It is the young who have the greatest stake in the world we are creating -- or destroying. It is they who will live with the consequences we are setting in motion. Robin Sears writes:
There was much editorial teeth gnashing when our voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1968. Teeth are grinding again about broadening the electorate once more.
The champions of the status quo ante always argue that younger citizens do not “have the judgment that can only come with age.” In reality, today’s 16-year-old probably has the policy sophistication of an 18-year-old half a century ago.
What the advocates of no change ignore is the unintended consequences of denying a nation’s youth a role in policy and governing. First, in comfortable places like Canada, they may sit out elections for years, if the habits formed in early adolescence did not include the most basic form of civic engagement, voting. In Australia’s compulsory voting system, many families go — parents, kids and all — to the polling stations.
They -- and we -- cannot afford their apathy. And their decisions are not always revolutionary:
Austria and Greece have lowered their voting ages to 16 and 17 and have elected progressive and very conservative governments in the past decade. Scotland’s voting age is 16, they just clobbered the Labour party. Pressure is rising in the U.K. to establish 16 as the threshold for all elections.
We confer the duties of citizenship on sixteen year olds:
Sixteen-year-olds can join the military reserves, drive a car, sign an employment contract, pay taxes — but not vote. They have a deeper understanding of the technology challenges they will face in the job market. In increasing numbers they are struggling to acquire the tools to survive in an era of robotic job-killing — but they have little policy voice, and no vote.
A 16-year-old surely knows more than their parents and grandparents about the accelerating power of technology. Equally, the post-internet generation knows what can never work, and what has a better chance of success. They know that a tax system that does not require tech giants to pay back to the nations that nurtured them and that now pay them enormous sums for their services, is absurd.
When you're old enough to drive a car, you're old enough to vote.