Why Not Let Kids Vote?

[US] Federal Aviation Association guidelines stipulate that nobody over the age of 65 can hold a pilot’s licence, even if any such individual over that age is competent to fly a plane. For public policy reasons, it is better to impose a blanket restriction on possibly competent pilots than to risk errors that could result in serious harms. (more; also)

I’ve posted before on how ignorant voters hurt election outcomes. One obvious solution is to restrict voting to folks who know more, such as via education, tests of knowledge, etc. But most folks are pretty hostile to this idea – many even oppose requiring voters to show up with a valid photo ID. Such folks point out that any harm is limited by the fact that elections can average out a lot of random noise, and that apparently ignorant folks can still vote their interests effectively by copying trusted associates. All of which is true.

But oddly these same folks usually oppose lowering the minimum voting age to say ten. Even though they’d strongly oppose a maximum voting age of say ninety, the age where only 10% of folks can answer a simple math question. In the latest Political Studies, Joanne Lau says we should let kids vote if we let similarly impaired old folks vote:

The right to vote is fundamental to democratic citizenship; it is one of the most important badges of political and legal equality. However, we deny it to children, generally without discussion. … Whatever level of capacity we use for the disenfranchisement of children should be used in symmetrical fashion to disenfranchise the elderly. … If we attribute responsibility to children in the legal domain, we should also attribute it to them in the political domain. (more)

Surely the typical ten year old is as able to vote their interest as the typical ninety year old or the typical voter who can’t manage to show up to vote with a photo ID. Yes, many ten year olds would be influenced by their parents, though some would vote opposite, just to spite their parents. On average this would give the fertile more political influence. But this seems to me a cheap way to encourage fertility, which we should want to do anyway.

So why the opposition to kid voting? Well clearly some is those who see fertile folk as their political opponents. But there must also be a wider distaste, which I interpret as adults again wanting to affirm their high status over kids. As I said before:

We have “free speech,” a right only enjoyed by adult citizens in good standing, a right we jealously guard, wondering if corporations etc. “deserve” it. This right seems more a status marker, like the right to vote, than a way to promote idea competition. … Which is why support for “free speech” is often paper thin, fluctuating with the status of proposed speakers. (more)

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  • http://webtrough.wordpress.com DW

    Because we know we’re going to get old, too.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    I favor weighting everyone’s vote by score on a civic literacy test. Then the ignorant, young and old, will have their votes appropriately discounted.

    Pascal Emmanuel Gobry favors abolishing voting age restrictions, partly due to pro-natalism (at early ages he thinks parents should be able to vote on behalf of their kids).

    • nazgulnarsil

      disparate impact.

    • http://lesswrong.com/user/Jayson_Virissimo Jayson Virissimo

      I favor weighting everyone’s vote by score on a civic literacy test. Then the ignorant, young and old, will have their votes appropriately discounted.

      John Stuart Mill is fairly well known as an early proponent of universal suffrage. Less well known, is that he didn’t think everyone should have the same number of votes, similar to TGGP’s view.

    • Gulliver

      @ TGGP

      I favor weighting everyone’s vote by score on a civic literacy test. Then the ignorant, young and old, will have their votes appropriately discounted.

      Who will write the tests? You? What one person considers right thinking will not be shared by all. Tests to determine voter eligibility are like standards for censorship; you better hope the most selfless, impartial people are in charge of establishing the standards, because there may not be much room for discussion once those chosen are able to censor the discussion.

      Different voters will aspire to different and often mutually exclusive governance outcomes. When one person or group imposes a test to decide who may have a say and how much of a say they may have in the political process, they are de facto seeking to shift power toward their own goals and thus themselves, making their group the elite class. To decide who in the body politic has a voice, whether through freedom of expression, assembly or suffrage, is to make one’s self more equal than others. Some animals are more equal than others, but to reduce a republic from democracy to might-makes-right contravenes the very thing that separate civilization from barbarism.

