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The Right Age to Vote

What age should people be able to start voting in a democracy?

The British Labour party is calling for voting age to be reduced to 16.

I have never known a person aged 16 years, including myself, that I would trust to make sound judgments about the future of the entire nation. It takes several more years of responsibility to teach a young adult how to make judgments. At 16 years old, the amount of responsibility experienced by any individual is not enough to teach sound judgment.

I know the socialist advocates of lowering the voting age will go on about all the things a 16-year-old can legally do. I know they will trot out the rare examples of young entrepreneurs but the greater number of those who will be given the responsibility of casting an election vote will have had very little responsibility in their lives. Most will have had no “work responsibility,” most will have had no “family responsibilities.” From the age of 16, young adults start learning by experience process: they travel without mentors, they begin education without the formal rigidity of secondary school education, and so have to take responsibility for the outcome of their own studies. They start employment and learn that their actions affect others in the work place. After the age of 16, the young person begins to form relationships in which they become responsible for the happiness, if not the welfare, of others. Almost nothing of the life experience, in the majority of 16 year old people, has contained these lessons.

Several years of such responsibilities gradually teaches all of us how to respect the judgments we have to make, how to examine all the factors involved and not just those that immediately appeal to us. Above all we learn that not everything we are told is true. We learn that everyone has an agenda. We learn that words and information, even when not outright lies, can be persuasive towards a path that suits the objective of others and not necessarily the right one for ourselves. We also learn to take a longer time span into account.

When I was 16, like many others of my generation, I rode motorcycles. There were no general open road speed limits, there were no laws about safety helmets or the power of the motor cycle you could ride. Many of the previous generation of young adults had died in the second world war. The view of life expectancy and the attitude towards risk taking were totally different from the present time period. We learnt to literally live or die by the decisions we made, but not one of us took a long term view, not one of us was worthy of the responsibility of choosing who should govern us. Surviving five more years of this way of life taught us to respect our own responsibilities and so made us fit to bear those responsibilities.

Given the risk of adverse society the present generations of young people have to grow up in, it would seem logical to actually make the voting age older, say 25 years, in order that the voters had genuine life experience. The experience of failure, the recognition that whatever they do, good or bad, it affects others. The experience to know that very little of the politicians sales talk, whatever the party, is actually true.

By that age all of us should have learnt that the theoretical dogmas of party politics and the media sensation seeking reports actually have very little real life impact on 80 percent of the people. By this age we all should have learnt that so very few modern politicians are actually statesmen or stateswomen, they are professional politicians and not ardent believers in government for the people by the people. No matter which political platform they claim, they are not interested in governing for the good of the majority of the people, these politicians wish to govern because of the power to enact their own ideology and this almost never coincides with what is good for the nation as a whole, especially in the long term. Their main objective is to keep the job, the salary, the status. How many political speeches actually quantify and define the things they say? How many election promises become aims and intentions after the election is over? How many times has a political party listened to an opposition statement and said, they have a point, this will help the majority, we should agree with this?

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