ones use any tool to attack it: Radicalism as a path to power -- a very familiar theme in history. Leftists are intrinsically power-mad

Ray, J.J. (1985) What old people believe: Age, sex and conservatism. Political Psychology 6, 525-528.



Janet Albrechtsen has some very good thoughts about our pacifist clergy. Opposition to war is thoroughly scriptural (Matthew 5:39) but throughout history Christians have seen the need for war nonetheless. But many of our clergy still do not seem to have found out why. Some clearly do not want to find out. The Anglican Primate of Australia (Bishop Peter Carnley) is obviously a total moral bankrupt and Leftist stooge with his refusal to condemn Saddam and his grossly insulting claim that you cannot be a Christian and a conservative too. No wonder many Anglicans worldwide are looking for more traditional leadership than they usually get at the moment.

Albrechtsen�s point that many churchmen now seem to think that the United Nations is God does help to explain why �modern� ideas are being rejected by many Anglican congregations.



Chris Brand points out the many absurdities that have been perpetrated in the name of distancing ourselves from a certain charismatic, vegetarian, non-smoking, teetotal lover of children and animals.

Michael Darby notes French hatreds and reports a speech by the leader of the Zimbabwean opposition.

In Britain you can get into more trouble with the law for having normal consenting heterosexual intercourse than for being a burglar. Don�t believe me? Read it! California used to be the world headquarters of crazy law. Britain now beats California by a country mile.


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