Votes at 16?

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My contribution to Peter Hitchens blog on Labour's proposal to offer the vote to sixteen year olds

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Votes at 16?

  1. 1. VOTES AT 16? Giving the vote to sixteen year olds is a deeply flawed proposal and partly motivated, I guess, by Labour's belief that the majority of 16 and 17 year olds will vote for them. I might mention in passing that from my recent experiences of talking to young people, that may be an optimistic view. Deciding when childhood ends and adulthood begins is controversial, not least because of the differing maturity of teenagers of the same age. So, some 15 year olds might be ready to vote and would use the privilege with care. Some 20 year olds decline to vote or vote carelessly. But overall, most countries, and the UN, have agreed that adulthood starts at 18. As a consequence we protect those under 18. We don't allow them to marry without parental consent. Although they can join the armed forces, we don't send them to war zones. If we prosecute them, we do so in the Youth Court and, because they are children, the punishments that follow conviction are generally less severe than those for an adult convicted of a similar crime. We do not allow under 18s to take out loans or otherwise get into debt and we do not allow them to drink or gamble. We do all these things because they are children. Blurring the distinction between childhood and adulthood by extending suffrage to children has the potential deeply to damage their interests. Not immediately, but soon afterward, we would hear why a seventeen year old, old enough to vote, is old enough to fight in a war, or old enough to be excluded from the youth court, old enough to be convicted like an adult. Sixteen year olds are children. And for that reason, because they are children, we should not be tempted to allow them to vote.

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