      People who favor such tests and other hurdles to political participation are generally only in favor of it as long as the hurdles are set up by themselves and their political allies. Once a group is so disenfranchised, they must oppose the power structure in which they have lost their say if they are ever to regain their citizenship from those that have subjugated them. This results in social and therefore political instability, followed by upheaval. This is why, once enfranchised, citizens, whether they are geniuses or ignoramuses or average, frequently resist being once again made subjects. Feudalism, even ruled by overlords that know they are the most enlightened philosopher kings, is materially and scientifically less successful, and bloodier, than democracy.

      @ Dremora

      You’re partially right that democracy has failed.

      This assumes that democracy had a specific set of goals on which its success or failure could be objectively judged. But the originators and re-originators or democracy sought to do create a form of government superior to its undemocratic precedents, so a more accurate assessment would ask whether democracy has done better than oligarchies/dictatorships, not whether it is the best of all possible worlds.

      @ Robin Hanson

      Joanne Lau says

      The right to vote is fundamental to democratic citizenship; it is one of the most important badges of political and legal equality. However, we deny it to children, generally without discussion.

      This implies that children are sovereign citizens. But despite the fact that children enjoy certain protections from the state, they are really more along the lines of citizens-in-waiting. When they reach the age of majority, they are expected to take on both the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen of the republic. Until then, they are wards either of their guardians or the state.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        We already have civics tests in school that aren’t too controversial. There are plenty of objective facts like how many congresspeople there are, who is your own representative, what is the presidential order of succession, what was the federal budget in a certain year, what percent of that goes to various programs, etc. A test that the rival political forces had to agree on would tend to consist of those less controversial bits. In the end all tests will screen in some way for IQ and the willingness to actually prepare to take the test and do your best. Even a test poorly designed by the government seems unlikely not to raise the effective sanity waterline.

      • Poelmo

        @TGGP

        The problem with your proposal is that a) little useful information, not even the entire constitution (the establishment clause doesn’t exist according to Rick Santorum), would remain in the test if people like Santorum had to agree to the contest of the test, b) approval by the two major parties would exclude third option views and c) people would be better off with no education at all than one that was approved by Rick Santorum.

        What would be much more useful is a reason test that doesn’t determine eligibility to vote, but is required in high school and would teach kids about the scientific method and how to spot logical fallacies. Of course this could also fail if the teachers aren’t good enough.

  • Matt

    I know it seems like common sense, but is there any evidence that ignorant voters hurt election outcomes? Is that an assumption? Especially in a two party system, wouldn’t ignorance just as likely lead to voting for the “right” candidate? And how much information would one need to obtain to be able to accurately predict which candidate will produce better results? How much do “informed” people vote in kind?

  • Jim Rutt

    As a 58 year old Student Pilot (almost done!), I’m pretty damn sure there is no 65 year old limit to having a private pilot’s license. I know folks as old as 80 that are still flying.

    As to the broader proposition, seems to me the right formula is to give a weighted vote: vote weight = (life expectancy – current age), thus giving kids a large voting weight, proportionate to the time they could be expected to live in the emergent society.

    Perhaps give the parents the proxy (.5 to each parent) until the kid can pass a civics test equal to the average civics knowledge of a 45 year old voter … ie a rather low hurdle!

    I suspect such a change would quickly lead to much less of our social resources being applied to the aged and more to young, where presumably the payback is larger.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Jim, see here:

      No person who holds a pilot certificate issued under this part may serve as a pilot on a civil airplane of U.S. registry in the following operations if the person has reached his or her 65th birthday:

      (i) Scheduled international air services carrying passengers in turbojet-powered airplanes;

      (ii) Scheduled international air services carrying passengers in airplanes having a passenger-seat configuration of more than nine passenger seats, excluding each crewmember seat;

      (iii) Nonscheduled international air transportation for compensation or hire in airplanes having a passenger-seat configuration of more than 30 passenger seats, excluding each crewmember seat; or

      (iv) Scheduled international air services, or nonscheduled international air transportation for compensation or hire, in airplanes having a payload capacity of more than 7,500 pounds.

      • aliaras

        Okay, so, only for international flights, and only for licenses under that part. If there’s more than one kind of pilot’s license, it’s possible that that limit isn’t even mentioned in the regulation governing the other kind.

