Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Looking At The World Through The Eyes Of A Child

Another great column from Thomas Sowell this week.

It is hardly surprising that young people prefer the political left. The only reason for rejecting the left's vision is that the real world in which we live is very different from the world that the left perceives today or envisions for tomorrow.

Most of us learn that from experience-- but experience is precisely what the young are lacking. "Experience" is often just a fancy word for the mistakes that we belatedly realized we were making, only after the realities of the world made us pay a painful price for being wrong.

Those who are insulated from that pain-- whether by being born into affluence or wealth, or shielded by the welfare state, or insulated by tenure in academia or in the federal judiciary-- can remain in a state of perpetual immaturity.

Those of us who can recall what it was like to be an adolescent must know that growing up can be a painful transition from the sheltered world of childhood.

No matter how much we may have wanted adult freedom, there was seldom the same enthusiasm for taking on the burdens of adult responsibilities and having to weigh painful trade-offs in a world that hemmed us in on all sides, long after we were liberated from parental restrictions.

Should we be surprised that the strongest supporters of the political left are found among the young, academics, limousine liberals with trust funds, media celebrities and federal judges?

These are hardly Karl Marx's proletarians, who were supposed to bring on the revolution. ...


Anonymous said...

I don't embrace the left.

so nyah.

But yes, and while I'm not going to compare the Left with Cults per se, I wonder if it's somewhat of the same phenomena. Cults tend to have younger, more idealistic folk among their number.

truepeers said...

One thing that Sowell misses is that, notwithstanding the evident intellectual failure of much of the left today, there can be good reasons for resisting certain worldly realities, something Christianity with its celibate and cloistered has long recognized.

To become an adult in the modern world you do often have to narrow your intellectual focus within the constraints of your chosen profession. You have to give up something of the open, holistic, vision of youth. You have to give much of your time over from trying to see reality whole and focus on a part. (Of course certain professions demand more of this than others, which explains much about professions favoured by the left.)

Much of what motivates the left is a romantic resistance to making this choice. They want to remain the youth who has not yet made the hard choices that narrow his life. So, when we see the left's (but there are even some conservative romantics, at least a couple at this blog, ahem...) intellectual and personal failures, perhaps they should be criticized, on their own terms, for their failure as romantics to adequately pursue a vision of the whole, and not necessarily for failing to be duly limited adults like most people.

Maybe the problem is that our universities and media give license to far too many to be "outside" (a relative term) the market system for too long, when only a few are capable of playing that role productively for any length of time.

Yet at the end of the day (an end that can be a lifetime in the making) it is true that the free market system (economically and politically) is advanced by people resisting the market in order to show it its limits and to help it open itself to both greater freedom and productivity. Why go to church on Sunday if it too doesn't help people become more productive by resisting certain corrosive qualities of the marketplace? (The market, alone, is not sufficient to renew itself - it requires people who can remain productive and reproductive in face of all the market temptations to devote your life to consumption...)

But building up market society by intelligently resisting market limits is a very difficult game to play. Yet we all must play it to some extent. So we should not be surprised that most who try will fail in various respects. And so we should not take most of the left seriously. But then I'd say something similar about libertarians...