f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

June 22, 2005

political maturation after age 30

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 2:01 am

Here’s my 21st Century version of the old saw incorrectly attributed to Winston Churchill:

20 – 30 – 50 Political Maturation Chart

20-something + heartG = liberal

over 30 + brainG = conservative [arguendo]

over 50 + heartG + brainG + eyesGL approx blue thoughtful* liberal

The adage about being a liberal at 20 and a conservative at 30 was never very convincing to me. (Viz., Jesus of Nazareth proved you can be an excellent liberal at 33 — and for an eternity thereafter.) Even if we assume for argument’s sake, that a person using his or her brain might turn to conservatism by age 30 (and still have a heart), I refuse to believe that personal or political maturation ends at 30.

the past tugs at the heart–
the Old Man’s
wooden bowl

translated by David G. Lanoue

brainG French historian and statesman Francois Guizot is said to have uttered the first
version of the 20/30 maxim (see Unquote #1). Societal upheavals in Guizot’s 19th-Century
Europe might have frozen the attitudes of many men in early adulthood — especially those
with a deep, vested interest in the established order. (Women weren’t allowed on the political stage at the time; but, I doubt that women outside the upper classes would have been susceptible to the sway of staunch conservatism). Whatever the conditions in other times and societies, our stable, affluent and open society permits — and responsible citizenship demands — that each individual continue to learn and grow through successive decades, letting experience and wisdom remove the blinders of ideology and radicalism.

heartG Somewhere between 50 and 60 years of age, I believe, the majority of people whose hearts and brains and eyes are still in good working order will become noticeably more “liberal” than “conserative” in political and personal philosophy. Freed from macho individualism, they will no longer have to insist they are “self-made.” With their financial fate largely sealed, they will be able to acknowledge the role of luck in creating their economic and social status, as well as the role of government in creating the framework and infrastructure upon which individual efforts and security can be sustained. They will also see that “we’re all in this together” as a society and nation — so that access to good education, health care and opportunity will be understood as both a right for all citizens and a key to maintaining the strength of our economy and vitality of our society. Doing good for each other is good for all of us. [Pope Benedict XVI appears to concur.]

  • Merrill Lynch declared in Feb. 2005, that Baby Boomers are
    going from the Me Generation to the We Generation — “with
    deep concerns for the well-being of their children, their parents
    and their communities.”
  • As Matt Miller recently wrote for the NYT: “What we’re led to is the public agenda missing today, built around passionate commitments – by both liberals and conservatives – to (1) equal opportunity and (2) a minimally decent life, achieved in ways that harness market forces for public purposes.”

eyesG No matter what you might want to call the resulting political perspective or philosophy, it is not full-bore classical or modern conservatism; and it certainly will not lean toward the “me-first” (and government-as-evil) philosophy of kneejerk libertarianism. Even those who cling to the label of conservatism will be seeking ways to put “compassion” into their politics — perhaps by calling on religious ideals (such as those in the Sermon of the Mount).

nothing at all
but a calm heart
and cool air

translated by David G. Lanoue

tiny check Your thoughtful, courteous Comments and suggestions are encouraged.

update (Jan. 18, 2006): See Robert Kuttner’s article Ingrate Judges: Conservative
Justices have a tendency of moving leftward” (American Prospect Online, Jan. 17,

“Interestingly enough, if you look at the history of the Supreme
Court, far more justices who began as relative conservatives
became more liberal the longer they served. Freed of political
constraints, they evidently acquired more sympathy for underdogs,
more compassion for those whom Justice Brandeis called ”despised
minorities.” They came to see the Constitution as protector of the
powerless against the powerful. ….

“As the right does its best to make the courts ideological captives,
it gives this unreconstructed liberal some comfort to appreciate
that more judges, given this privilege to rely just on conscience and
intellect to interpret the law, evolve into liberal ingrates. It suggests
the enduring tug of liberal ideals.”

closing her eyes
to scattering blossoms…
the doll

window open–
a butterfly pulls my eyes
across the field

ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue


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