The Wisdom of Juice-Boxers
October 31st, 2011

I don’t read Matt Yglesias often enough to tell if this post, saying that there should be no age requirement for voting in America, is serious or not. You decide for yourself; here it is, in its entirety:

Via Jonathan Bernstein,Sally Kohn writes about a campaign in Lowell, Massachusetts to let seventeen year-olds vote in local elections. More power to them, but I say let any American citizen vote in any American election he or she wants to.

Objections to this usually take the form of imagining a highly disciplined party of seven year-olds reliably delivering bloc votes to whichever candidate credibly promises endless kindergarten. If you think for five minutes about the practical problems of political organizing, and then for five minutes more about the practical problems of getting kids to do anything I think you’ll see quickly that this is a misguided worry. Realistically, voter turnout in the United States is not particularly high to begin with. Older teens and twentysomethings are already disproportionately unlikely to vote. If we extended the vote to more children, my guess is that relatively few of them would exercise it. But those who did would come from an unusually dedicated and informed sub-set of American teenagers. Meanwhile, if seven year-olds somehow do manage to organize themselves into an effective political lobby, I say more power to them. R

Sic, obvs. On the one hand, he can’t possibly be serious. On the other hand.

What’s particularly instructive about this outré idea is that, of course, it’s not new. Among people who think about demographic seriously (as opposed to just popping off on a blog), the concept has been kicking around since the mid-’80s. It’s called Demeny Voting. Contra Yglesias, the goal of Demeny voting is to amplify the power of parents, since low-fertility countries often find themselves in a vicious cycle where the young are increasingly taxed to provide benefits for the growing proportion of aged, creating disincentives to have children, which makes the pension system even more unsustainable. But Demeny and the other grown-ups who’ve toyed with the idea realized that you can’t just hand the vote to 3-year-olds (they cannot read; they cannot get to the polls; etc.). So he proposed handing proxy votes to parents–an extra vote for fathers for every son, and for mothers for every daughter.

No country has tried it yet, but in the last year Hungary actually flirted with it in a semi-serious way. Which is the type of thing that, if you were going to publicly advocate for such a system, you should probably know.


  1. Steve Sailer October 31, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Yglesias’s goal is just to hasten the demographic transition to Chicago-style one party Democratic rule by giving Hispanics more votes now. Personally, I think it would be better all-around just to let the Democrats copy names off tombstones and register them, like in Chicago today. Why elect a new people when you can just have a democracy of the dead (as G.K. Chesterton might have said if he were a Chicago alderman)?

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  3. Sachi October 31, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    i’m for it, i think 16 and up should be allowed. there are some smart teens out there who know a few things about politics. and there are plenty of adults who don’t know anything about politics, yet they can vote. not fair!! (i’m 20 fyi. at 17 i was mad that i couldnt vote in the presidential election.)

    “So he proposed handing proxy votes to parents–an extra vote for fathers for every son, and for mothers for every daughter.”

    but i’m not for giving parents extra votes for their kids. give the kids the votes. (16+)

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  5. mvt October 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Not only should children not be allowed to vote, some adults should not be allowed to vote. For example, the feeble-minded who just vote as someone else tells them and cannot actually think through their vote or understand its implications.

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  7. Jason O. November 1, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Dude, you so don’t get it…the JB mafia is so cool, young, influential, and hip (Did you hear that some of them even blog all day from Georgetown coffee shops?…that’s so AWESOME) that they don’t need to, you know, actually do research before they write: When you have a left of center perspective it’s like a perpetual get out of jail free card. It’s a corollary to the Mapes/Rather “fake but accurate” Alamo defense…when all else fails, if your heart’s in the right (liberal) place…you’re good.

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  9. SkinsFanPG November 1, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Don’t be jealous because the JBM doesn’t invite you to their Trivial Pursuit games.

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  11. mrmandias November 1, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Demeny voting is a good idea. Even better if if limited to married, widowed, or non-at fault party in a fault divorce.

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  13. IMAO » Blog Archive » Nuke the News: No Union, No Jobs and in Reagan We Still Trust November 2, 2011 at 11:02 am

    […] really going to need that edge this next year. Also, some liberals are actually talking about giving children the vote. The left like to claim that the Tea Party are dumb and uninformed, but how come their reelection […]

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    […] to know they’re smarter than you and me, duuuh. Jonathan kindly throws in a couple of other links to previous posts demonstrating the absolute superiority of this paragon of Lefty erudition’s […]

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  21. Media Ignorance Is Becoming A Serious Problem July 9, 2014 at 6:36 am

    […] whatever your topic, you can find a good Yglesian whiff on it. Finance. Demeny voting. Mac vs. PC. Public Choice theory. Common figures of speech. Telecommunications policy. Hugo […]

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    […] whatever your topic, you can find a good Yglesian whiff on it. Finance. Demeny voting. Mac vs. PC. Public Choice theory. Common figures of speech. Telecommunications policy. Hugo […]