Children

Should We Lower the Voting Age to Six?

British political scientist David Runciman says the answer is "yes." And he makes a stronger case than you might think.

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In a recent article in the The Guardian, British political scientist David Runciman outlines his case for lowering the voting age to six. Most people will be inclined to reject the idea out of hand. But the argument for it is stronger than you might think. Pretty much every argument for denying the vote to children would - if applied consistently - also justify denying it to large numbers of adults. Here's an excerpt from Runciman's piece:

The arguments against allowing children to vote always start with the basic question of competence. But what that means is that we are applying standards to children that we have given up applying to anyone else. It is true, of course, that many children would struggle to understand complex political questions, especially younger children. It is hard to envisage a group of six-year-olds getting to grips with fiscal policy. But many adults also struggle with complex political questions, and all of us have big gaps in our political understanding….. The fact is that we don't apply a test of competence before granting the right to vote to anyone other than children. So why start with them?

Setting imaginary tests before allowing enfranchisement is an essentially 19th-century idea. The basis of the principle of universal suffrage that replaced it is that we no longer believe voting is a right that belongs to individuals on the grounds of their competence to exercise it. Instead, it is a right that belongs to each of us because we are members of a democratic political community, and will have to live with the consequences of the decisions that are made by politicians on our behalf. If we suffer the consequences of those decisions, we should have a right to express a view about who gets to decide. That applies to children just as much as adults.

Perhaps, instead, the argument against letting children vote is less a principled one than a pragmatic one. Surely more adults are likely to understand what is at stake in an election than a group of schoolchildren. But that depends a great deal on how we conceive of the groups in question….

The question of competence – and the difficulty of using it as an argument against extending the vote to children – is especially acute in ageing societies such as our own. As the population ages, so the number of voters suffering from dementia and other forms of cognitive decline rises. But we don't take the vote away from old people, and we don't apply tests of competence to individuals in their 80s and 90s.

Perhaps the problem with children voting is not that they are less knowledgeable than adults, but that they are less mature and have worse judgment. But, as I explained in a 2018 post on an earlier version of Runciman's proposal, large numbers of adult voters also have the same flaws:

Perhaps the real reason why children should be denied the franchise is not lack of knowledge, but their poor judgment and immaturity. Of course many adults also have poor judgment and lack maturity. Consider the current president of the United States, who is "undisciplined" and "doesn't like to read," and whose own staff often manage him as if they are babysitting an unruly toddler. If children should be denied the vote because they lack judgment and maturity, why not the many adults who lack those same qualities?

The same is true of other rationales for denying children the vote. Another excerpt from my 2018 post:

Maybe the problem with child-voters is that they don't have the benefit of various adult experiences, such as working at a job, raising a family, paying taxes, or running a business. I am actually skeptical that these are as important for making good voting decisions as knowledge of government and public policy. But if I'm wrong about that, then we have to reckon with the fact that numerous adults also lack these experiences. Conversely a good many children do in fact have some of them, most notably working at jobs, or even - in some cases - helping to run a family business.

Another standard justification for denying children the vote is that they are too easily influenced by adults. Many might just vote whichever way their parents tell them. Of course, the same thing is true of many adults. Their political views are also heavily influenced by friends or family members. Historically, one of the standard justifications for denying women the vote was that they would just follow the dictates of their husbands or fathers.

More recently, Hillary Clinton famously claimed that she lost the 2016 election in large part because many white women voted against her as a result of pressure from their spouses. Some scholars argue that social science evidence supports her claims. Regardless, it's hard to deny that many people's political views and voting decisions are influenced by parents, spouses, and other family members, and that this influence is strong even with many adults.

In the 2018 post, I also explain flaws in the argument that it is no big deal to deny children the vote, because they will eventually get it when they grow up. I don't agree with every aspect of Runciman's argument. For example, I think he's wrong to suggest that there is a deep clash interest between younger and older generations and that this explains much of the current political polarization in Britain and the US. I am also skeptical of claims that public spending on children is unpopular relative to spending on the elderly because the latter have disproportionate political power. Public opinion surveys consistently show that elderly adults strongly support spending on education, while younger ones support major programs for the elderly, such as Medicare and Social Security.