  • Poelmo

    I think many people are not against a civil literacy test, but they just don’t trust anyone to decide what would be in that test.

    On to the topic of kids voting, there are some good reasons the elderly are allowed to vote, but not kids:

    – kids would just be told by their parents who to vote on, that or they’ll vote for something really extreme, some elderly aren’t capable of making a good choice either, but they’ll at least vote on candidates and parties that they remember serving them well in the past, so all kids are bad voters, while only a percentage of the elderly are bad voters and those that are aren’t as bad as the kids

    – the population pyramid tells us there are more kids than extremely old people, so their bad decisions would influence the result more strongly

    – we don’t trust 10 year olds to drive, smoke, drink or join the military either*

    * we do let 16 year olds drive and handle firearms, we let 18 year olds fight overseas and smoke tobacco, but we only let 21 year olds drink alcohol, these cases of hypocrisy are, in my mind, far more important issues than thinking about letting 10 year old kids vote

    P.S. 16 years may be an appropriate age to start voting, this was advocated in Europe a couple of years ago, as a way to counteract a growing army of elderly, retired people sucking the younger generations dry through the democratic process in the future, only Austria went ahead and let 16 year olds vote however. Maybe in the other countries the proposal was rejected because the elderly were already powerful enough to kill it?

    • http://lesswrong.com/user/Jayson_Virissimo Jayson Virissimo

      we don’t trust 10 year olds to drive, smoke, drink or join the military either

      How sure are you that 10 year olds would be worse drivers on average than 90 year olds, if we actually allowed 10 year old to drive? Youtube has plenty of videos of even 5 year olds driving sports cars on public roads.

      • Poelmo

        We don’t just let any 90-year old drive: they have to proof they’re still able bodied.

    • Ian Maxwell

      kids would just be told by their parents who to vote on

      I recall reading (I’ll have to find a source) about the opposition to female suffrage, and that one of the standard arguments was that it would effectively give married men two votes.

      • Poelmo

        There is a solid scientific case to make that a child’s brain is not developed enough to make the same decisions as adults. No such case can be made to exclude women, black people and gays, though it might be possible for people over 90. Now of course this is about potential: an adult can still make a dumb choice, education is still required, but the point is no child, or only a small percentage of children, can vote sensibly, no matter their education, while most adults could, given the right education. Voting tests would be ideal to solve the entire problem, but who would you trust with the authority to decide what will be in that test?

      • http://lesswrong.com/user/Jayson_Virissimo Jayson Virissimo

        There is a solid scientific case to make that a child’s brain is not developed enough to make the same decisions as adults. No such case can be made to exclude women, black people and gays, though it might be possible for people over 90. Now of course this is about potential: an adult can still make a dumb choice, education is still required, but the point is no child, or only a small percentage of children, can vote sensibly, no matter their education, while most adults could, given the right education. Voting tests would be ideal to solve the entire problem, but who would you trust with the authority to decide what will be in that test?

        Why are adults the relevant baseline, rather than a subset of adults (say, those with an IQ > 100, served 4 years in the military, graduated from university, etc…)? Seems pretty arbitrary to me.

      • Poelmo

        @Jayson Virissimo

        Because IQ tests are whack, it’s not unusual to find 15 point differences (an entire standard deviation) between measurements at different times of the day, different ages, different decades, different tests and different test-supervisors. Military service says nothing about intelligence, knowledge or morality and university is more often a measure of how rich your parents were than of how smart you are, aside from the fact that you don’t have to be a genius to graduate, exhibits A and B are George Bush and Rick Santorum.

      • Paul

        Because IQ tests are whack, it’s not unusual to find 15 point differences (an entire standard deviation) between measurements at different times of the day, different ages, different decades, different tests and different test-supervisors.”

        Unfortunately, none of these statements are true. IQ tests are the most reliable tests in psychology, with the 95% ci being +/- 4 points on a bad day, not 15. Moreover, if you search “Iq validity” anywhere you will find that, although they are in general poor predictors of life events, they are in fact the BEST measurable single predictor of life events. Thus they are as little “whack” as is currently possible.

