A quick reminder that we really ought to lower the voting age
Estimable political scientist Philip Cowley (he writes those big, excellent books about UK general elections) objects to lowering the voting age to 16 and sort of idly wonders if we ought to raise it to 21.
This is, of course, ridiculous. It’s a craven defence of the status quo and an unimaginative repetition of a centuries-old prejudice against youth. There are at least five good reasons why the voting age should be lowered (I’m leaving out the obvious sixth one — that it might electorally benefit progressive parties or political entrpereneurs— because, it turns out, that’s not necessarily true).
- It will make the electorate more open to change, reform, novelty in general. Not much, just a bit. Probably just the right amount, in fact. Parties will work to appeal to the young, updating their programmes more often, trying to stay relevant and modern. Electoral politics will be slightly more dynamic, slightly more open to new ideas — like workplace democracy, basic income, cooperation, life-long learning, preventive healthcare… And, better yet, we might find that some of the concerns of young people even make it into the party manifestos.
- Children will make better voters than their parents. Votes are just choices. Choices with material outcomes for sure, but still relatively simple choices. It’s not rocket surgery, granddad. The more I think about it the more disgusted I am that we grown-ups are so certain that young people can’t be trusted to make these choices. Especially as the evidence piles up that adults make their own democratic choices in such an arbitrary way, with such limited grasp of the facts, with so little readiness to listen to others or to test our ideas. And look at the outcomes! Could children possibly be worse at voting than stupid adults? Might they actually offer a model for better deliberation to their elders.
- It will provide an important counterweight for the old. The old already have a massive numerical advantage in any representative democracy. And while we don’t ask them to stop voting 18 years before they die, they are going to retain this advantage. And, as populations everywhere age, that advantage can only grow — and grow and grow and grow. The old are taking over our democracies. They must be stopped.
- It will automatically…