Nonetheless, Runciman is basically right in his point that standard rationales for denying the franchise to children - particularly more knowledgeable children - would also justify disenfranchising large numbers of adults

Ultimately, I think we are left with this conclusion (also taken from my 2018 post):

The easiest way to reconcile standard justifications for denying the vote to children with the way we treat adult voters is to subject both children and adults to the same standards: before being allowed to vote, all should be required to prove they have a minimum level of political knowledge, judgment and maturity, or whatever other qualities are essential to being a good voter. This idea leads to something like Jason Brennan's theory of "epistocracy" - the "rule of the knowers." Competence, not age, would determine eligibility for the franchise. And that franchise need not be reserved to just a small elite. Depending on what kinds of standards are set, many millions of people would still be able to vote, including some children who are currently barred.

Unfortunately, I doubt that real-world governments can be trusted to either come up with good criteria for an epistocratic franchise, or apply them in an unbiased fashion. That's why I am skeptical of proposals to establish a knowledge test for voters, even though I do not reject all such ideas as a matter of principle. I am open to potentially expanding the franchise by including knowledgeable children. But I oppose the establishment of a universal testing system, which would create a much higher risk of abuse.

At least for a long time time to come, we are likely stuck with a system under which we deny children the vote for reasons that (often rightly) call into question the competence of numerous adult voters. This may be unavoidable. But it should make us more skeptical about the desirability of giving so much power to a political process heavily influenced by public ignorance. And it should lead us to be more open to proposals to limit and decentralize government power, so that more decisions can be made in a framework where people have better incentives to become informed and exercise good judgment.

 

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    1. Just so long as they are potty-trained.

      1. Looking at Congress, I suppose that doesn't matter so much.

        1. Congress? I would think the presidency would be more visible.

  1. As with immigration, we see Ilya Somin unable to cope with this sort of idea and arrive at a conclusion that isn’t absurd:

    "Nonetheless, Runciman is basically right in his point that standard rationales for denying the franchise to children - particularly more knowledgeable children - would also justify disenfranchising large numbers of adults"

    The idea of responsibility never enters into the thoughts on either topic.

    1. Exactly so. Children don't get the vote, or other accoutrements of adulthood, because they are not legally independent from their parents.

      Lots of adults have similar impairments in training or emotional control, but we very, very rarely take away fundamental rights for that kind of reason. In the domain of voting specifically, the history of literacy tests shows that it is not a good idea to trust government to apply that kind of judgment about who can vote.

    2. He's making an argument to his rational ignorance thesis, you yutz.

      You'd like it, it's about the need for small government.

      1. Small government is, in part, premised on the idea that individuals exercise responsibility. Children don’t. When something bad happens children run to the nearest adult because children aren’t actually responsible to solve their own problems.

        When voters vote, voters are responsible for the government they elect. Children therefore should not be voting because they aren’t in a position and don’t have the capability to be responsible for their choices. They can’t take care of themselves, so they can’t take care of others either.

        Voting was never about intellect or knowledge.

        1. He. Isn't. Arguing. For. Children. To. Vote. He's. Pointing. Out. How. Unqualified. Adults. Are.

          It's an argument for smaller government, because even in a democracy you're making bad decisions so keep the power individualized.

          I disagree with that thesis, but you have somehow managed to take a clearly absurd argument seriously.

          1. Which option requires more work by the government: Letting adults vote by default, or applying some test to decide which adults are informed / conscientious (/ in disturbingly common practice, white) enough to vote?

            It is an argument that blithely assumes a more active government will somehow end up smaller because the "right" voters agree that smaller government is better government.

          2. He doesn’t seem to understand that the presumption of responsibility is the qualification to vote. Voting used to be for far fewer people based on that idea. It was opened up as essentially all adults were presumed responsible enough.

            When voting was only for land owners, it wasn't because land ownership was correlated with information or intellect. Land owners were rooted to a location and had an obvious need to be responsible stewards and community members.

            Somin discusses ignorance and other topics as if they were meaningful to voting, but they never really were. He’s very good at missing the point, even on very straightforward concepts.

          3. Exactly, six-years olds are possibly more sensible than most Trump voters.
            But by the age of 8 that advantage dissipates.

