It’s become something of a buzz-phrase hasn’t it? The youth vote.
Young people seem increasingly disillusioned with politics as usual. Half of 18-to-24 year-olds simply did not bother to vote at the last general election. The Marxist comedian Russell Brand remains popular because of his anti-politics, ‘don’t vote’ stance.
Those who do bother to vote are easily seduced by the fantasy politics of the left. Labour created the debt-fuelled mess Britain found itself in five years ago. Yet they are still the most popular party amongst those aged 18-24.
Meanwhile the Green Party has seen a surge in support from idealistic youngsters, who want to end ‘austerity’, save the world from ‘global warming’, and implement the kind of class-war based policies that have turned Greece into the tragic joke of Europe.
Much of this can no doubt be put down to the old truism falsely attributed to Churchill: ‘If you’re not a liberal aged 25 you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35 you have no head’.
It also can’t help much that ‘right wing’ has become popular slang for ‘nasty and hateful’, whilst free market economics remains falsely associated with the global economic crisis and the bailouts.
But there are signs of hope. ‘Generation Y’ are also much more likely to vote Conservative and hold libertarian opinions than previous generations of young people. They are both more economically and socially liberal.
And so they should be. There has been no system devised by man that has enriched the lives of so many people, in so many places, over such a relatively short period of time, as global capitalism has done.
Moreover, the current generation of 18-24s are watching the social democratic welfare states their parents and grandparents voted for implode under the weight of their own contradictions.
A demographic time-bomb is ticking. The ageing baby-boomers swell the ranks of the elderly and it is the slower-growing contingent of young people who will ultimately be stuck with the bill.
I’m not arguing for some kind of soylent green, lets-euthanise-granny solution here. The elderly are certainly worthy of our love, respect and support. It is the big state that needs to be sent to a Swiss clinic.
For half a century governments of both parties promised voters a life of security and plenty that would cost them nothing. Someone else would always pay. Well, if you’re under 30, that ‘someone else’ is you.
Without a doubt, politics-as-usual has failed young people. And they know it.
We are being buried beneath a mountain of debt. The UK’s national debt stands at £1.48 trillion, with an £86 billion deficit. That’s down from £170 billion at the end of 2010. Good progress, but there’s still a long way to go.
Why should young people care? As the debt piles up, so does the amount of interest taxpayers hand over to holders of government bonds. Debt interest accounted for £52 billion last year. That’s only going to keep rising until the deficit is eliminated. If you’ve only just started paying tax you will see more and more of your money vanish every year into the pockets of bondholders.
With the public finances under pressure, governments can raise taxes or cut spending. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that small state, low tax economies tend to grow faster than bloated welfare states. Chile enjoys a better rate of growth than Venezuela, Hong Kong than Cuba.
Plus, hiking taxes to cover shortfalls in public spending gets you Spanish or Greek levels of unemployment. Data from the IMF shows tax increases to have been far more damaging to European economies than spending cuts.
Moreover, taxes in the UK are far too high. The basic 20p rate of tax is actually 32% once you factor in employee NI contributions. Taxes on petrol penalise travel. Taxes on plane tickets punish you for going on holiday. The TV tax forces you to pay for the BBC regardless of whether you watch Top Gear or Game of Thrones.
Young people are often outraged when companies like Amazon and Starbucks practice legal tax avoidance. But surely if we really want companies to pay tax in the UK we should be cutting taxes, rather than punishing entirely lawful – if distasteful – behaviour?
Many young people are also outraged at how the cost of living has shot up in recent years. Energy bills have shot up as the price of oil has plummeted because of government energy policies designed to lower carbon emissions at any cost.
House prices and rents have shot up because £375 billion of freshly-printed money was poured into the housing and financial markets – whilst land that could have been built on was held back by planning laws from the 1940s. The cost of living crisis is a creation of government.
According to Ronald Reagan, the most terrifying phrase in the English language is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”. Certainly, government action hasn’t helped young people much in recent years.
Perhaps that’s why so many of us are ditching the Che posters and learning to love the free market.