Some people have suggested it wasn’t Churchill who coined the phrase, “If you are not a liberal by 20 you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by 40, you have no brain.” Either way, some variation of this has come to be generally accepted as obvious.
Hence, I frequently find myself asking the question: why do some liberals refuse to grow up?
I am always amazed by liberals' obsession to stay forever in their inner, younger selves. Liberalism is a political philosophy with many utopias that better fit younger generations’ enthusiasm. It is understandable that, when you are young, you believe that all that glitters is gold.
You can be an anarchist at 17, a socialist at 20, a liberal at 30, and turn into a conservative after 40. This is fine. It is a normal course of evolution. Yet to watch an old liberal in action––that is a person who has not evolved in terms of rationale and common sense since he studied.
Everyone can picture an older hippy, but it is harder to picture why they would remain hippy-like past 40. A possible explanation could be that all the radicals of the ‘60s have advanced in age (which is not the same thing as having matured) in a world which they refuse to understand, and for which they do not accept responsibility.
Perhaps it is the complacency originating from utopian ideals that never materialize. This complacency is dangerous, at least for others, because we see that many of these complacent utopians work their way into positions of power as professors, media executives and politicians.
In 1984 a pop band called Alphaville sang, “Forever young, I want to be forever young. It’s so hard to get old without a cause.” It was a catchy tune and a runaway smash hit. On the surface, can anything be more desirable and… liberal?
For the rest of us, the down-to-earth ones (realist conservatives by conviction or experience), such a perspective seems, well, immature really.
The French philosopher Henri Estienne said “If youth knew, if age could.” Maybe he was on to something. At least the first half.
TIBERIU DIANU is a scholar and author of several books and articles in law and post-communist societies. He currently lives in Washington, DC, where he works for various government and private agencies.