    3. Smart kids voting would suggest disenfranchising large numbers of adults.

      And?

      Slightly more seriously, "Get out the vote" for every last yokel is just polluting the decision making process by introducing more people, most of whom don't really care and will be swayed by the most shallow of memes.

      Both sides know this, and rely on it, so they can get power and throw around trillions and skim off one way or the other, facetiously squeaking about the noble undergirding of that power by popular approval.

      Well, no. Idiotic memes that would embarrass a 3 am sitcom on UHF.

      It didn't work for a chess game against a grand master. It doesn't work for quality governance.

      Unless you define quality in a circular way as what most people want.

  2. Had I had the vote at age 6, the practical effect would have been that my parents would have had an additional vote, simply because I would have voted for whomever they told me to vote for. I imagine that would be true of most six year old voters.

    1. Either their parents, or their homeroom teacher.

  3. “Oh, Literacy Tests, I just can’t quit you…”

  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children%27s_Crusade

    This rather sad story goes to answer the question: Why do leftists seek to lower the voting age? (or rather: Why do “young people” vote for leftists?) It also illustrates the likely outcome for the “young people.”

    1. Because of the Left's influence in our educational system.

    2. It's interesting that you think the Crusades were run by leftists.

      1. I think he's pointing out that children make rather poor policy decisions.

    3. TBH, not really less successful than most of the later Crusades run by adults. Not really sure this disproves the article's thesis in any way.

  5. Is today April 1?

  6. That would certainly expand the "Give Me More Goodies" vote.

  7. This is simply a ploy to treat all children as adults. Think of all the things these "adults" will be allowed to do.

    At age six, they are allowed to drink alcohol, drive, own firearms, consent to sex, and all sorts of things that they are not currently allowed to do because they don't have the mental maturity to make those decisions.

    But, yeah, whatevs.

    1. "This is simply a ploy to treat all children as adults."

      And, conversely, adults can then be treated as children.

      1. And what makes you think that adults are not treated as children? All you have to do is look at the mask mandates.

        1. All you have to do is look at the mask mandates.

          Those show that we should be treating a large segment of the population as children. Petulant, selfish, ignorant children who stop their feet and insist that you can't make them eat their vegetables or go to bed.

          No, you can't make me brush my teeth!! You can't make me go to bed!! You can't make me wear a mask!! You're not the boss of me!!

          1. It is government treating adults, who can measure and judge the risks, as children who need to be sent to their room without their jobs.

            Once you allow someone to substitute their judgment for yours, you are a pawn.

            1. Virus-flouting, disaffected, obsolete, science-disdaining, antisocial right-wingers are among my favorite culture war casualties.

              Carry on, clingers . . . precisely so far and so long as better Americans permit, and no further.

              (I also suggest these 'nobody tells me what to do' losers improve their attitude, lest their betters become less gracious in victory.)

              1. "I also suggest these 'nobody tells me what to do' losers improve their attitude, lest their betters become less gracious in victory."

                RITTENHOUSE ACQUITTED!

                A hero. A patriot. A PIONEER IN DEALING WITH RIOTER SCUM.

                Soon to be millionaire at a very young age. Will be able to sell books, interviews.

                A chad: Physically fit. Will have many children. Women on the RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY are attracted to him.

                BRIGHT FUTURE. A WINNER.

                Enjoy your sip of reality, loser.

              2. CHECK OUT KIRKLANDS LOSER POST FOR A GOOD LAUGH:

                BWAAAHAHAHAHA!!!!

                "Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland
                November.10.2021 at 7:06 pm
                Flag Comment Mute User
                He's a high school dropout.

                He plays video games at his mom's apartment.

                He lies about his education (lack of it).

                He lives in Dumbasfuck, Indiana.

                He is a dumbass vigilante.

                He lies about his "achievements."

                He cries like a baby when his mom can't hug him and people ask him questions.

                He lies and breaks the law to acquire a weapon to buy a weapon for use when he goes looking for trouble.

                He's a right-wing poster boy and a lifelong loser."

                GLORIOUS!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!!!

                1. Which of those statements are incorrect? Don't bother answering, all I'll see is a grey box.

                  1. LOL idiot

          2. If there is "science" behind the mandates and shutdowns, they why do the well connected actually get to flaunt the "rules" while their servants must obey?

