Should 16 Year Olds Get The Vote?

I have mixed feelings about what age we should be allowed to vote. Labour’s recent pledge to lower it from 18 years old to 16 has recently spotlighted the debate, and there are passionate arguments from all sides.

At 23 I’m still considered a young person, and I often feel the patronising wrath of my ageist elders when they want to get one over on me in online discussions. However I’d like to think I know enough about politics to make an informed decision, one that for the foreseeable future will involve refusing to vote at all. In my opinion there is currently no party that comes even close to offering something different from the status-quo, beyond superficial non-issues.

16 year olds are too Dumb

The prevailing argument from those against the proposal is that 16 year olds are simply not informed enough to make a wise decision and are just being exploited by politicians.

I cringe at the person I was at 16. Why on earth was I listening to the Insane Clown Posse and walking around with an over-sized baseball cap tilted to the side? I may have just earned great GCSEs in English, but there wasn’t a book or newspaper to be found anywhere in my vicinity – heck I still struggle with some basic grammar, just ask Brit Dee who double checks most of my blog posts.

The only thing I really knew about politics back then was that the EU was apparently good for the economy thanks to some random Personal Health and Social Education lesson, something I totally disagree with at the present time.

There’s no way 16 year old me was anywhere near knowledgeable enough to vote on the fate of the country.

I do however recognise that not all 16 year olds are made the same, and there are some very bright young people that are already changing the world. There are also some very fortunate teenagers that have elite levels of education thanks to the bank balances of their parents. They are far are more likely to at least grasp the basics of the political system and know its history, than those living on the breadline.

A lot of Adults are Dumb as well

The problem with saying 16 years olds are too dumb to vote wisely, is that it ignores the vast amount of fully fledged adults that are also complete idiots. While I wasn’t yet listening to Bob Dylan at 16 (maybe I’ll think he’s a pretentious wanker when I’m 32) nor conceiving of the idea of writing for a living (if you can call it that), I still realised I was smarter than a lot of people much older than me. You can’t solely base an argument against lowering the voting age on some generalised idea that older people are smarter than younger people. There are just too many exceptions to that rule.

There is an argument to be made that those who are working, paying tax and contributing to the system, who have at least a few years of post-school life under their belt, are perhaps more entitled to be making decisions, but it in no way means they’re more capable of doing so.

Furthermore the very idea that intellect is the measuring stick of who can vote flies in the face of democracy. Telling people who can and can’t vote is not how it’s supposed to work. You can’t tell women not to vote because they’re women. You can’t tell most mentally ill people who to vote for, despite them being mentally ill. I guess the point of democracy is that everybody in society has a voice, no matter how we judge them personally.

It’s still a conundrum though. If 16 is old enough, then what about 15? Aren’t there exceptional 11 year olds with degrees?

Young British soldierThe common argument for 16s but not 15s, is that at 16 you’re allowed to drive, have consensual sex, join the army and get married. Yet that itself opens up a can of worms.

18 year old soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

When I was 18 I was only just starting to understand why the war was even happening, so for 16 year olds to be preparing for deployment fills me with dread.

I think it’s wrong we let such young people “serve” our country, so how can I use the fact that they do as an argument to let them vote? Then again I guess having a say in which crook sends you to an illegal war might be as good a reason as any, though something tells me if they’re foolish enough to want to go to war they’re foolish enough to vote for the wrong person.

Who is the right person?

Round and round we go.

Should anybody Vote at all?

In 1992 close to 80% of the UK population turned out to vote. When 1997 rolled around Tony Blair’s spectacular PR campaign was only enough to bring out just over 70%, a statistical low point. 2001 saw a record low turnout of just 59%.

Although there’s been a slight increase in recent elections, likely due to anger about how the country has deteriorated – in general people couldn’t be more disinterested in mainstream politics.

Perhaps it’s a recognition that nothing ever changes and the vote itself is pointless. An endless game of frisbee, while corporate and state collusion continues to rule the financial system, and we’re pressured in to more and more war.

Knowledge … and Money is Power

While it’s not fair to use intellect as the measuring stick of who can vote, educated people are more likely to understand the political system and choose to take part in it. And people with money are more likely to be educated in the first place. It therefore stands to reason that those most equipped with making decisions, and those who really are the ones calling the shots regardless of voting, are the wealthy elite.

Democracy is really just a cloak for the class system.

Mob RuleAnd even if our form of democracy actually worked and politicians did what the majority wanted (or were coerced and manipulated in to wanting), it’s still a form of mob rule. 51% dictating over the losing 49%. That’s why I have a lot of time for so called “right wing” American traditionalists. The United States they say was never meant to be a democracy, it’s a Republic with a basic set of freedoms that cannot be voted away by the mob.

I like the sound of that. I’ve used the phrase “allowed to” throughout this blog, but why should anybody allow me to do anything. I am free!

