Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Young Love Liberty

Here’s some (selective) evidence that the country is going libertarian. The young hate big government and moralistic regulations, but they love the technology that empowers them to be self-sufficient individuals with personally programmed iPhones, iPods, and other iThings. It’s true enough, I have to say, that they were completely tonedeaf to the music of the honorable McCain, may not suffer that much from the moral anxiety that animated preacher Huckabee, and with some justice think Rush and Hannity (and even Newt) are ridiculous old white guys. I wish I could say I thought the young were principled opponents of big government, but my studies show that they, like most of us, like both governmental minimizing of economic anxiety AND lower taxes. I also wish I could say I thought they were rebelling strongly against the "hook up" culture and thinking strongly in terms of love, marriage, and making babies. For the most part, I’m not so sure that the libertarian impetus among the young is change I can believe in, but it is an impetus that has to be shaped by Republican statesmanship if Obama is not to realign us.

Discussions - 11 Comments

I think that report's much too sanguine about the prospects for political liberty based on kids' preferences. The widespread credulity of youngsters toward Obama the politician is a really depressing sign. Informed skepticism is too much to expect of 20-year-olds -- as is coherence, I suppose -- but whatever happened to adolescent rebellion? Or is that response reserved for Mom, Dad, corporations, and elder white men?

I wish that I could say that I saw a sense of ordered and virtuous liberty among these libertarian youth rather than a sense of personal autonomy unfettered by an understanding of natural law. There are, of course, millions of young people being raised correctly. But, my guess is that the more loudly they cry for independence, the more they want to be free from restraint. Although youth have always suffered this problem since time immemorial, it is perhaps a new trend that the culture of personal autonomy and freedom from morality and not disciplining children has actually contributed to the problem rather than try to constrain it until they mature. Politically, I'm not sure this benefit either Democrats or Republicans. Their allegience may be as wistful as their personal preferences. The idea of party may weaken even further for personal politics.

I share the concerns of both JQA and Tony.

Did McCain's message have anything Libertarian for the young to hear? If those were the sounds they were listening for, is it surprising they did not hear them in McCain?

I am going to one of those tea-party events tonight - my husband is speaking - and I will be watching to see how many young people attend.

I do not really see that the young of this generation are any much different from the young of other generations. They are just as selfish and foolish as we were, as far as I can tell. They thought Obama was offering a change that involved more individual liberty, but I think they are unlikely to get it. The young are always having to learn lessons as they mature; the Democrats in power will be an education for this crowd. While the young have this inclination to individual liberty, they also have an inclination toward behaving justly within their community, which is why the "modify your behavior to prevent global warning" business resonates with them. Which is not to say I think they are any better than we were, and perhaps that lack of transcendent goodness is the real worry. The future of America, much less liberty, justice, goodness and mercy in the earth, would seem to require something more than previous generations, including ours, offered.

Explains a bit about why Ron Paul was so popular among the 18-25 crowd.

I think it would be more productive for the Right (particularly Republicans) to court the young's love of liberty rather than attempt to curtail the young's love of "love". Now's the time to capitalize on the hard-working's love of economic freedom; promoting virtue will be best accomplished down the road after all the spirited young "Tyler Durdens" out there have a daughter or two.

Ron Paul wasn't all that popular among the 18-25 year old crowd. His 18-25 year old supporters were notoriously active in spamming polls (particularly internet polls). littlegreenfootballs documented all of it during the election.

JQA's asks "whatever happened to adolescent rebellion?" Perhaps, with the current tolerance for adolescent sexual activity, and the ideology of "nonjudgmentalism" that reigns in the educational, psychological and legal establishments and the broader culture, there is no longer any reason for most teenagers to rebel against the nonfamily authority figures they are likely to encounter or more distant figues (like Obama) who espouse the same values. By the same token, they would be likely to regard conservative spokesmen for an earlier ethos as a hostile, foreign menace, much as one assumes American teenagers during WWII would have regarded the Japanese.

If there is anything to the foregoing thoughts, one could conclude that the sexual revolution has been integral element (whether intentionally or not) in preparing America to accept leftist authoritarianism (as represented by figures like Obama and Justice Ginsberg, to take two examples).

Some thoughts,

1. Wanting a to be free of restraint and wanting the comfrot of a nanny state are not necessarily in fatal tension. It depends on what you want and what nanny wants.

2. I like Gingrich as an idea factory (but not as a prospective President. I saw him on CSPAN a couple of days ago and he seemed to be more of this century and less of a nostalgic than 90% of the conservative spokesmen I see on tv. But I can get kids seeing him as past his time. What did kids in the 1970s think about Hubert Humphrey?

3. I can't blame the kids for liking Obama. What has been the more conservative alternative that people in their 20s have seen? They see the Bush administration (with some but not total justice) as a failure. McCain and/or Glen Beck or Limbaugh aren't more appealing. They have never seen competent conservative governance. They are too young to remember how much better Reagan was than Carter. They have never seen a conservative agenda that was tailored to their experiences. Sometimes you just get outplayed and their is no sense complaining about the scoreboard.

4. The conservative journalist Conor Friedersdorf (sadly unemployed at the moment) has recently written that conservatism needs to get better at welcoming and recruiting "latecomers". These are people whose winding (and sometimes weird) life experienceshave convinced them of the value of conservative insights about family life, the economy, whatever. Friedersdorf argues that conservatism as it currently exists, is more comfortable talking to the already converted "real Americans" in the "heartland" (obnoxious quotation marks my own) than in finding ways to appeal to people who might share some sympathy with conservative ideas if only those people did not think conservatives had contempt for them. If Friedersdorf is right, and the polls that show so many young people having some not wholly healthy opinions are right, what directions does this point us towards?

I certainly think Libertarianism gives young people a way of avoiding the "culture war" without siding with the Left. You can love the free market and still be okay with abortion and gay marriage, premarital sex, passing out condoms, etc.

I would love to see the Republican party become more Libertarian. The Libertarians I knew in school (including R.O.B.) always seemed a bit more subversive and thoughtful than the hardcore moral-majority Republicans I had to put up with.

But I doubt it will happen. The old white guys still run the show in both parties and I don't see that changing anytime soon (especially when the revolutionary spirit in America has been relegated to pouring Walmart tea into a lake to protest taxation . . . ).

The young....are dumb. We don't so much have ideas as absorb them and then say them back. I think though that divorcing morality from politics would help, although abortion is a political and legal issue in my opinion. As for the screwing, drinking, and technology loving: it a sort of lemming like behavior more or less that I think it would be naive to imagine that it just sprang up. It is not as if the young are technology buffs by in large, they use simple programs but anything that requires much knoledge or effort does not sell. If you need evidence of this just go to facebook and look at the pictures on there. 90 percent of it is just people posting the same pictures of themselves drunk somewhere. Someone could make one of those cut outs where you stick your head in and get a picture done for facebook and thats what it looks like. The right and left are a carefully constructed paradigm that allows for a type of philosophical despotism while appearing to allow the freedom to choose: one of two sides. It is not going away. Did the average joe really think of himself as a Federalist? Mabye have a sticker on the back of carriage.

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