We Live In A Gerontocracy

Fun fact: the average age of a professor in the United States is 55 years old.

Does that bother you at all?

The average professor was born in 1961. In 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States. In 1961, the Soviet Union sent the first human into space. In 1961, socialist Cuba was born.

Here’s another fun fact: the average age of a U.S. senator is 61 years of age. The average senator was born in 1955. In 1955, Brown v. Board of Education celebrated its first birthday. In 1955, C.S. Lewis published the sixth installment of the Chronicles of Narnia series. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.

Does that bother you now? If you’re under the age of 35, it should.

What bothers me is that the deepest divide in this country is not between rich and poor, black and white, man and woman. America is currently being ruled – from our schools to the polls – by an out-of-touch, self-interested generation infected with progressive ideology. The deepest divide in this country, simply put, is between young and old.

Before I’m accused of wanting to celebrate Grandparent’s Day with a guillotine, let me clarify that my opposition is to the brand of progressive ideology that fuels the “baby boomer” generation and their rule over society. Certainly, young people fall prey to self-interest and entitlement as well – where do you think we got it from?

So let’s start with baby boomer policy. The past 50 years (since 1966) have given us:

  • Huge expansions in K-12 education with few returns (Elementary and Secondary Schools Act, 1964) (No Child Left Behind, 2001),
  • The War on Drugs, which has cost over one TRILLION dollars since its inception and has led to racial profiling, polarized race relations, and an expanded police state,
  • Expansion of Social Security and other social services that are impossible to fund (with only 2.2 workers for every recipient by 2030 and an estimated cash deficit of $77 billion per year),
  • Unfathomable debt (currently equal to every penny this country will produce…for the next 11 years).

Massive Medicare expansions, increased military spending, unjust foreign wars, attacks on property rights (see the Ruby Ridge incident), criminal justice nightmares, an expanding surveillance state – all of these are products of the last 50 years. In short, the one political constant of the last half-century has been expansion of government power at the expense of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In fact, this consistency comes from the fact that for the last half-century, we’ve had pretty much the same people running this country. The average member of the House of Representatives serves for 9.1 years. The Senate boasts a more modest 10.2-year average. However, these are large shifts from the 1800’s, when average tenures for senators were just 5 years. A large number of representatives have been in power for more than a quarter of a decade: there have been 11 senators that have served for more than 35 years whose power extended past the year 2000. This doesn’t even begin to mention the power of incumbency, which guarantees that over 80% of sitting office-holders are re-elected.

And power doesn’t stop once politicians leave their offices. Fifty percent of retiring senators and 42% of retiring House members go on to become lobbyists. An example of this power? The 2014 budget shifted something very important about how banks go out of business. Currently, rather than paying their customers first – you and me, the little guys – they’re obligated to pay their stakeholders (stocks and derivatives traders) before anyone else. And just who wrote this change into the law? You guessed it – lobbyists from Citigroup.

The political corruption of the “baby boomer” is huge. But this isn’t where the story ends: more importantly, the progressive generation also has a stranglehold on education and is choking out our nation’s youth. A good first topic of concern is the lack of ideological diversity found on college campuses. The Washington Post found that 72% of college teachers self-identify as liberal. I personally found, as you read last week, that this political monoculture went so far as to be manipulative. (Or, at least, tries to be.)

But this manipulation runs deeper than the college campus. The same generation that created the problems plaguing America today – racial tension, economic disparity, war – claims to be able to fix them. As Jefferson, Burr, and Madison sing in Hamilton, “If there’s a fire you’re trying to douse, you can’t put it out from inside the house.” As long as America’s youth remain in the cabinets of career politicians, self-interested professors, and out of touch elders, “we are complicit in watching them grabbin’ at power… if they ain’t gon’ listen to disciplined dissidence, this is the difference: this kid is out!”

What happened to the slogan from the 1960’s, “don’t trust anyone over 30”? What happened to the rebellious streak that used to be inherent in American youth? Get active in your community. Run for office. Challenge professors. The world is ours – let’s fill it with new ideas, right the wrongs of the past, and push forward in ways that are more free, fair, and just.

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