Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why baby boomers aren't done ruining the country

You may have heard this quote (usually attributed to Winston Churchill): "If you are not a liberal at twenty, you have no heart and if you are not conservative at thirty, you have no brain."

You start off wide-eyed and idealistic, and as you gain experience the purism and utopian fantasy of youth gives way to at least a dusting of realism. I think there is some truth to this, and it is certainly tragic when it doesn't happen. Nothing sadder than a 40-year-old proclaiming that everyone could be an astronaut if only they were properly encouraged.

Given that the US (and the entire developed world) is aging, and given that old folks are traditionally more likely to vote, one would think this aging trend might express itself in a rise of conservative politicians (I realize that the Republican Party isn't conservative but let's keep this simple) and a consequent shrinking of government. I don't think this is going to happen, despite the standing army of dried up bingo ladies the US now finds itself with.

Old people, like all people, are going to milk everything they can out of the system while it is still standing, so it seems doubtful they are going to vote for candidates running on a platform of decreased entitlements. No way, Joseph. They are going to do everything they can to pressure politicians into keeping unkeepable promises, regardless of the consequences for everyone else (it is all part of that hard won realism). And politicians will happily punish everyone else to retain the votes of these geriatrics.

Rand Paul is not going to come close to getting the nomination, let alone the White House. No austerity candidate is going to become a heavyweight in US politics. "Austerity" candidates are failing in Europe right now. When deluded democratic citizens see the end of the entitlement road ahead of them, they don't get realistic and look for another road; they idle in place and scream at politicians to extend the road.

I keep hearing libertarians express hope for the future because of the splash Ron Paul made and the ideas he introduced to so many. I would like to be optimistic, but the numbers don't add up. Look at the youth turnout for Obama this time around. Look at the widespread antipathy to markets among the young. And now with Obamacare on the books, "liberal" politicians have bought themselves A LOT of entrenched voters, because every four years there is going to be a fight about "reforming" it, complete with all the images of people being dying in the streets. When you add to all that the overhang of old folks the US entitlement system is already grappling with, it really doesn't bode well for the political application of that allegedly Churchillian quote, does it? Ours is a mob rule republic, and the Ron Paul army is really more of a small militia (how appropriate!).

I would like to be optimistic. Unfortunately, I'm not twenty anymore.

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