Similarly I also have a lot of time for Free Market Libertarians who believe the state by definition is force and nobody has the right to to control free human beings. After all none of us would pay tax without the associated laws forcing us to right? Or even if we agree with taxation in principal we’d much prefer to pay it voluntarily towards the things we actually want?

The collusion between state and corporation is arguably the root cause of the world’s ills. Lobbyists using their wealth to buy the power of the politicians, to get an unfair advantage over everybody else. We see this directly in the financial system (bailouts), in unjustified wars (Iraq) and everything else in-between.

They argue that without the state the only way producers or providers would remain in business would be to provide the cheapest, and best service or product possible, because they don’t have the incentive or power to do anything else.

Then again the power of marketing can certainly manipulate people to buy crap. And no matter how efficient the market would become without a state, something tells me that human nature will still produce some kind of unfair control system. We created government in the first place.

Couldn’t a group of producers form a closed door pact to stifle their competition in a free market?

Perhaps then the solution is a resource based economy where money and greed is supposedly removed and the world is managed mathematically, based on its resources. But how do we get there without massive bloodshed, corporations and states won’t just give up power. And many people simply won’t want an overarching “computer” managing their lives, even if it made everything utopian. It’s just creepy.

I’ve slowly learned to admit that I don’t know the answer to life’s big questions, the important thing is to discuss those questions with an open mind.

16 year olds voting? Go for it. It’s not going to make the slightest bit of difference.

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  • Aspergers Talks by Christopher

    I say would keep the standard voting age at 18. However I find it absurd how so many dumb adults can vote whilst the super-intelligent 10 year old cannot just because of their age. OK most under 18’s won’t have the knowledge to make an informed vote but there will always be notable exceptions. I say offer an assessment that any child can take who wants the vote, through which they can demonstrate they have a basic political knowledge to make an informed decision. Now I know some would say this would be no good because the government would rig the questions and make it politically biased (pro-EU, pro AGW etc). These are legitimate concerns. HOWEVER, this should not deter from the principle that children who do have political intelligence should be given the chance to vote.

    • Man_Of_Sin

      Most 18 years old don’t have that knowledge. They should have kept the voting and draft age at 21.

      • mike

        I agree. I think the voting age should be 25. Looking back to when I and everyone else actually had a good grasp about reality, around 25 is when it started. Before that, it was all a popularity vote (ie who was best looking, etc)

  • Tubs

    Why not introduce a voter qualification test, like a GCSE? That way, (a) people might start to value the vote again, and (b) those who vote might know what they’re voting about.

    • Keelan Balderson

      A logical idea but as the commenter below alluded to my only problem with that would be who gets to define the test? After all politics is about personal opinion. I think it could work however if it only focused on the structure and principals of what democracy is.

  • Will

    Only let people with an IQ over 120 vote.

  • sick

    It’s not a case of too dumb. 16 yo and the under 30’s are too brainwashed to understand the world. no they should not vote as they are full of missinfo
    and anyway voting only fools people in to thinking they are doing something to change things. its a waste of time. oh lets vote for the new till girl, but we never change the shop owner or share holders do we?

    fools = voters. high iq know it will not help to vote

  • erdos

    Look, I’m sorry you have to put your brain to such a complex task as debating the ethics of voting ages. But I have to disabuse you of the notion that all teenagers these days are ICP or Kanye-listening wannabe-gangsters that drink and do drugs.

    Do you remember those kids that won science fairs in high school? Or took six AP courses? The ones you mocked in school for being “nerds”? They’re the ones who are actually successful in this life.

    Can you integrate the function 1/(4sinx-5cosx) from 1 to 998? I didn’t think so, and you definitely couldn’t have in high school. I recommend you stop wasting your time in the media, get a loan, and go back to school so you can exit the uneducated, conspiracy-theorizing masses.

    The REAL conspiracy is that intelligent people get educated and leave the dumb, drug-loving, drunk poor behind by going to school. You can rant on about the Illuminati all you want, but that won’t make them real.

    Go screw yourself. While I agree with your analysis of the Boston Marathon “conspiracy” I think you should realize that things happen unintentionally 99 times more often than they do intentionally – especially things like death, rocket launches, and wars. Stop dumbing down Arpanet with your crap, and get a job.

    • Keelan Balderson

      For somebody so intent on giving me their wisdom, you’d think you’d actually be able to read.

      “But I have to disabuse you of the notion that all teenagers these days are ICP or Kanye-listening wannabe-gangsters that drink and do drugs.”

      I never said they were … and whatever psychological brain-fart is making you argue, insult and patronise a mythical version of me, please just leave it in your own head where it was created.

      Cheers pal ;)

  • erdos

    Please also realize that the American Revolution was organized and executed by middle aged, well-educated men; not the idiotic chest-thumping teenagers of the Arab Spring.