            Or did you forget about Obama's Superspreader birthday party? or the Met Gala?

            Damn, that's one smart virus!

            1. Let's switch from science to standard English, and contemplate flaunt and flout.

              1. Nice diversion. Let's you seem smart (or smart-assed) without addressing the question at all.

                1. ...LETS you seem smart...

    2. and sign contracts. Let's get rid of juvenile courts and try them as adults while we are at it.

  8. I'm trying to figure out if this is "reductio ad absurdum" or what.

    Either way, the argument is to open up voting to the most gullible people. "Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, People always tell the truth.."

  9. And he makes a stronger case than you might think.

    Only if what one began with the assumption that his case might be could be expressed via negative values.

    And people here give Blackman crap for posting dumb things?

    1. might be could be

      I really need to stop trying to change my wording while I'm in the middle of typing.

    2. "And people here give Blackman crap for posting dumb things?"

      Some people here give Blackman crap for posting dumb things.

      Some people here give Blackman accolades for posting dumb things.

      The shared understanding is that Blackman posts dumb things.

      1. The logic checks out!

  10. In order to take this proposal seriously, you probably have to have never raised a child, and have only the most foggy memories of when you were 6.

    To be sure, your average 6 year old is smart, very smart. Smarter on average than adults, really, because you do decline as you get older, even in your early years.

    But they are also terrifyingly ignorant and foolish in the extreme. Easily manipulated, given to emotional outbursts and confusing fantasy and reality, and with virtually no capacity to defer rewards or make cost/benefit judgments.

    Should we judge adults by the same standard? Sure. Any adult who managed to be as ignorant and emotionally unstable as a 6 year old child would probably have to be mentally disabled, after all, and likely would be in somebody else's full time care.

    Seriously, if you were to set a voting cutoff according to objective findings in the field of neurology and development, it would probably be closer to 25 than 6. Somebody wants an electorate that's more childish and easily manipulated, I gather.

    A perfect example of Orwell's “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”

    1. But they are also terrifyingly ignorant and foolish in the extreme. Easily manipulated, given to emotional outbursts and confusing fantasy and reality, and with virtually no capacity to defer rewards or make cost/benefit judgments.

      I mean, you just described every single person who voted for Donald Trump, so…

  11. Reddit has a place for this kind of discussion.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/im14andthisisdeep/

  12. I've often thought it would be interesting to have the only restriction on voting that you have to live on your own -- pay your own rent or mortgage, live in your car, be a merchant sailor with no land home -- and use indelible ink to stamp fingers (and other body parts in a specific order in case some are missing) to prevent voting more than once.

    No ID checks. Let tourists vote. Let people from outside the jurisdiction vote.

    No particular reason. Just think it would be an interesting change. Maybe make for some interesting fiction.

    1. Didn't this happen in 2020?

  13. I some sense, I wish the franchise were connected to civic participation, ala ancient Athens , were all the voters were expected to participate in debate, learning and service before exercising the right to vote.

    1. I think the novel Hyperion illustrates the problems with that on a large scale. It's a nice idea on a small scale but once you have large masses of people, all trying to be involved, you get around-the-clock political happenings in which everybody is trying to play their small bit to get a rush of dopamine and otherwise ignoring the problems they don't see because they spend all their time in the political sphere.

      1. And of course, there are many people who don't have the time to dedicate towards civic involvement but who still have valuable insights or knowledge. The disenfranchisement of slaves and then many former slaves comes to mind.

  14. The real problem is too much government doing too many things to too many people on behalf of too many other people. This makes everyone want to keep their focused benefits paid for by everyone else's money, while keeping their money to themselves instead of paying for everyone else;s benefits. This inevitably leads to squabbles over who should be able to vote -- prisoners? ex-prisoners? what age?

    But unless everyone's excess targeted benefits could be reduced simultaneously and fairly, with everyone perceiving the fairness, government can never be shrunk, only expanded, and the squabbles will intensify.

    As long as government does so much to so many using everyone else's money, people will squabble over it.

  15. Let us count the ways that allowing "knowledgeable children" to vote is unacceptable or even an knowledge test of some kind.

    Ilya really should read up on the history of literacy tests.