        To the point, I agree completely that the “adults” baseline is at least as arbitrary as other baselines. Possibly, there is a Rawlsian original-position “protecting” people from the risk that they might have been born as someone who would not excel in academia or military. “Adults” is just biased against people who die before turning 18 (and that could never happen to me, right?).

        I have long thought that the average child’s vote would be just as uninformed as the average adult’s vote. Children really suffer from many outrageous double-standards…and they have no economic power whatsoever! Hang in there, kids!

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Oh please.

        What about this study?

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17680932

        More than 70 percentile point differences for the same individuals on different tests.

        What ever those tests claim to measure, it can’t be the same thing.

      • Kingoblivion

        well what if the kids don’t wish to vote for the canidate decided by the parents?

    • Paul

      It’s probably true that IQ tests don’t work very well on autistic people.

      In fact, IQ tests generally work very poorly on people with high IQ, which explains (to me) why so many smart people (who are likely defensive with regard their own intelligence), can find so much evidence of them not working (especially if they hang around other smart folks…which they do)!

      So the very fact that people had 70 percentile point differences implied that they probably scored at least in the 80th percentile on one IQ test, meaning that they are likely in danger of being too smart for these exams to predict future events anyways (which is the whole point, of course).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heteroscedasticity

      Furthermore, the sections of an IQ test do not themselves measure IQ. A process called factor analysis aggregates the information from each of the different tests to find the general intelligence factor, which is why IQ tests tend to have a few different parts (reading, math, spatial rotation) that add up to one score.

      In general, across all people the reliability numbers are north of .95. You and your identical twin will probably both get the same score next year as you got today, regardless of how anyone feels about it!

      I’m sensing some bias to be overcome!

  • Chris Gregory

    I think it’s too easy to define ignorant as people who simply don’t agree with you…

    Kids should have votes. I think kids are exploited by the current system – whether economically or just in terms of being spoken for by interested parties (how much policy is made on their behalf without giving them any real say in the matter?)

    Imagine: a future in which people could no longer speak as if their interests represented the wills and wishes of all children…unless they’d been elected, obviously.

    • Kingoblivion

      Correct me if my theory is slightly off, but i believe the reason that the government doesn’t allow kids to vote is because they believe kids don’t have the general experience in political matters to make a rational decision in this particular field of politics.

  • Dremora

    10 is a good age for voting. Also for limited contracts and other personal decisions, including medical stuff. Children aren’t slaves. The only justification for treating them as though they were lies in their limited cognitive abilities. However, this limitation is far greater for small children than for older ones.

    There is no reason to force a person to live in a society for 18 years without having the right to be represented in it democratically.

  • Robert Koslover

    This article seems especially relevant to your essay. If its conclusion is accurate, it would seem to imply that letting 10-year olds vote would indeed bring down the quality of our elected officials.

  • http://quomodocumque.wordpress.com JSE

    “Surely the typical ten year old is as able to vote their interest as the typical ninety year old or the typical voter who can’t manage to show up to vote with a photo ID.”

    I’m not sure of this at all — can you explain why you are?

    • Kingoblivion

      Because at the age of ten, children are of the age to brgin making his/her own decision,aside from peer pressure, while the average adult finds the time to weigh the possibilities of the outcomes between both of the canidates. At least this is what i believe.

  • Margaret

    In a related question, why not let kids choose their classes at school? Would it be so bad if ten year olds could take more classes in their favorite subjects, and drop those they aren’t interested in? Would we expect to see the emergence of driven young specialists, or empty math and grammar classes?

    • Kingoblivion

      I too wish that kids such as myself (13) would have more of an option in the classess we take, more enjoyable courses would in turn lead to more children, such as my self, enjoying school.

  • cournot

    I think in the longer run there is no way to guard against the ills of widespread democracy. The U.S. began with constitutional restrictions that limited voting to landed males, had strong federalism, and explicitly forbade an income tax, not least because they worried that ignorant voters would shift to a redistributive world and politicos would become demagogic populists who centralized the government.

