Liberty and Teen Suffrage

Published Fri, Feb 26 2010 10:33 PM | John Baker

What gives one the right to a vote?

There is no better question with which to begin a discussion on suffrage; decades of rights violations have come as a result of misunderstanding this question and its answer. So first off, I think it is necessary that we establish the ground in which all voting rights should be rooted.

American history has clearly taught us the wrong answers. That is, neither property nor geography nor race nor gender can satisfy the suffrage question. A judgment based on any of these is a path to bigotry, and it can only come from an imperfect understanding of the natural rights of liberty.

So what does give one the right to a vote? The answer is simple: being a part of the society in question. A fulfillment of one's very citizenship is suffrage.

This refutes all earlier arguments against universal suffrage. Property or a lack thereof does not inherently affect your participation in society. Neither does race, nor gender. However, this denial of suffrage has always paralleled deep subjugation in society, whether it was black segregation or woman's 'domestic sphere'. The correlation is clear.

Amazingly, there is still one such false standard regulating voting today: Age. Much like race or gender, age has no direct effect on participation in society. Whether you are 29 or 92 you can live in America and be a part of it.

Setting a precise quantity as the threshold of suffrage ignores the logic of liberty. While one might argue that those younger than 18 are less participatory in society, that does not prove a direct correlation. Individual cases vary. And in many (if not most) cases, teenagers become nearly full participants in our society by age 16.

By basing such legislation on indirectly related statistics, the government sets an irrelevant line between today's voter and non-voter: as irrelevant as the line between men and women or black and white. While the line seems to accomplish a goal, such as keeping a certain level of maturity in the American voter, it really does no such thing.

If the issue of voting were maturity (which it is not), then citizens should be required to test for maturity. If it is participation, judge based on participation. If it is contribution, find the contributors and give them a vote. These all go to serve a point; the defining factor of the right to vote is certainly not age. Even those who argue against youth suffrage never say 'you earn the right to vote by reaching the quantity x of years'.

And if none of the above makes a compelling argument for teen suffrage, consider this: I am 16. Every two weeks I receive a paycheck. And every two weeks I see two large subtraction signs where the government has taken taxes from me, part of it for social security from which I will probably never see the benefits.

Can a truly democratic government really justify taking so much as a dollar from me, while still refusing to give me a vote? Through the taxation itself I have been proven an active participant in the United States, yet I have no voice. 

Now this is not to say that everyone of any age deserves a vote. On the contrary, we only need a new standard. 2-year-olds are still not fit to vote, but it is not because they are 2 years old, but because all 2-year-olds tend to lack any interaction with society whatsoever. There is still some merit to letting things develop before sending them to the voting booth. However, we need a less arbitrary standard. 

My proposal? Perhaps a lower voting age. But more importantly immediately allowing anyone who pays taxes to have a proportional say in what is done with it. Otherwise, even the smallest tax is an extortion. Only with suffrage can true liberty of the citizen be attained.

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Comments

# poppies said on February 27, 2010 12:41 AM:

I would argue that even *with* universal suffrage, taxes are extortion.  Not everyone will, and typically few people do, agree with how taxes are used.  Accordingly, people's property is being taken from them and used against their will with the pretense that they have some "say" in how their property is used, but this "say" is nullified twice: they rarely, and normally don't, get a "say" in the terms of the discussion for that which is being voted upon, and even thereafter, those on the losing end of a vote suddenly have no voice at all.

All taxation is inherently "without representation," because no one can "represent" anyone but themselves, barring a voluntary contractual agreement, e.g. a lawyer, etc.

# John Baker said on February 27, 2010 7:24 AM:

Oh absolutely, I would mostly agree. I only sounded moderate on that stance because first I want to make the point about suffrage.

Voting is a small step towards more liberty in the present system. A change in taxation is a large one.

# poppies said on March 13, 2010 11:33 PM:

But isn't voting just delegating theft?

# John Baker said on April 3, 2010 10:55 AM:

First of all, to anyone who might read this, I would like to say that I HAVE NOT given up on this blog after one post. I posted this just to test out the waters, and now I am swamped by school work. But more posts will come, I promise.

To Poppies, I never really thought of it that way before. This is a major error on my part, to never question voting just because "it's always been that way" or my history books told me it was right.

But still, I can't imagine certain necessary functions of a society without voting. I see a corruption of true democracy today, but still I think the fundamental values of voting are good.

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  • It is evident that youth is the first victim of the trend toward bureaucratization. The young men are deprived of any opportunity to shape their own fate. -Ludwig Von Mises

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