    It is basically inevitable that petty officials will put their thumb on the scales. Even if administered impartially and fairly it is also inevitable that some groups will fare worse than others.

    Even with the limited gatekeeping we currently have officials will tend to seek out voters they think help their philosophy and obstruct those they disfavor. I understand in some countries there is a national identity card everyone has which eliminates the registration, but does it verify addresses?

    We have juvenile justice advocates constantly arguing that brain development even in teens is not advanced enough to allow sound judgment in criminal conduct, and therefore juveniles should be given a pass on heinous crimes.

    Finally one of the objections I have is that below a certain age people don't have sufficient life experience realistically participate in civic life. Whether that age is 18 or some other age I can't say, but 18 seems to be a good point it's the age we currently generally complete mandatory education.

    1. Ilya really should read up on the history of literacy tests.

      Actually, the history of literacy tests outside the South is pretty benign. Was New York State really a sinkhole of despotism?

    2. We have juvenile justice advocates constantly arguing that brain development even in teens is not advanced enough to allow sound judgment in criminal conduct, and therefore juveniles should be given a pass on heinous crimes.

      Indeed. The neurological evidence suggests that 25 would be a reasonable minimum age for both voting and being tried as an adult.

  16. Judging by the naivete of Somin's posts, the voting age is already six.

  17. The reason we don't have any competence test outside of age is because we know that below a certain age you are almost certainly incompetent.

    However, we cannot trust any competence test that isn't automatic because we KNOW that it will be manipulated against political enemies. Do you think they wouldn't essentially be a quiz of how much you agree with the government?

  18. Good gravy. NO. The reason children shouldn't be allowed to vote is because they don't have to live with the responsibility for making a mistake. It has absolutely nothing to do with knowledge, intelligence, or anything like that.

    This is very simple: you break it, you bought it.

    1. I'd put it slightly differently, but this is the real reason: it's not about competence. It's about who has a legitimate stake in the functions of the government they're voting for.

      The lives of minors are governed almost entirely by their parents, with little reference to government restrictions. They don't get a vote because they don't effectively have a stake.

      It's why the 17th amendment was such a mistake. It took away direct representation by a coalition that has a huge stake in how the federal government works: the states themselves.

      When eligibility to vote is not aligned with parties who have a real stake in government function, it will become tyrannical and destructive.

      1. Yes. We should repeal the 17th Amendment. We now have much better ways to deal with the corrupt practices that were an excuse for it.

  19. I'm assuming this is satire, right? Somin's take on "A modest proposal" while being slightly less over the top?

    1. No, people are beginning to seriously propose this. Not a lot of progress persuading large numbers of people yet, but give them a couple decades and the assistance of kindergarten teachers eager to multiply their voting power by a dozen times over, who knows?

  20. This is really dumb.

    Children will overwhelmingly vote the way their parents tell them. There is nothing independent there.

    That many adults are influenced in their votes by peers, spouses, etc., is largely irrelevant. First, we have lots of people we associate with. If they are all of the same political persuasion then chances are we are too, so it's not the others that are the main influence.

    Another point I've made before comes up in this context. Most of these sorts of posts about informed voters and so on start with the assumption that voting is, or should be, only about policy analysis.

    That's wrong. Many, most I'd say, voting decisions are based on values. If you believe that abortion is murder then you are going to vote for candidates who promise to work to restrict abortion. No analysis necessary. If you believe that the nation has an obligation to see to it that everyone has access to adequate healthcare, you will be inclined to vote for candidates who promise to promote programs that do this. Again, no analysis.

    But children have not developed their own values. They will have those their parents teach them. There will be no independent voice.

    1. Unless of course the children are entering puberty in which case they will disagree with their parents on almost everything.

    2. I don't really disagree, Bernard. But while reading your comment it occurred to me that parents' values are strongly centered on their children's welfare, and it is no exaggeration to say that almost no other demographic represents that interest effectively. If as you say you would simply be amplifying the voting power of parents if you granted votes to 6-year-olds, maybe that turns out to be plus for the proposal. The extra dollop of voting power would turn out nicely proportional to the size of the constituency in need of it.

