On the time profile of the riskiness of the portfolio
Let me use a metaphor to start on this topic. It is a standard idiom to get right back on the horse after falling off. For kids, in particular, you don't want the pain from failure to harden. On the other hand, if a kid is beginning to learn to ride the kid should start out on a gentle pony, not a bucking bronco. The latter is a good challenge for an experienced cowboy. For the rest of us, it is suicide.
If you are an otherwise experienced investor then it is definitely a true statement that when you are younger you should be taking more risk, because there is more growth potential in that. However, if you are not yet an experienced investor it may be prudent to take a rather safe approach to portfolio selection, try to ensure that early investments do pan out, and build confidence based on that experience. As you learn, your tolerance for taking risk will likely increase. You may then experience a failure in your investments but can better take that in stride and keep at the general approach.
On your own risk attitudes
There is a question of whether you know your own attitudes toward risk. Presumably different people of the same age and general size of the portfolio will nonetheless have different degrees of risk in their portfolio because of their own risk preferences. But how do you know what your risk preference is?
I recall a line from the version of A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel that I read as an Assistant Professor back in the 1980s, to the effect...
...If your investments are keeping you from sleeping at night, your portfolio is too risky.
I subscribe to that point of view, though I've now reached the age where many things keep me up at night, so the test has lost some of its power. It would be nice if there was a different sort of test for a portfolio that is too safe. I don't have a cutesy story for that but I will say you really only learn about your risk aversion after having lost something. It is very hard to understand your sense of risk in prospect without having been previously burned.
On the government provision thing versus laissez-faire
1. I do have the sense that many of you are bursting on this issue. That's fine. It can serve as motivation. But I would ask please the following based on the sense of this Churchill quote.