Twin Pillars of Civilization

It has been said that if a man is not an idealist at twenty he has no heart, and if he is not a pragmatist at forty he has no brain.

I tried to find the origin of the quote but it seems that this saying has been around a long time.

“The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head.” –Aristide Briand

“Any man who is not a communist at the age of twenty is a fool. Any man who is still a communist at the age of thirty is an even bigger fool.”  George Bernard Shaw

John Adams, the President, is quoted in Thomas Jefferson’s Journal, Jan. 1799 as saying “A boy of fifteen who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at twenty.”

Francois Guisot, a French monarchist statesman under Louis Philippe is recorded as saying “Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.” -Francois Guisot (1787-1874)

Another version is credited to Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) “Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart;
to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”

So we have evidence that some pretty serious thinkers considered liberalism and conservatism as both being part of the systems that make the world more democratic and therefore, more stable for citizens.

For many years in America, there has been a tug-of-war between liberals and conservatives as to how the nation should be managed.

For a long time, I like many others believed there could be only one.  We could have communism or we could have capitalism.  Any other choice is a move away from democracy.

Many people see the wealth of the world and want a slice of the pie.  Of these, many think they are owed that slice and demand benefits from society at large.  Others, who have worked hard for many years, have finally attained a measure of comfort and demand that their benefits are theirs solely because they succeeded, and the prize is theirs.

Both of these views, pursued to a final conclusion, end up destroying the economy and ultimately the nation.

Each side is correct about a part of the puzzle, but neither side is completely correct.  As long as the objectives are defined as the absolute victory of one philosophy over the other, we are destined to fail.

When the rich, whether individuals or corporations, get all the wealth, people revolt and the whole economy ends up in shambles and the wealthy are often held to blame (see Revolution, French).

When the poor demand all the wealth, the people who are motivated by greed are no longer allowed to operate the systems of the economy that lead to wealth creation, and the economy collapses.  (See Revolution, Boxer)

It does not take a lot of brilliance to realize that a perfect system must exist somewhere between communism and capitalism.

It is the balance between wealth generation and maintaining the well-being of our poor and dependents that leads to a democracy where people can rise in wealth from poor to middle class, yet the wealthiest get to keep their heads by paying their fair share of the taxes.

So stable government comes about when both capitalism and communism are both encouraged.

Capitalist free markets can generate a lot of wealth, but a few individuals can not concentrate too much of the world wealth or the system that makes them wealthy falls when the peasants go for the torches and pitchforks.

So, marvel at the miracle of democracy, a stable lintel based upon the twin pillars of civilization, free market capitalism for the rich, and social safety nets for the poor and disadvantaged.

Stability then comes not from achieving a victory of one system over the other, it comes from the merger of the two ideologies, in a stable society where the people know they have a fair chance to prosper, and for the wealthy to have a fair chance of keeping their heads.

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