- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

Conservatives, as well as liberals, would undoubtedly be happier living in the kind of world envisioned by the left.

Very few people have either a vested interest or an ideological preference for a world in which there are many inequalities.

Even fewer would prefer a world in which vast sums of money have to be devoted to military defense, when so much benefit could be produced if those resources were directed into medical research instead.

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 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 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.

Individuals can refuse to grow up, especially when surrounded in their work and in their social life by similarly situated and like-minded people. Even people born into normal lives, but who have been able through talent or luck to escape into a world of celebrity and wealth, can likewise enviably find themselves able to choose whether to grow up.

Those of us who can recall what it was like to be an adolescent must know 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 adult responsibilities and having to weigh painful tradeoffs 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. The working class are in fact among those most skeptical about the visions of the left.

Ordinary working-class people did not lead the stampede to Barack Obama, even before his disdain for them slipped out in unguarded moments.

The agenda of the left is fine for the world that they envision as existing today and the world they want to create tomorrow. That world is not hemmed in by inherent constraints and the painful tradeoffs these constraints imply. Theirs is a world with attractive, win-win “solutions” in place of those ugly tradeoffs of the world where the rest of us live.

Theirs is a world where we can just talk to opposing nations and work things out, instead of having to pour tons of money into military equipment to keep them at bay. The left calls this “change” but in fact it is a set of notions that were tried out by the Western democracies in the 1930s - and which led to the most catastrophic war in history.

For those who study history, it was precisely the opposite policies in the 1980s - pouring tons of money into military equipment - which brought the Cold War and its threat of nuclear annihilation to an end. The left fought bitterly against that “arms race,” which in fact lifted the burden of the Soviet threat, instead of leading to war as the elites claimed.

Personally, I wish Ronald Reagan could have talked the Soviets into being nicer, instead of having to spend all that money. Only experience makes me skeptical about that “kinder and gentler” approach and the vision behind it.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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