Let Children Vote

Yesterday I posted about a proposal to disenfranchise the elderly. Here's a similar idea — a scheme to reduce the political power of grey hairs — but it goes about it in a different way. Instead of taking away the vote from the elderly, you give the vote to children. Their new political power would presumably balance out the influence of seniors, shifting state policy in new directions.

This idea has been repeatedly advocated by Paul E. Peterson, professor of government at Harvard. He's argued for the idea in the journal Daedalus (Fall 1992), The Brookings Review (Winter 1993), and Education Next (Jan 2011).

The way it would work, in practice: "parents exercise the vote on behalf of their children... parents be given the option to assign the right to their child whenever they think he or she is capable of casting it on their own. That right, once given, can never be taken back."

The details that remain to be worked out: "Which parent gets the vote? What is to be done with election-day newborns? What proof of parentage is required?"

Peterson was not, by any means, the first to come up with the idea of letting children vote. Philippe van Parijs gives a brief history of the children's suffrage movement in his book Just Democracy:

It has been repeatedly discussed for over a century, especially in France, and mostly with pro-natalist motivations. The earliest proposal of this sort seems to have been made, shortly after Prussia's victory over France, by a certain Henri Lasserre, 'the universally known historian of Notre-Dame de Lourdes'. In his proposal, every French citizen, whatever his or her age or gender, is given one vote, with the (male) head of each family exercising this right to vote on behalf of his wife and each of his children. The proposal was hardly noticed, however, except by the philosopher Gabriel de Tarde, who took it over enthusiastically, as a way of enforcing a concern for the interests of younger and unborn generations.

Image source: The Brookings Review (Winter 1993)

     Posted By: Alex - Wed May 18, 2016
     Category: Politics | Reformers, Do-gooders, Agitators and SJWs | Children

As long as the kid doesn't need any form of photo ID I'm OK with it. Lord knows we'd not want to restrict their voting power to only one.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 05/18/16 at 09:32 AM
Frankly, I think only those that pay a certain percentage or more of their income in taxes should be allowed to vote.
Posted by RobK on 05/18/16 at 11:28 AM
Heinlein has been mentioned and his societal constructs found in "Starship Troopers" specified that only those who served society by enrolling in its protection could become citizens and be enfranchised. I found that attractive and practical.

Enfranchise a child and you would probably end up with parents forced to go to bed without dessert when they've been bad.
Posted by KDP on 05/18/16 at 12:53 PM
I have never seen the show and don't know the present count. If it is 18, Mr. and Mrs. Duggar would get 10 votes each!!!
Posted by BMN on 05/18/16 at 01:11 PM
"In other news, the Supreme Court enters its fifth week of deadlock over the constitutionality of the last Presidential election with no decision as of yet. Presumptive Winner Spongebob Squarepants, vacationing at his Bikini Bottom Home, had no comment. President Ronald McDonald has agreed to lengthen his second term 'as long as it takes to find a solution'. Chief Justice Michelangelo, leaving Capitol Hill, had this to say..."
Posted by puptentacle on 05/18/16 at 08:42 PM
Heinlein tossed out a couple of other proposals. The voting machine generates an algebra problem. Solve it and you can vote, even if you are ten years old. Fail and you can't, even if you are thirty. Another: sell the right to vote for a quarter of a Troy ounce of gold. To the obvious objection he replied that this system would make buying an election harder and more expensive than it is now. I have never tried to analyze the proposal from that point of view.
Posted by John Ayer on 05/18/16 at 11:33 PM
Heinlein's proposal in /Starship Troopers/ has its appeal, as do certain others. Mark Twain, in "The Curious Republic of Gondour," suggested assigning additional votes for certain statuses, such as education and the accumulation of certain amounts of property. Germany basically requires its citizens (male, at least) to qualify for citizenship, either by serving in the armed forces or by serving an equivalent amount of time in the domestic emergency services. Come to think of it, so do several other countries. Some new and somewhat artificial countries (mapped by the convenience of nineteenth-century empires) tried to create internal cohesion by requiring each young person reaching the late teens to serve the country for typically a year in some other region of the country, so that thereafter he would have ties to it, and if local leaders tried to whip up hostility to other parts of the country, those who had served there would block their efforts.
Posted by John Ayer on 05/18/16 at 11:57 PM
It sounds more like a way to give more votes to the man of the house. I don't think giving more votes to the mathematically gifted would be a good idea either; governing means caring for people and lots of people who are good at maths suck at people skills, plus it would give much power to the autistics. More; richer people tend to go to better schools which teach better maths, thus not solving the inequality problem at all. As for vote based on the amount of taxes that you pay, once again, it's voting by the rich, for the rich, since the more income you gain, the more taxes you pay, especially if you're single; so much for family values. What I think is that the people who need the services must have a saying in the way the taxes are spent to provide said services; that's what the idea was behind letting children vote. If you want brighter voters, educate the voters you have, and that means civic education, ethics and basic budgeting, skills that really help in decision making.
Posted by Yudith on 05/19/16 at 06:45 AM
I would certainly oppose taking the franchise from the poorest folk, since they are the ones who do most of the fighting in wars, even those started by magnates for their own aggrandizement, as W. R. Hearst started our war against Spain in 1898--I have heard tell how President McKinley tried so hard to keep the peace, and wept in frustration when he was overpowered--and Basil Zaharoff started the Balkan War of 1912 to sell the munitions he made. Come to think of it, someone should look into any possible connection between him and the Balkan War of 1914, that grew out of control: all the governments wanted peace except Austria-Hungary, and old Emperor Francis Joseph knew that his ramshackle empire was barely holding together in peace; why did his ministers push for war? "Educate the voters you have." Yes!
Posted by John Ayer on 05/19/16 at 01:22 PM
Yudith - it's not the amount of taxes, but the percent paid for taxes. It's important that those who vote for taxes (or politicians who will raise taxes) also feel the pain. The same is true for those voting to go to war - they or their children should also participate.
Posted by RobK on 05/20/16 at 11:24 AM
Jessy Waters did a 'man on the street' thing with kids about politics. Most of them had better awareness and applied better logic than their college counterparts.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 05/20/16 at 11:35 AM
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