      1. parents' values are strongly centered on their children's welfare,

        This is an overstatement. Yes, parents care a lot about their children's welfare, but there are many political issues that do not obviously involve that.

    3. He supposedly addresses that: "Many might just vote whichever way their parents tell them. Of course, the same thing is true of many adults. Their political views are also heavily influenced by friends or family members."

      But that's an amazingly dumb false equivalence, because most adults aren't conditioned to do everything their friends or family members tell them to do under penalty of being sent to their rooms (or whatever). The social dynamics are radically different between a minor-parent relationship and an adult-family or adult-friend relationship.

    4. "Many, most I'd say, voting decisions are based on values."

      Exactly right. I feel sick whenever politicians complain about certain demographics voting against their "interest" when the fact is that most individuals don't vote based on the amount of money they receive from politicians' policies but on their beliefs of the correctness (moral, intellectual, or metaphysical) of the policies.

  21. Forgot to add:

    The "values" issue is yet another reason, along with those cited by Rsteinmetz and Ben of Houston, that the idea of competency tests, is truly a bad one.

  22. It seems his argument comes down to "the electorate is screwed up because a bunch of ignorant people vote. So why not let more ignorant people vote?"

  23. Pretty much every argument for denying the vote to children would - if applied consistently - also justify denying it to large numbers of adults.

    Yeah, and your point?

  24. This is just more of "if only theright kind of people were allowed to vote" nonsense we hear from the elites. Bring back the Victorian Age, we need more people in top hats tut-tutting about all "those people" who vote the wrong way.

  25. Which team has more kids, team red or team blue?

    With the nation diversifying even faster than predicted, one team might gain more voters than the other if kid voting is implemented.

    In order for this to work out for a team, they'd need to have more kids, or be more likely to take their kids to vote.

    But it could be a quick and easy way for a team to achieve a substantial net gain in voters and buck demographic changes for another decade or more.

  26. OK. I think everyone missed the point of this post. Prof. Somin does not want 6 year olds to vote, the point is more to point out the incapacity of the polity generally as voters.

    Which is a common theme of his.

    And yet everyone missed this? Maybe I'm the crazy one.

    1. But the good reasons to bar 6-year-olds from voting are not the same as the reasons he, and Runciman, and I guess Brennan, want to stop uninformed adults from voting.

      It's a very poor analogy.

      1. So, he's not implying that the way toddlers would likely vote isn't much different than how some significant segment of the great unwashed already votes - at least in terms in the degree of thought and care put into the vote?

  27. OK. Good comments all around.
    Now go back and do it after considering the age at which kids can "change" their sex without parental consent, of even parental knowledge.

    1. Regardless of one's views on age limits on voting, the argument for age limits on candidature or holding office is far weaker - and yet those age limits are usually higher, rather than lower.

      It is fair to assess that the government cannot be trusted to conduct tests on the capacity of voters to vote.

      But voters do conduct tests on the ability of elected officials to govern; we call those tests "elections". If voters choose to elect a fifteen-year-old to Congress, why should the Constitution bar them from doing so?

      I would suggest that the law be that the youngest age at which a person can be elected is the age of criminal responsibility - if a child is so young that they cannot be prosecuted for a crime, then they could not be held responsible for their actions in office. The federal age is 11, which seems reasonable.

      It is worthy of note that most countries have a much lower minimum age of candidature than the USA, but they do not elect significant numbers of younger election officials - yet those few people first elected while very young form a disproportionately large share of senior elected people, presumably because it requires remarkable talent to get elected while young and it also requires remarkable talent to become senior.

  28. Plenty of voters are poorly educated. Many are indolent (consequent to inheritance, poor character, or another factor). Some are gullible and deluded by superstition, operating at a childish level. Others are bigoted, aggressively ignorant, and/or mean-spirited. A number are mostly failures at life.

    That we enable these ostensible adults to vote does not persuade me a six-year-old deserves a vote.

  29. No. 6 year-olds should not vote.

    The question is not one of competence or knowledge, or that "they will vote just like their parents will.

    The question is one of responsibility. Children, as society would put it, are not entirely responsible for their actions. They require supervision. They cannot make their own choices about their lives. They require guardians. They cannot choose "not" to go to school. They cannot serve on a jury.

