About 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds are denied the right to vote in the UK. There is growing pressure behind a movement which is pushing to give these people the right to vote. We cannot expect 16 and 17 year olds to play functioning roles in our adult society and yet not have a say in how it is run. If we cannot trust them to vote, we probably should have a little sense of responsibility for them when we let them join our armed forces.
At 16 you can join the armed forces, get married, have children, leave home, pay taxes and generally play a significant role within adult life. Yet, in our government’s bizarre hypocritical policy process they cannot be trusted to vote, watch pornography or buy a copy of grand theft auto!
The common argument against letting 16 or 17 year olds vote is that they might be ill-informed or vote “just for fun” for fringe parties. This is an argument against democracy, not against lowering the age you can vote. Do you trust half the people you’re surrounded by to vote in well thought out ways – no, nor do I. But that’s democracy; people have the choice to vote for what they want.
“Ahhh, but if you lower to 16, why not 14”, I hear the reader sigh. Well the answer to this is consistency. We do not expect 15 year olds to pay taxes, fight our dirty wars etc. I agree you have to draw the line somewhere, and I personally feel 16 is the sensible cut off point.
If you tried to raise the age of consent etc to 18 it would be a nightmare. Do we really believe 16/17 year olds should not be having relationships, getting jobs and paying taxes? Perhaps more controversially, I also think that 16 year olds should be free to join the armed forces should they wish. I do not swallow the “child soldier” argument put forward by some.
It is time we started treating our young adults with a bit more respect and stopped being so presumptuous about the enlightened nature of adulthood.