    Guess those hopes weren’t borne out. In the end even constitutional restrictions in the country with the most stable constitution haven’t been able to turn back the populist, redistributionist, and centralist hordes.

    • Dremora

      You’re partially right that democracy has failed. It is clearly a problem that majorities can vote away the individual rights of minorities. But I see this as a general problem of government, not a feature of democracy specifically. An oligarchy or dictatorship doesn’t treat individual rights more kindly either. In a sense, the real selling point of democracy is that it gives at least the population at large a nonviolent negative feedback mechanism to the legislative process.

      As for redistribution, you’re also partially right; a lot of money is wasted and a lot of hard-working people are overly taxed. But constitutions obviously aren’t self-enforcing, and strong economic inequalities have externalities for the affluent as well.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      I assume by “constitutional restrictions” you are referring to the U.S. constitution. That Constitution stated that the states had to have republican forms of government, but other than that it left a very wide berth. The restriction of the vote to property owners was the result of state-level laws, so there was no constitutional amendment at the federal level guaranteeing it. It was after the civil war that the federal government obtained more authority over the internal matters of states.

    • Chris Morrow

      The U.S. began with constitutional restrictions that limited voting to landed males, had strong federalism, and explicitly forbade an income tax, not least because they worried that ignorant voters would shift to a redistributive world and politicos would become demagogic populists who centralized the government.

      Don’t forget that slavery is an extreme sort of “redistribution” (and an instance of the majority overruling minority rights) and it was, of course, legal and widespread for more than half of the country’s history.

      I don’t mean to say that democracy was the only possible route to abolition (indeed, the actual route was more a matter of civil war than referendum). It’s just that I get frustrated when people take for granted that the Colonial United States were somehow significantly more “libertarian” than in the present day. Rant over.

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    Adults can’t evaluate what candidates are promising. If you look at the four current GOP presidential candidates, and the issue the GOP claims to be most interested in (the deficit), all of them are worse than Obama in terms of the long term deficits their economic policies will achieve.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/four-phonies-update/

    If the four leading GOP candidates can’t (or won’t) talk honestly about their plans, and main stream media is unable to notice, and doesn’t call them on it, how are children supposed to evaluate it?

    • John

      Honestly, on an issue like that, I’d be more willing to trust a kid who knows basic math and how to use Google, than an adult who’s learned how to ignore the evidence and decide based on tribal affiliation.

    • Kingoblivion

      There is always that small hand-full of children who have the ability of keen perception. It doesn’t take a well-trained genius to take one look at a guy and say “This man could either greatly benefit us, or he could very much royally screw us, just like Bush did.

  • http://tjic.com TJIC

    > Why Not Let Kids Vote?

    I suspect that folks don’t mind the restriction because the redistribution of voting power is from themselves (when under age 18) to themselves – as part of a smaller electorate – when over age 18.

    It’s sort of like taxing everyone $10 on Monday and then giving it back on Tuesday – there’s not much net harm.

    On the other hand, taking away someone’s vote when they’re 80 may be fine for all the 30 year olds out there – they get to be part of a smaller electorate immediately – but feels like disempowerment to the average 79 year old…or to anyone who can imagine turning 80 some day.

    • Radford Neal

      That’s an interesting rationale, which leads to an intriguing possibility…

      How about restricting people to vote only in the first election after they turn 60 years of age? Most people make it to age 60, so this doesn’t exclude many people. And at that time, they’ll have had lots of experience, and still have most of their cognitive capacity. Plus, since many fewer people will be voting in the election, they’ll have more influence, and hence have more incentive to familiarize themselves with the issues and candidates.

      • Doug S.

        That would really suck if you were, say, a civil rights crusader in the 1960s. You can turn from a liberal into a conservative without changing a single opinion merely by waiting thirty years. And on social issues, such as civil rights, etc., the socially liberal view tends to be the one that ends up vindicated by history. So I’d suspect that, in any given era, a randomly selected 25 year old citizen of a democracy is more likely to have views vindicated by history than a randomly selected 60 year old.