    Being a voting citizen means having both the rights and responsibilities of a citizen in society. And children cannot have those responsibilities, as dictated by our legal code. Without the duty towards those responsibilities, they should not have the right to vote.

    1. There are lots of people over 18 who "aren't entirely responsible for their actions," that "require supervision," that "cannot make their own choices about their lives," that "require guardians." They all can vote, or at least they aren't disqualified because of their handicaps. Try again.

      1. "here are lots of people over 18 "..

        For example?

        The two large groups I can think of are..
        1) People who are incarcerated for crimes.
        2) People who have severe dementia.

        Both groups can't vote.

        1. People are placed under guardianships all the time; you may have noticed that Britney Spears was under one until recently; it has been widely reported.

          There are also people on probation after being released from incarceration or instead of being incarcerated, undischarged bankrupts, and probably other categories I can't think of in the few minutes I am prepared to devote to a social media comment.

        2. Maine, Vermont, and DC all allow those who are incarcerated to vote. Those convicted of misdemeanors and incarcerated can vote in all states, as can those who are in pretrial detention.

  30. If the ruling classes believe Runciman's essay, they won't enfranchise six year olds, they'll disenfranchise lots of adults.

  31. But surely we have to lower the voting age to 0 (or -1), else fetuses will be excluded from the franchise. Won't someone think of teh baybeez?!

    1. Oh, and I can't believe we got to nearly 80 comments and nobody made a joke about Demmies letting corpses vote.

  32. I prefer the method established by the Sainted Robert Anson Heinlein (PBUH). No age limit at all, but:

    You must put one ounce of gold specie in escrow. You enter a polling booth, where a computer gives you a quadratic equation to solve...

    If you solve it, you get to vote, and you get your one ounce of gold back.

    If you don't solve it correctly, then the decision tree branches a bit:

    Lights and bells go off, highlighting your failure - you slink out, humiliated and don't get your gold back; or

    The curtains open in the polling booth, and a greasy wisp of smoke escapes. You don't get your gold back in that one, either.

    1. Mmm.... Education tests to vote.

      Where have we seen that before?

    2. "You enter a polling booth, where a computer gives you a quadratic equation to solve..."

      More likely scenario:

      If the computer finds that you support the government, it asks you to calculate the area, in square inches, of a one-inch-by-one-inch square.

      If you're an opponent of the government, the computer asks you to solve a problem involving four-dimensional space.

      Or even more likely, it tells all voters that they failed the test and that their gold is forfeited.

      1. Then it makes up some numbers based favoring whichever candidate it's been told to select.

  33. Many lefties are ignorant lunatics. Somin matches them here. Others have alluded to it in some ways above, but 6-year-olds, putting aside their intellectual competence or not, have no responsibility for their actions. When you are responsible for your actions, it affects your outlook on what is both right and practical.

    One good consequence of this is that Somin loses all credibility for his extremist views on illegal immigration. Both arguments must come from the same goofy, uninformed place.

  34. Regardless of one's views on age limits on voting, the argument for age limits on candidature or holding office is far weaker - and yet those age limits are usually higher, rather than lower.

    It is fair to assess that the government cannot be trusted to conduct tests on the capacity of voters to vote.

  35. My comments keep getting attached to other threads. One last attempt:

    Regardless of one's views on age limits on voting, the argument for age limits on candidature or holding office is far weaker - and yet those age limits are usually higher, rather than lower.

    It is fair to assess that the government cannot be trusted to conduct tests on the capacity of voters to vote.

    But voters do conduct tests on the ability of elected officials to govern; we call those tests "elections". If voters choose to elect a fifteen-year-old to Congress, why should the Constitution bar them from doing so?

    I would suggest that the law be that the youngest age at which a person can be elected is the age of criminal responsibility - if a child is so young that they cannot be prosecuted for a crime, then they could not be held responsible for their actions in office. The federal age is 11, which seems reasonable.

    It is worthy of note that most countries have a much lower minimum age of candidature than the USA, but they do not elect significant numbers of younger election officials - yet those few people first elected while very young form a disproportionately large share of senior elected people, presumably because it requires remarkable talent to get elected while young and it also requires remarkable talent to become senior.

  36. Age is objective; competence is subjective.

    That's an important difference.

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