Sunday, November 08, 2009

Votes at 16

I can't find a link for this (please put one in the comments. UPDATE: link found thanks to John Pickworth), but I heard on the radio a couple of days ago that Gordon Brown had re-affirmed his belief that people should be allowed to vote at 16. This is presumably because Gordon believes that teenagers, being generally ignorant, would be more likely to vote for a socialist party.

Or perhaps Gordon genuinely thinks that a sixteen year old is, in fact, adult enough to understand the issues. The trouble is that this government has, in fact, removed more and more rights from this group, as The Heresiarch eloquently amplifies.
But in other ways, at sixteen many youngsters are much less "adult" than they were even a generation ago.

That's certainly the message that is coming from the government. New restrictions on the freedom and capacity of teenagers have been brought in continually under New Labour. The age at which it is legal to purchase cigarettes, knives or fireworks has been raised from 16 to 18, as has the age at which one can obtain a licence for such firearms as are still legal for anyone. The age for purchasing alcohol is still 18, but there's a growing campaign in some quarters for Britain to follow the repugnant American policy of raising it to 21—and, in any case, the severity with which the law is now being enforced has effectively raised it, in practice if not in theory.

And this legal extension of juvenile incapacity in many areas has gone along with an ever more protracted adolescence. By the time they reached the voting age of 21, many people in the past would have experienced several years effective social adulthood. Leaving school at fifteen or sixteen, they would have been working, paying taxes, and, in many cases, marrying and starting a family (and, provided it was done in that order, with less disquiet about teen pregnancy than would be caused today). Many died for their country before reaching the age at which they could vote for its government. Today, it is expected that young people remain financially dependent at least until they finish university at 22 or thereabouts. The government that is contemplating a reduction in the voting age is also in the process of raising the school leaving age to eighteen. So whereas in the past many 16 year-olds had no say over the politicians who were deciding their tax rates, in the future they may have a say, but have much less moral claim to it than their predecessors. A paradox indeed. But is a quinquennial ballot really much compensation for the loss of the independence and trust they once enjoyed? Or, to put it another way, if adolescents can be trusted with a vote, why should they not be trusted with a penknife?

Because, of course, personal freedom is a massive responsibility and should not be granted to anyone unless they have shown themselves in some way capable of dealing with it.

Whereas any old (or young) fucker—no matter their ignorance of the issues, no matter whether their personal enrichment is involved, no matter whether they are simply biased or stupid—can be allowed to oppress and restrict the freedom of others.

That's democracy, innit.

12 comments:

Martin said...

Yep, 16 year olds would vote for Labour.

Or, to be honest, they'd put on their Che beret and vote SWP, like the kids on my uni campus who run SWP stalls.

Needless to say, none of them have done a day's work in their lives.

Anonymous said...

Legally, a child is defined by the Children (S) Act 1995 as anyone under the age of 18. It's difficult to see why the right to vote should be extended to someone who is, in a pure legal sense, not yet accepted or recognised as an adult. The 1995 Act allows a child of 16/17 to set aside any financial transaction into which they may enter... In effect, Broon would want individuals to cast a vote in an election when they are not legally trusted to enter into a financial transaction under their own steam.

Interestingly, the same act guarantees a child the right to parental financial support until the age of 25.....

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

"if adolescents can be trusted with a vote, why should they not be trusted with a penknife."

I was under the impression that nobody was trusted with anything as dangerous as a penknife nowadays.

Soon, of course, people under 18 will be forbidden from leaving school. So much for the Labour Party's confidence in their intellectual capacity.

Corrugated Soundbite said...

I saw an article about the idea of over-70's not being allowed to vote in Croatia. I reckon Snotty might have been eyeing that one up too. They remember the days when we actually had jobs and made things here.

John Pickworth said...

Teenagers

Teenagers should be given the vote from the age of 16, Brown said as he praised Bercow for his "tremendous innovation" in allowing the UK Youth Parliament to hold debates in the Commons chamber last week.

The prime minister told the house: "I personally favour giving young people the vote at 16. This is a matter we should consult on with the public and then we should make a decision."

The Guardian / 5th November 2009

Nick said...

Gordon Brown stated that he was in favour of reducing the voting age to 16 during PMQs last Wednesday (in response to what looked like a planted question about the Youth Parliament).

Chris G said...

So where do you stand on the issue of taxation without representation, then, DK? Surely if someone is free to work and pay taxes from the age of 16, as many young people do, then they should have the right to elect the people in charge of the tax rates. I'm not sure you can oppose it in principle.

Even if a lot of under-18s are ignorant or apathetic about politics in general, that hardly makes them very different from many of their older counterparts, does it?

Anonymous said...

If it could ever work in practise, surely the fairest way would be to count votes in proportion to the number of pounds paid in tax. So if I pay 10000, then my vote counts for 10000 units, while someone who pays 100000 gets 100000 units. Add this up per voter and there you have it. Of course to extend this further, only taxpayers should be able to vote on how tax is spent, only parents should be able to vote on how education is run, etc.

Sir Henry Morgan said...

I'm a known smartass - and even I knew jack shit at 16.

I get the plan though - they spend all those years in school gatting indoctrinated, then immediately get to vote. How do we suppose they will vote?

I questioned a whole bunch of 16 yr-olds once, and asked them specifically what political parties they had heard about - "err, Labour ... and there's another one but we don't know what it's called"

Vote at 16? Bollux to that.

Roger Thornhill said...

How about votes to 16year olds who left school at 14 and have worked for 2 years?

Anonymous said...

"personal freedom is a massive responsibility and should not be granted to anyone"

Sounding a bit like an authoritarian cunt there...

Anonymous said...

As an upper sixth form student (age 18), I can assure you that not only would I not have trusted myself with the vote at 16, I wouldn't trust many, if any, of my colleagues today. Several of my fellow 'History' students didn't know who Dave Milliband was - or what nationalisation meant, for fuck's sake!

I'm not even certain if I deserve the vote . . .