        Unlike science, social progress really is achieved funeral by funeral.

      • Poelmo

        If only people at age 60 can vote then you’ll soon find a massive cash flow from things like college grants to things like medicare. The old will suck the young dry because they’ve forgotten they were once young too.

      • Five Daarstens

        @Poelmo
        If only people at age 60 can vote then you’ll soon find a massive cash flow from things like college grants to things like medicare. The old will suck the young dry because they’ve forgotten they were once young too.

        That is what is wrong with Heinlein’s idea of having only retired military officers vote, they would vote themselves huge pensions and stiff the rest of us

  • http://teachingsmarts.blogspot.com Matt

    Why lower it to ten year olds? Sounds like an arbitrary number to me. How about 8? Or 6? Or right when they’re able to speak? Do any arguments for 10 year olds not apply to younger children? Would you be okay with 3 year olds voting?

    • Dremora

      The arbitrary number part is unavoidable unless you want to use another metric of development, such as IQ or body height – and then you’ll probably have arbitrary numbers in that metric.

      Another option is to abandon the age limit. If they’re physically able to show up and correctly place a vote, they can vote.

      • Chris Morrow

        Another option is to abandon the age limit. If they’re physically able to show up and correctly place a vote, they can vote.

        I like this idea, but it’s problematic insofar as you don’t want to restrict the rights of disabled adults who are not “physically” able to vote.

        I think the best policy is unrestricted suffrage for all citizens, with an age limit only to deal with the practical question of how very very young are supposed to vote. Somewhere between 10 and 13 sounds reasonable to me.

    • Kingoblivion

      That depends on how the parents look at the situation. Now i do agree with your argument on the age of the right to vote, whether or not this age is right for voting privlages, but how would you react if a random person walked up to you and said “My 11year old is perfectly capable of voting in this election.” ?

  • http://twitter.com/jacobcepstein Jacob
  • http://ambientchallenge.blogspot.com Lee Kelly

    Ha! Parents want to send their kids to detention camps masquerading as educational institutions. That’s why kids can’t vote.

    • Doug S.

      Heh, exactly!

    • Kingoblivion

      I’m not sure that any piece of what you posted makes any sense.

      • Hul-Gil

        What part are you having trouble understanding?

  • Doug S.

    Giving children the right to vote probably won’t affect much, since they’ll still have the same slate of candidates to choose from that the adults did. Giving women the right to vote, although clearly the Right Thing to Do, didn’t exactly result in a radical shake-up of the U.S. government. (In contrast, giving freed slaves the vote during Reconstruction – and taking it away from lots of white people – did indeed result in such a change, if only temporarily.) Furthermore, polls of schoolchildren do tend to mirror those of the country as a whole anyway. OTOH, during the Clinton vs Bush election cycle, a rumor that Bush wanted to eliminate summer vacation caused my brother’s elementary school to go overwhelmingly for Clinton – so there might indeed be gains to be had to pandering to a hypothetical ten-year-old vote. ;)

    • Kingoblivion

      Well that depends, what if said child, actually weighs the outcomes of the election, and makes the decision in which the elected canidate actually makes a change in the world. Please correct me if my theory is a little off topic, i’m a teen myself (13)

  • Doug S.

    For the record, I would indeed be in favor of lowering the voting age to, say, twelve.

    • Kingoblivion

      I’m 13 and i believe i’m perfectly capable in voting.

  • Nicholas

    Isn’t the whole reason why kids are not allowed to vote simply because they are not matured enough to make those decisions for themselves? The same reasoning goes with alcohol, guns and driving (and drugs, if drug consumption is legalised as it is in some countries).

    The other reason why kids are not allowed to vote, I think, is because they are unlikely to sufficiently consider the implications of their vote. The fact that they are even given a vote can also dilute the votes of those who have seriously considered their options. After all, John Kennedy said that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.

    By way of a corollary, the mere fact that 18 or 21 is seen as the minimum voting age doesn’t necessarily mean that those who are above 18/21 are mature enough to make these decisions either. It’s simply a bright-line test to reduce transaction cost.

