Scott Aaronson confesses: Discuss: Should children have the right to vote? The above is a question that’s interested me for as long as I can remember, though I avoided blogging about it until now. See, unlike many libertarian economist Ayn-Rand types, I don’t actually like asking social or political questions the very asking of which marks you as eccentric and Aspbergerish. I’d rather apply myself to proving lower bounds, popularizing quantum mechanics, or other tasks that are (somewhat) more respected by the society I depend on for my dinner. And I’d rather pick battles, like evolution or climate change, where truth and justice have well-connected allies on their side and a non-negligible chance of winning. For years, I’ve been studying the delicate art of keeping my mouth shut when what I have to say will be deeply unpopular—and despite lapses, I’ve actually made a great deal of progress since (let’s say) the age of 14.
What are the benefits of allowing children to vote? I don't see any.
Many kids wouldn't vote anyway, like young adults. Those that did vote would either be following parents' instructions or just nerds.
sternhammer:I am claiming that there is still some correlation that would remain after you knock those things outThis is what's known as "shared environment". Many people are sure it's there a priori, but what isn't genetic is usually nonshared environment.
Nancy, I don't vote and like Jacob the grad student I have no problem with my franchise being restricted.
Voting isn't about information or policy.Voting affects policy. We (me and some others) want it to be about information to get better policy.
We could all pass any test all aces and then still vote candy for our in-group. In fact, that's what we would continue to do.Read Bryan Caplan. The Self-Interested Voter Hypothesis is simply false.
Aspertarian: Of or pertaining to one who combines the social skills of a victim of Asperger's syndrome with strong adherence to and frequent statement of the principles of rigid, rule-based libertarianism and an uncontrollable tendency to pick fights. Found occasionally in life, but much more commonly on the internet.
"See that dude standing in the corner? Don't let him launch into his rant about the legalization of organ sales by child prostitutes; he's a real Aspertarian."
Frelkins raises a good point - knowledge of political history or public policy is no guarantee of altruism, and there does appear to be an unspoken assumption that more knowledgeable enfranchised voters would support altruistic policies towards their disenfranchised peers. I imagine that some would do so, and others might either A) opportunistically take advantage of disenfranchised groups, or B) passively fail to take action to act in a beneficial manner towards them. (And this doesn't mean failing to support interventionist or liberal policies, such as, say, expanded welfare benefits; one could equally fail to support conservative policies such as tax reform that would attract new businesses to a depressed area.)
What do people think? Are there greater incentives for altruism (say, to avoid social uprisings) or self-interest in this situation?
I've been dubious about restricting the franchise (though this is more about the felons and votes issue) ever since I read something by a gay man about what it was like to realize that the laws (some time ago) which defined gay sex as a felony meant (among other things) much less ability to change those laws.
How sure are you folks that if there are laws restricting the franchise, they won't exclude people like you?
Assuming we are still keeping the test of your parent's most common location when you were born...
If a test (instead of age) decides the right to vote, then everyone who signed the petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide (Water) should either be denied the right to anything containing water or the right to vote. Those people are more a danger to society than those commonly imprisoned in insane asylums. If they will unknowingly try to ban water, what else would they try to ban? I hear some people are even trying to ban voting for some people.
I don't understand the interest in a "test." Why? Voting isn't about information or policy. We could all pass any test all aces and then still vote candy for our in-group. In fact, that's what we would continue to do.
If we were to lower the voting age in Iowa, a younger you wouldn't have been the only person to be given the franchise. In addition, we would get a small legion of new voters who think "hopenchange" is a thoughtful campaign platform.
Ignorant voters swamp the informed voters in most voting populations.
Giving kids the right to vote wouldn't have much of an effect because actually voting is highly correlated with age.
Phil Goetz:Voters are already ignorant enough.
Are 18 year-olds more ignorant than the rest of the population? Moreover, how does the ignorance of currently voting youths compare?
Why don't we just cut out the middleman and sell political positions to the highest bidder, using winning bids to replace taxation entirely? It would make taxation voluntary without bringing in the free-rider problem, and makes sure that people only vote for the positions that affect them.
Laws work the same way.
We don't do voting tests in America. If kids get the vote, it will be given to all kids down to some age limit. And that would be stupid. Voters are already ignorant enough.
But it would at least make political debates more interesting. "If elected, I promise to shorten the school year by a month and add ice cream to all school lunches!"
Predictability is not the same as validity? I agree. I'm not sure how that is relevant. Maybe we should each clarify what we think we are arguing about.
I am saying that giving kids votes means more political power for those most likely to have kids. I'm not against that -- it would help the side I identify with in a lot of political fights win more of the time. I'm just pointing out the consequence.
I think TGGP is right that there are a lot of variables masked in the correlation between parents and kids votes. I don't know about genetics being one -- I guess it might be, but I would think other demographic factors are more powerful. Since ethnic identity and SES correlate highly with party affiliation, and with family membership, we would expect the correlation to look higher than that part we can attribute to parental influence. If 90% of black folks vote democratic, we can easily predict that most black kids will vote like their parents.
I am claiming that there is still some correlation that would remain after you knock those things out. How do kids know the world? Mostly by having their parents explain it to them. That still matters. The people like Nancy who don't see any reason to expect influence -- well, I wonder if they have kids. My oldest is only ten, so maybe I am overestimating what my influence will be when he's 16. Less than now. But I think the big drop in my influence comes when he goes to college.
And Annoyed, you have a real point when you say "I don't think you can let it weigh too heavily and keep anything that looks like democracy." But then, I don't think the winning argument for democracy is that it leads to smarter decisions. It has other virtues.
I am not sure what your last paragraph means. Could you expand?
My straw man---which I stated to elicit more of sternhammer's views as he tears it down---is not that people should choose to vote by coin flip, but that they are forced to vote by coin flip.
As for the mess with political space, we can't use any election system that ends up having the candidates that people prefer, or choose to vote for, consistently get elected. But that's just what restricting the candidates on the ballot to ones that voters like would do.
Oh well, if these kids are to be given the right to vote? That another cost for this time of recession. Further, these little people, may be just used by opportunist politicians in w wrong way. I suggest, choosing a representative from the number of kids who will be given the right to vote.
sternhammer, have you read the Nurture Assumption? It might be that political orientation is heritable for genetic reasons and we just conflate it with conditioning because the two causal links go together so often.
cover political spaceWhat is the range of "political space"? And wouldn't most people prefer a normal distribution?
Extending this idea even further, perhaps we should restrict voting and office-holding to those who have signed up for cryonics.