Thought of the day

Why don’t we allow 16 year olds to vote? We allow them to work and pay taxes, so why don’t they get a say in their representation? Why can’t they cast a vote against a politician who is spending their money yet not working in their interests? Are we so naive as to think the parents/guardians of a 16 is working in his best political interests? Why should we expect a 45 year old parent to cast a vote related to, say, social security spending which is in the 60 year interest of the program as opposed to the 30-40 year interest of the program that is relevant to the parent?

It seems utterly clear to me that if we’re going to allow 16 year olds the right to work – that is, unlike with people 15 years and younger, a 16 year old needs not his school’s or parent’s legal permission to get a job – then we must either refuse to tax them or we must allow them the right to vote. The latter option, though, would only work if we were consistent in it: since 16 year olds are unrepresented in the government and given the right to work, we must exclude them from all forms of taxation, including income taxes, excise taxes, inheritance taxes, every day taxes on purchased items, and any other tax one might imagine. This is hardly workable. Thus, we’re left with only a few solutions: 1) raise the age of legal employment to 18, 2) make employment under 18 contingent upon a parent’s approval, or 3) allow 16 year olds to vote. The third option seems to be the best to me.

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7 Responses

  1. I don’t know. Personally, I’d rather see 16 years not work than be given the privilege to vote.

    Economic necessity aside, studies show that students with jobs generally tend to perform worse in academic settings than their peers. More working = less time to study. I’m aware that for a lot of people of low SES status the income that a 16 year old brings home might be the difference between food on the table and a trip to the food bank. But I think that speaks to a problem with society–children shouldn’t have to work to support their families.

    I know that, for me, I’d actually like to see the voting age raised, not lowered. It seems pretty straightforward that lowering the voting age = increasing the amount of voters. So I’m inclined to believe that any political argument surrounding the voting age is exactly that–nothing more than a way to control the electorate. But beyond that, quite frankly I don’t want 18 year olds–let alone 16 year olds–making critical decisions that shape society or the rest of the world. Voting is a huge responsibility. Do I really want someone in the throws of puberty with a brain that’s about a decade away from being fully developed, who has no life experience to draw upon, making decisions that directly impact the rest of us? No, not at all. I don’t want people with invincibility complexes making decisions about healthcare or social security.

    I agree that it’s a bum rap that we let 18 year old buy cigarettes and go to war but they can’t drink or rent a car. I agree that it’s unfair that we tax 16 olds but don’t let them vote to have a say in how that money is spent. But in my opinion, I think it’s pretty reckless to lower the voting age. I agree that the logic of what we let adolescents do and not do is pretty weird, but that’s because it’s completely arbitrary.

  2. Don’t most sixteen your olds end up getting most of their money back anyway? Few sixteen your olds going to school would make enough in a year to owe much tax. But perhaps I’m wrong.

  3. Speaking from personal experience, Swarn, I recall getting most of my taxes back, but not my SS taxes.

  4. Right, that’s true, you never get Social Security back. I think 16 is old enough to vote…I also think 21 as a drinking age is ridiculous as well. I guess I feel less bad about the voting age than the drinking age, especially when that’s the age you can vote, drive, and join the military.

  5. I believe the younger the electorate, the better. The older one gets, the more complacent one gets. This is why, despite all the calls for change (regardless of political direction), nothing ever happens. A few million votes with the potential to challenge the status quo cannot be a bad thing.

  6. Parents already have to consent. Unless they are 18 or emancipated, their parents have the right to control their comings and goings. If a parent refused to allow them to work, they would either have to run and hope they aren’t found before turning 18, file for emancipation, or relent.

    The real question, as you frame it, would be: Why can’t emancipated minors vote?

  7. I have wondered about this myself from time to time. I have to think given the other rights available at 16, it might not hurt to let them vote as well.

    On the other hand, most 16 year olds are still too wet behind the ears to form a well thought out political opinion, and would likely vote the way of their influence from family/friends. I know there are always exceptions to my observations, and many 16 year olds are indeed infromed enough to make a logical choice based on available data. But I really have to think they are in the minority.

    Guess that leaves me somewhere in the middle on this one.

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