The Push For 16-Year-Olds Voting

If we have 18-year-olds vote for the executive office, why not 17-year-olds? And if 17-year-olds, why not 16-year-olds? And if 16-year-olds, why not 15-, 14-, 12-, and so on?

A child of 5, or 4, or 3, not allowed to vote is not allowed a voice. Rather, that voice must be provided for him by another. A representative, of some kind. A representative may unfairly or incorrectly represent the best interests of the child. Therefore the child himself must decide for whom his vote should be cast.

This argument holds for all children, even though who have not yet escaped their mothers’ wombs. Perhaps an ultrasonographer will invent a polling mechanism to query the emwombed child whether it wants Hillary (or whatever clone) or Trump.

You may not say this argument is stupid unless you are willing to concede that lines must be drawn, and that representatives for some must be found. And you are willing to concede that, you must also allow that the lines and representations we have now are too liberal.

They’re pushing harder for 16-year-olds. Here’s Nancy Deutsch saying some person named Ayanna Pressley is right that 16-year-olds “deserve”—that most popular advertising word—“to vote”.

For our democracy to function as it should, we need to encourage more Americans—from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and age groups—to vote in local and federal elections.

This is false: the opposite is true. Voting along racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and age groups necessarily leads to increased dissension, anger, tumult, and it hastens the breakup of a democracy.

I have a complete analysis of why this is so in my new book (still in review!), but the idea is simple. When people disagree about direction, for whatever reasons, both the winners and losers are upset by the vote. The losers because they lost and hate the direction the country will now take, the winners because the losers might have won.

Pundits and armchair commentators of all political persuasions complain about notoriously low voter turnout, decrying large segments of the voting public as apathetic, uninformed or even illegitimate.

This is because—does this really need to be pointed out?—large segments of the voting public are apathetic, uninformed and even illegitimate.

Perhaps the most compelling idea, and the most democratic in spirit, is a 2018 proposal, from U.S. Representative Ayana Pressley of Massachusetts, to lower the voting age in federal elections to 16…

Setting aside legislators’ risk-averse decision-making and political calculations, the consensus was that 16-year-olds cannot reasonably contribute to the electoral process.

Even though 16 is the age when many teens can realize the rights and responsibilities of adulthood (such as driving and full employment), we say they somehow lack the maturity and experience to make informed choices at the ballot box.

We do not say that they somehow lack the maturity and experience to make informed choices at the ballot box. We are saying that they definitely and with absolute certainty lack the maturity and experience to make informed choices at the ballot box.

The thing is, we don’t really have a good reason not to allow 16-year-olds to vote. In fact, the evidence suggests just the opposite—that enfranchising 16-year-olds would be good for them and good for our democracy.

The skeptical attitude toward the next generation is especially baffling when we see teens like Greta Thunberg, or the students from Parkland, Florida, consistently demonstrate independent thought, deep understanding, clear convictions, and tremendous maturity and poise in the national and international limelight (even amid jarring criticism and judgment from adults).

Thunberg and the students from Parkland are wholly and demonstrably ignorant on the subjects on which they are haranguing their betters. They do not have deep understanding nor maturity. True, they have clear convictions and poise, but that they have them in conjunction with their ignorance, and with their not knowing of their own ignorance, is proof they should not be voting.

These exceptional young people are far more informed than the average adult when it comes to key issues of our time and, of course, are far more engaged than many of their peers. Never mind that the claims about young people being ill-informed and inexperienced essentially reprise the same complaints that were made when women and African Americans sought suffrage.

If you agree ignorant immature kids should not vote you are a racist. Very well, we are racists. And 16-year-olds should not vote.

Incidentally, so Newsweek informs us, “Nancy Deutsch is the director of the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development’s Youth-Nex Center, which is leading a national conference in November on how to engage young people on matters of democracy, moral reasoning and social justice.”

They got Socrates on the trumped up charge of corrupting the youth. Deutsch does it for real and well rewarded for it.

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13 Thoughts

  1. I’m old enough to clearly remember the Vietnam-era push for lowering the voting age to 18. The argument was, “if you’re old enough to buy tobacco, drink beer, and get shot at in a war, you’re old enough to vote”. Democrats passed the 26th Amendment. then took away the tobacco and beer.

  2. Extend the voting age to 16? From that article it sounds like an agenda to establish socialism into the system. Just indoctrinate the young people into thinking that so-called free healthcare, free college and free cellphones or whatever else is the way to go and then get as many young people to vote in socialist politicians! Yeah never mind history and a basic knowledge of 101 economics!

  3. Scott Adams (of dilbert fame and persuasion blogging) used to say, of polls of 18 year old voters, “Let’s ask the people who know the least about everything what they think about the most important political decision they could make”. They voted overwhelmingly for Hillary in 2016. Lets now allow the people who know even less the same question!

    I read “Starship Troopers” by Robert Heinlein (which is nothing like the movie, for those unaware) some time ago and He has a very agressive view of “limited Suffrage”. It was closer to the Roman ideal, that Citizenship was a privilege not automatically granted to residents within a certain territory. People could be “Romans” and not be “Roman Citizens”. Universal Citizenship was an innovation from some time later, and it was very controversial. This is what the Apostle Paul was emphasizing when he referred to himself as a Citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven–He had Roman Citizenship, which was a great privilege, but his Citizenship in Heaven was a far greater privilege.

    This concept of Universal Citizenship metasticized into the concept of Universal Suffrage. As we all know, when everyone has something, it’s not special anymore. What was a privilege now becomes an entitlement. Robert Heinlein’s thesis seemed to me to be that the only people that vote should be people who are willing to put the good of the Nation ahead of themselves; that is to say, who have a concept of selflessness. Nowadays, people will vote for whatever benefits them, and that leads to the Tyranny of the Mob.

    And that’s what Classical Liberalism always does: Maximize choice until the Tyranny of the Mob gives way to actual Tyranny. Self Immolation.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is, if 16 year olds vote i’ll set myself on fire.

  4. “For our democracy to function as it should”

    Who says it’s not functioning as it should? Rule by mob is giving us exactly what you would expect it to give.

  5. An interesting dichotomy: 16-yos in many eyes (in states like CA and NY among others) are too young to make informed choices regarding sex and choosing sexual partners because they are immature children who haven’t reached the age of consent yet somehow are mature enough to have a say in how things should be run.

  6. The real crisis in democracy is a shortage of candidates not a shortage of voters. There is little point voting if there is no candidate standing that you want to hold office.

    We should worry less about the impact of extending suffrage on the vote totals and worry more about who exactly is going to run for office. We want candidates who are capable. We also want them to be psychologically normal; they heed the call of duty, perhaps rather reluctantly.

    Now we propose that they must grovel before children to get elected. Maybe there are corrupt men willing to do that for the money they hope to gain. Maybe there are power hungry men who will do anything to be number one. But we cheat the children out of their democratic rights. There is no-one worth voting for when they are 16 and still no-one worth voting for when they are 25.

  7. Raise the voting age to 25. If you’re not mature enough to serve in Congress, you obviously are not mature enough to hire and fire the people who serve in Congress.

  8. Lower the age of marriage to 12, like it was in Roman times. If a girl’s old enough to get a legal abortion without her parents or the police being notified, she’s old enough to be a housewife and mother.

  9. Tax them heavily before they can vote. They need to have skin in the game for it to mean anything worthwhile.

  10. Age of voting should be 25. And then, only married men get to vote.
    Age for serving in the House should be 35, 40 in the Senate, and 45 for President. And less than 70 years old on the day of election.

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