According to conventional wisdom, the older the person, the less young people are inclined to listen to him or her.
This is probably true for some of you. But I do not believe that it is true for most of you.
Most young people have tremendous respect for older people’s views. I saw this firsthand in my own life. I began lecturing publicly at the age of 21, and I give you my word that young people (and certainly older people) are far more respectful of my views today than when I was their age. All things being equal, it is very rare for a 25- or 35-year-old to command the respect that a 50- or 60-year-old commands.
So, I am not afraid that you will dismiss what I have to say here as the irrelevant thoughts of an older person.
But just in case you need an argument to take an older person’s thoughts seriously, ask any adults you respect whether they have more wisdom and insight into life now than they did ten years ago, let alone when they were your age. The answer will always be yes. (And any adult who has not gained wisdom over the course of a lifetime is not worth listening to.)
Which directly leads to my point: Did you ever wonder why people are far more likely to become conservative in their views and values as they get older?
When this rather devastating question is posed to liberals, leftists, progressives, Democrats — you choose the label or group — they answer that people get more selfish as they get older.
Progressives have to give this answer. There is no other response that enables them to avoid confronting the quite embarrassing fact that just about every adult, at every age of life, thinks he/she is wiser than when younger — and that as they accumulate wisdom they become more conservative.
So the liberal explanation — that people get more selfish as they get older — is not only insulting, it is nonsense.
People get worse as they get older?
If you were walking in a dark alley at midnight, which would you fear more — a group of teenagers or twentysomethings or a group of senior citizens?
Do older people or younger people give more of their time to charitable institutions?
Are our prisons filled with young people or old people?
The fact is that not only do people get more wise and more conservative as they get older, they get more kind and more generous, too.
But what about “idealism”? We are told that young people are more “idealistic” than old people.
Let me respond by asking: What does “idealistic” mean?
Presumably it means having ideals — a kinder, more peaceful world, etc. Well, who told you that as people get older they lose these ideals? This is so untrue as to constitute a lie. If anything, we older people yearn for a peaceful world even more than young people do. We are the ones who lost friends or relatives in some war. We are the ones who have lived a lifetime of seeing and reading about human suffering. And we, not you, have children and grandchildren whom we ache to see alive and healthy.
So, let’s put to rest the self-serving myth that young people have greater ideals than old people.
What the term “more idealistic” really means when applied to young people is that young people are more naïve, not more idealistic, than older people.
Examples are legion.
Here’s one: Young people believe that when the government gives more money and benefits to more people it helps them. This is naïve. As you get older and wiser you realize that when people are given anything without having to earn it (unless they are physically or mentally utterly incapable of earning anything), they become ungrateful and lazy. They also become less happy. Every study shows that people who earn money are far happier than people who win many millions of dollars in a lottery. Happiness is earned, not given.
Here’s another: Young people are far more likely to believe that world peace is achieved when nations lay down their arms and talk through their differences. But this has never been the case. Of course, good nations stay peaceful when they talk to other good nations. Bad nations — that is, nations ruled by evil men — are never dissuaded from making war by talk. They are dissuaded only by good nations having more arms than they do. That is why the Marine Corps has done so much more for world peace than the Peace Corps.
If you want to vote Democrat, don’t do so because that is the party that cares more for the poor and the hungry. We older conservatives (and young ones, too) care just as much for the poor. But after living a life of seeing the naïve only make things worse for the poor, we are no longer seduced by caring rhetoric. We are seduced by policies based on the awesome American value of individual initiative combined with liberty to create and retain wealth. It’s now called “conservatism.”
And, finally, you should know this: The “idealists” that many of you find appealing are the ones leaving you with a national debt that will render it very difficult for you to attain the material quality of life that these people have had.
The next time President Obama goes to a college to get your vote by promising you more and more benefits, ask him where the money will come from. And when he says “higher taxes on the wealthy,” know that this is exactly what they tried in Europe, a continent ruined by such “idealism.”
— Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated columnist and radio talk-show host, is author of Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.