Geezer Conservatism: The Albatross

Recently by Gary North: Liberty Is Making the World Richer. You’re Included.


Most movements are heavily influenced by the geezer mentality. This is because most movements are funded mainly by geezers.

If you were to look at the demography of donors to televangelism ministries, you would find that the people who donate 80% of the money are women above the age of 55. Televangelists never mention this on screen, but they know it is true, so they dare not alienate older women. Whatever older women believe is what televangelists preach.

The Establishment of any religious or political organization is run by people over age 55. They have the experience. They have at least some leisure. They have the discretionary income to support the organization. So, there is a tendency in every movement older than 20 years old to be backward looking. The organization does not want to alienate people who are looking over their shoulders at the good old days.


Nostalgia for the past is one of the greatest weaknesses of all ideological movements. This is especially true in the United States. If we are talking about limited civil government, the good old days ended with the opening shots of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63). From that time on, taxes continually rose in the British colonies in North America, and they continued to rise under the Constitution of the United States, 1788 edition. The central government has continued to expand at the expense of individual liberty. Anyone who talks about the good old days that came after 1756 is talking about the days that led, step-by-step, to the centralization of the national government and the reduction of individual liberties.

Geezers in America were educated in the public schools, and the public schools have always taught the message of nationalism and political centralization. Ever since 1945, they have taught the importance of big government in saving capitalism from itself.

The public school textbooks have long taught that the Supreme Court has final jurisdiction on legal matters, which is explicitly denied by the United States Constitution, 1788 edition. (Congress can remove the court’s jurisdiction over virtually anything at any time: Article III:1:2). The President need not go along.)

Conservative geezers look back at their youth, which means from the 1950s through 1963, and they long for the good old days, when men were men, and politicians respected the United States Constitution.

They are living in a fantasy world of the textbooks’ creation, and they are unwilling to re-think what they were taught in the public schools as teenagers. They do not understand the fundamental fact of history, namely, that history never moves backward. Liberals and radicals accept this fact of history, which is undeniable in terms of the record, and they have parlayed that into a form of political legitimacy which says that the state must push society forward. The conservatives rejected this view of the state, which is appropriate, but then they defend it by means of an appeal to an imaginary past.


I recently received an e-mail in response to an article that I wrote on gun control and the Second Amendment. I wrote that America is exceptional with respect to the widespread ownership of guns, which are in the hands of individuals, not the state. Here is the e-mail:

The 2nd Amendment, contrary to popular beliefs, is to have the ultimate veto power over an oppressive regime……………………………………… No pundit, including yourself, has the courage to state this to the shepple. Personally, I believe if one could afford it, he should be legal to own a Howitzer………… Regarding oppressive, I am 70 and old enough to remember when our leaders respected and defended our Constitution, but in this century our leaders, who are sworn to uphold and defend our Constitution, treat it as if it didn’t exist. If the trend seeks its course our federal government will approach that oppressive regime.

I assume that “shepple” is a misspelling for “sheeple.”

Now, if this guy knew anything at all, he would know that my position on gun ownership is exactly his position, namely, that it represents the ultimate veto power. Gun ownership is a mark of the ultimate veto power of sovereign individuals. In fact, I have said that this is the fundamental reason why gun control advocates want to suppress the ownership of guns. It is not that they fear revolutionary resistance. They fear rather the inescapable constitutional implications of such ownership, namely, that citizens possess legitimate sovereignty, and they can use this sovereignty to overturn the existing political order. On December 22, 2012, I wrote this:

Gun control advocates insist that the centralization of gun ownership into the hands of the monopolistic government is a moral obligation. Why is it a moral obligation? It is a moral obligation because these people really do believe that the central government possesses legitimate original political sovereignty, an exclusive sovereignty, over the weapons that could be used against the central government.

This led to a conclusion.

Symbols are important. A citizen who has the right to keep and bear arms, even though he is not planning to join the state militia, which is in fact an arm of the federal government, understands that he possesses a degree of sovereignty that is not possessed by citizens in nations that prohibit widespread firearm ownership. He understands that he is in a unique situation. He still has the fundamental marks of political sovereignty, namely, firearms. His firearms testify to the fact that the central government does not yet feel sufficiently confident to confiscate his firearms in the name of the central government’s exclusive monopoly of violence. His firearms testify to the fact that he is still a citizen, and that he still possesses rights that politicians and bureaucrats cannot legally overturn.

I ended with this:

Firearms are marks of political sovereignty. They should be defended on this basis, not on the basis of some hypothetical revolution, which is not going to take place. I am saying that such a revolution is not necessary, precisely because the people do possess the right to keep and bear arms. They need not take up arms against the government, precisely because they already possess the arms.

As a geezer conservative, he was too busy defending the good old days to do the research required to understand the detailed published opinions of his target: me. He shot from the hip.

Warning: when you shoot from the hip, you risk blowing off important appendages.


He assailed me with this: “I am 70 and old enough to remember when our leaders respected and defended our Constitution.”

I will turn 71 in two weeks, and I do not recall this. I do recall the Warren Court, which re-wrote the Constitution. More to the point, as a specialist in American history, I know of the Marshall Court, which re-wrote it far more than the Warren Court did.

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February 1, 2013

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit He is also the author of a free 31-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2013 Gary North