Updated: Mar 30, 2022
"If you aren't a liberal when you're young, you don't have a heart.
If you aren't a conservative when you're old, you don't have a brain."
There is a lot of truth to that old pithy saying. College age kids do tend to be liberal. Older people do tend to be more conservative. But why? Is there a single principle that would explain this transformation?
Yes! People believe in ideas that serve them. Liberalism serves young people well. When you're young, and have nothing, liberal policies that give free stuff to people sounds pretty attractive. Most young kids are used to getting things free. Their parents have been buying their food, paying their rent, supplying medical and dental care. Allowing Government to carry on in place of their parents, prevents young kids from having to do the hard work of growing up and becoming self reliant. So liberal ideas are appealing to young people.
And if liberals had their way, Government would take care of you every step of the way. Some liberal pundits even propose giving a check every month to every person. They call it "Universal Income." Andrew Yang, a democrat who ran for president, proposed paying every person $1,000 a month. Everybody would get it, whether they worked or not. Actually it is not a new idea in the liberal world. Martin Luther King proposed a "Guaranteed Income" back in 1967, claiming that it would eliminate poverty. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has endorsed the concept.
None of them have explained where the money would come from. To give you a $1,000 the Government has to first take $1,000 from somebody else. Nobody gets richer if we each pay a $1,000 in taxes, and then get a $1,000 back. Perhaps it works by taxing the rich more? So Walmart, the largest company in the world based on revenue, would pay more? Well if Walmart pays more taxes, they will raise their prices to cover the extra taxes. So the people are still paying the extra money, to pay for the Universal Income. Nobody gets richer, because there is no free lunch. Paying taxes to the government, just to get it back, is like giving yourself a blood transfusion from the left arm to the right arm. It doesn't make any sense, and when the government is doing it, they use a leaky hose!
Liberals actually believe you can create wealth by taxing people. But wealth can only be created through work. You can take $5 of food and with 1-2 hours of cooking you can turn it into a meal that somebody would pay $15 for at your restaurant. Your work created $10 of wealth. Finding ways to make our work more productive will make us wealthier. A man with a chainsaw can make more firewood than a man with an axe. Working longer will make us wealthier. You can get more work done in 40 hours than in 20 hours. Working longer, working harder, working smarter, are all ways of creating wealth. But taxing people doesn't create wealth. And giving everybody $1,000 a month, won't help anybody, when you take into consideration where the money came from.
As you get older, you know these tax and spend plans don't create wealth. You know where wealth comes from. You have spent your entire adult life working and sacrificing and saving. Now you have your own stuff and you have your own money. Quite a bit of it actually. You've paid off your house. You own your car. No credit card debt. You made your contributions to your retirement plan, and it has added up. And you have the scars and the worn out joints and the sore back and the grey hair to show for it. You know that work, and only work, creates wealth.
And you know that liberal policies will just take the wealth you have worked for and give it to people that haven't earned it. Free tuition? Student loan forgiveness? Housing assistance? Medicaid? All of it paid for with your hard earned money. Food Stamps and WIC? Somebodies paying for it. Universal Income? Nothing is free. Conservative policies that allow you to keep the fruits of your labor make a lot more sense, now that you're older. Conservative principles help older people hold onto what they have earned.
But if there is no safety net, no help, even in dire circumstances, the results would be pretty ugly. Bodies would lay on the streets. Beggars would waste away from malnutrition. People would die in front of the hospital if they had no insurance. There are countries where these things do happen.
The best policy is probably in the middle. Government shouldn't have as many give away programs as some liberals want. There is work that needs to be done in this world. People need to eat. To provide food for people to eat, the ground has to be tilled, seeds must be planted, crops watered and harvested, the food preserved and distributed. We need farmers, truck drivers, grocery store clerks. People need clothes and houses and everything else. Somebody has to do this work. If everything is handed to people, there is no incentive for people to turn off the TV, put their shoes on and go to work. Handouts destroy incentive and create lazy, needy people.
The Art of Politics today is to find the happy balance. We need to provide essential help to those truly in need, without the help itself enabling others to free load. We need to help people that are unable to help themselves, without disincentivizing able bodied people from providing for themselves.