    I dare say that there are many above 18/21 who aren’t mature enough to exercise their right to vote (i.e. they haven’t given it sufficient thought). But the alternative would be to administer “maturity tests” (if these could be devised) individually on each person. Even for the most ardent believers of democracy, the cost of administering a system to ensure that individual votes are sufficiently considered may be prohibitive.

    • http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com Sister Y

      Your comment raises an interesting point (though I understand not the one you’re making): perhaps part of the reason for restricting the vote to adults is to support the cultural myth that voting is a Mature Serious Decision that Totally Means Something.

    • Kingoblivion

      One can easily label a child as “incompitent” to vote, but there is no way to prove/disprove this assumpuation that said child is either “mature” or “immature” to take part in the elections.

  • Polly

    Personally, I do not see any merit in lowering the voting age: political technologies in Russia, for instance, tend to substitute opinion for course of action (as in recent presidential campaigns of 2012), and it is intellectually demanding to distinguish between the two. To be able to do so, as it seems to me, a voter should at least have completed her school education programme. Restricting voting on the basis of knowledge is a fine idea – but who would design the tests then? And how would these tests indicate the level of political knowledge?
    I think a simple solution is to introduce courses of basic political knowledge at schools and disenfranchise those who hadn’t got any basic education in political field.

    • http://lesswrong.com/user/Jayson_Virissimo Jayson Virissimo

      Personally, I do not see any merit in lowering the voting age: political technologies in Russia, for instance, tend to substitute opinion for course of action (as in recent presidential campaigns of 2012), and it is intellectually demanding to distinguish between the two. To be able to do so, as it seems to me, a voter should at least have completed her school education programme.

      Yeah, how would citizens be able to vote wisely if they don’t first complete their sentence in a government indoctrination camp? I just can’t think of a way…

    • Kingoblivion

      The corriculums in some school districts don’t allow students to learn of politics until they are at least in 10th – 11th grade, but some as young as 9th grade aren’t uncommon either.

  • http://silverriverreflections.wordpress.com Keith

    Several commenters have noted that kids’ minds are not as developed as adults’, but this misses the point. Robin’s not just questioning why kids can’t vote; he’s questioning the asymmetry in the treatment of kids and the elderly.

    Here, then, is a possible justification of that asymmetry.
    1. Kids are impressionable–more so than the elderly are. That is to say, they more easily succumb to various forms of irrationality than adults do (which is saying something, considering how irrational adults can be).
    2. Ideological habits are hard to break. People who attach themselves to a party or idea have a hard time changing their minds.
    3. People who are unattached to particular ideas have a greater ability to think neutrally about political issues. (Think of the dispassionate way outsiders often view heated conflicts.)
    4. Thus extending the time during which people are neutral extends the time during which they can think clearly about politics.
    5. Denying suffrage to kids delays the time when they’ll be pandered to, polled, and otherwise pressured into taking sides.
    6. Thus it increases the chances that, by the time they do pick an ideological rut to get stuck in, it’ll be a good rut.

    By this logic, though, the voting age should probably be raised even further.

    • Kingoblivion

      So, correct me if i’m wrong, but basically what you’re saying is that kids are basically influenced by their parents bias decisions, and irrationality?

  • Kelvin

    hey, i don’t agree. i am 13 years old and i am more politically aware than most adults. the world could be so much more of a better place! VOTE FOR THOMAS MULCAIR!! anyways, i don’t have the right to vote. i NEED to vote. i want to decide for myself! its my future and adults are ruining it! DONT VOTE JUSTIN TRUDEAU! HE IS LEGALIZING MARIJUANA!!! most adults vote because their friends say so, and most don’t even know which is which. in my point of view, i guess yes, kids like me can vote, but everyone, even adults have to pass a written exam to see how politically aware you are, and then if you pass, you vote. I CAN VERY WELL TAKE DESCISIONS AND NOT BE BRIBED. I HAVE NERVES OF STEEL. AND THERE ARE MANY KIDS OUT THERE THINKING THE SAME!

    i know more about politics than ANY adult