Enhanced Political Freedom
Suffrage is political franchise, the right to vote in a public election. When modern democracy began approximately two centuries ago, only rich landowning white men held the privilege to vote. Gradually, this right has been extended to minorities such as other races, women, and the poor. There is still one group, however, that is notably missing: children (and their Umwelt and Interoception). Is it plausible that a child has great access to their Intuitive genius via a lack of conditioned paradigms and flawed logic? Many view the lack of a political voice for children as a modern-day injustice in the same way it was for minorities and women. And just as these historical minorities fought and eventually won their right to vote, advocates have been calling for voting reform for children. We could practice this with delegative democracy.
Children are the forgotten constituency of the modern era. In many developed countries around the world, a higher standard of living, modern health care, and improved diets have resulted in extending the average human lifespan. This has resulted in a significant growth in the elderly population. Meanwhile, fertility rates in these same countries have plummeted. Therefore, more resources have been used to support the elderly than children. In fact, the resources used to support children has dropped. As a result, there is a close relationship between these major demographic trends and the rights of children, as shown below.
Since children are disenfranchised to the degree that they have no right to vote, whilst the elderly capture an increasing share of the adult votes, policy and the resultant allocation of public resources are skewed in favor of the needs of the elderly. In 1992, using United States data from 1959 to 1990, political scientist Paul Peterson demonstrated this connection between policy and impact on children and the elderly. His research clearly showed how the greater share of the elderly vote resulted in policies that favored the elderly, taking a bigger piece of the social welfare pie for their use, at the same time decreasing the share for children.
The net result of this demographic trend is to further erode the rights of children. The political system needs to change to reflect the real needs of the changing demographics. In spite of the noble voices of the elderly who proclaim concern for the younger generation, research shows that the opposite is in fact the case. The reality today is that children suffer immensely for lack of representation. For a country such as the United States that built its constitution on taxation with representation, it speaks volumes that 75 million citizens, or 25% of the population, is in effect taxed without representation. Globally, the figure is even worse; children comprise a third of the world’s population (UN, 2015), but they remain almost universally disenfranchised. Without a voice they have to work extremely hard to be counted.
Fig 20 Total Fertility and proportion of global population 1970-1975 to 2035-2030 Source: UN, 2015
By issuing debt of any kind, whether financial, ecological, or both, this is a form of taxing the future generation (Aoki and Vaithianathan, 2009). It leaves the future generation to deal with deficiencies in capital or the natural environment. The debt is incurred by the current political class, without little of any consultation with the next generation. In other words, the youth have no political representation on matters which will dramatically affect them for decades to come. They are the ones most affected by corruption, imperfect decision making, and abuse.
If children were allowed to vote, could their representation correct the current political disequilibrium that emerges from imbalanced representation? Some recent social experiments show that they can.
On Sept 18th, 2009, nine days before the Germany’s general election, a youth organization called the German Federal Youth conducted a voting experiment called the U18 (for “under 18”) to determine if children voting would have an impact on the outcomes of the general election. This experiment sought to answer the question: what impact would citizens under 18 years of age have if they are given the opportunity to vote in an election? 127,208 children cast their votes at 1,000 voting stations in an impressive demonstration of the high interest among children in participating in the democratic process. The youngest voter was nine years old.
Fig 21 Distribution of the world’s population by age & sex, 2015 Source: UN, 2015
The results speak for themselves. Leaders of the political parties were impressed by the turnout. The mock vote of the children was not counted in the general election, but if they had been, the outcome of the election could have been starkly different. The children voters’ views and preferences were highly divergent from those of their older counterparts.
Even if the voting age were dropped, there is another condition that must be met if children are to make real gains; they must turn up to vote. Unfortunately, recent research shows that the lowest voter turnout is consistently found in the young voters’ age bracket, ages 19 to 29, the very ones who could make the most difference in correcting historical imbalances. In the 2014 US midterm elections, only 19.9% of Americans in that age bracket actually turned up to vote (Circle, 2014 Youth Turnout and Youth Registration Rates Lowest Ever Recorded; Changes Essential in 2016). This was the lowest rate of youth turnout ever recorded in the U.S.A.
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