Connect with us


Why aren’t children allowed to vote? An expert debunks the arguments against

Our assumptions about what it means to be young have left millions of people disenfranchised.



Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Most people think democracy is something that adults do and regard the prospect of children voting as too silly to even contemplate. In the early 20th century, many democracies began (ostensibly) operating with universal suffrage, ensuring voting rights were no longer withheld from adults on the basis of wealth or sex or race. But age thresholds have endured, and children continue to be excluded from democracy – an exclusion based on what they are (young), and adults’ assumptions about what it means to be young.

However, in a 2020 report to the UN, the UK’s children’s commissioner concluded that the UK government “does not prioritise children’s rights or voices in policy or legislative processes”. Consequently, the report argued, children’s economic status is often worse than older people’s, and during crises such as the COVID pandemic, their insights and needs are ignored. They didn’t have a say in Brexit and their concerns about the environment are routinely marginalised, despite children being set to bear the brunt of both.

A number of countries allow teenagers aged 16 and 17 to vote, but I think we should be thinking harder about our reasons for disenfranchising even very young children. If we’re excluding them unfairly, the credibility of democracy is at risk. Here are three common arguments against children voting. In each case, I believe the grounds for exclusion are a lot less secure than we might think.

1. Children are too ill-informed to vote

The most common response to the question “why can’t children vote?” is that children are too ill-informed or irrational to do it properly. While adults are capable of understanding what they are voting on, it’s too much to expect of children, whose cognitive abilities are much less developed. Children are unlikely to think for themselves, but rather copy the views of authority figures like parents and teachers.

This may be true. But at what point does knowledge or rationality become relevant to voting, and what it is that voters need in order to vote “well” or “responsibly”? Is it the capacity to identify candidates or political parties? Or the ability to analyse politicians’ past performances and future promises? Must voters understand the legislative process and the roles of the various branches of government?

Though these insights are probably useful, there’s no agreement on what’s essential. And because we’re not sure what’s required, it’s impossible to say adults have it – whatever it is – and children don’t.

In fact, the differences between children and adults are likely narrower than we commonly suppose: 35% of UK adult voters can’t identify their local MP while, at different times, 59% of Americans haven’t been sure which party their state governor belongs to, and only 44% have been able to name a branch of government. We let these adults vote, and rightly so, yet disqualify all children for apparently exhibiting the same characteristics.

The fact that adults don’t need to show franchise credentials or an independence of mind shows that voting is not a privilege of competency, but rather a right of citizenship. The franchise should therefore be enjoyed by all citizens, including children and even babies.

If this seems frivolous, consider that very young children who can’t walk or hold a pen are extremely unlikely, in practice, to exercise their right to vote – much as many adults, for any number of reasons, decline to exercise theirs. What’s important is that whenever citizens acquire an inclination to vote – a motivation that presupposes an understanding of what elections do and how they work – the option should be available. Whether they’re four or 94.

A woman's hand and a small child's hand put a vote into a ballot box together
If knowledge or rationality were necessary to vote, many adults wouldn’t have the right. Dziurek / Shutterstock

2. Children voting would lead to policy chaos

Another argument against children voting is that it would lead to policy chaos. If children are irrational and incoherent but nevertheless allowed to vote, the outcome of elections, and the policy decisions they give rise to, would surely reflect or be distorted by their ill-conceived and incoherent votes.

However, this misunderstands the role of elections. Voting is not the same as making law. To vote isn’t to decide what happens or get one’s way, or even necessarily to set the political agenda. Distilling public opinion is a messy and complicated process. And because the link between what the public wants and what it gets isn’t always direct or obvious, wacky voter beliefs aren’t necessarily echoed in policy.

This is why representative democracies can function with vast numbers of uninformed and irrational citizens. In fact, overcoming voter ignorance is precisely what representative politics – in which the people elect representatives to take decisions on their behalf – is all about.

Voting, therefore, is a statement of equality, a recognition of equal moral standing. More concretely, it’s a (loose) guarantee that one’s concerns and perspectives will not be systematically overlooked by politicians. The fact that children can’t vote means they’re denied this respect and protection. As the historic experiences of excluded women and ethnic minorities show us, this is not a good position to be in.

3. Voting rights shouldn’t come before other rights

The third objection to giving children the vote relates to the order in which particular rights and responsibilities are acquired. Voting is a serious business, the argument goes, and thus the right to vote should coincide with, or follow, the right to perform other activities of similar weight and consequence, such as smoking and drinking, getting married or joining the army.

However, it’s worth asking why any of these rights are postponed in the first place. The basic answer is that exercising these rights is potentially harmful, so they’re only conferred on individuals who understand, and are likely to be mindful of, the risks.

A group of young people in school uniforms with a handpainted sign reading 'Stop burning our future'/
Youth activism has gained traction worldwide with the climate movement. Christie Cooper / Shutterstock

We withhold such rights from children because (we assume) they often fail to think through the consequences of their actions. However, we don’t stop heedless adults exercising their liberty in a self-destructive way. So why aren’t children granted the same latitude?

The answer has something to do with protecting children’s potential. We deny children harmful freedoms so as not to jeopardise their future freedoms, to ensure they reach adulthood with as many life opportunities as possible.

This rationale holds vis-à-vis the right to drink or the age of consent. But it works less well with voting rights, which aren’t obviously dangerous and pose no direct threat to children’s future wellbeing.

It seems, therefore, that children are suffering an injustice: they’re being denied the vote without adequate justification. At the same time, young people are acutely dissatisfied with democracy, in part because they’re overlooked in democratic decision-making.

Enfranchisement is not a silver bullet. But unless the place of children in democracy is improved and deepened, political division and democratic distrust will surely worsen.

Harry Pearse ne travaille pas, ne conseille pas, ne possède pas de parts, ne reçoit pas de fonds d'une organisation qui pourrait tirer profit de cet article, et n'a déclaré aucune autre affiliation que son organisme de recherche.

Read More

Continue Reading


Stock Market Today: Stocks turn lower as Treasury yield rise mutes earnings gains

A mixed set of big tech earnings, alongside modestly higher Treasury yields, has stocks moving lower into the start of the Wednesday session.



Updated at 10:07 am EDT U.S. turned lower Wednesday, while Treasury yields crept higher and the dollar building gains against its global peers as investors reacted to the first wave of mega-cap tech earnings while continuing to track movements in the bond market. Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Free Report and Google parent Alphabet  (GOOGL) - Get Free Report kicked-off this week's run of earnings from the so-called 'magnificent seven' late Tuesday with a mixed set of September quarter results, reflecting both the power for AI technologies to boost near-term profits and the impact of surging interest rates on corporate spending. Microsoft's revenue growth in cloud computing, driven in part by its early investments in AI, lifted shares in the tech giant firmly higher in pre-market trading as it looks to add around 85 points to the Dow Jones Industrial Average at the opening bell. Google, meanwhile, slumped 6.6% following a mixed set of third quarter earnings that showed slowing cloud computing growth overshadowing record ad revenues of $59.65 billion. Facebook and Instagram owner Meta Platforms  (META) - Get Free Report posts its third quarter earnings after the bell later today, with magnificent seven stalwart Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Free Report following on Thursday. In the bond market, a muted auction of $51 billion in 2-year notes yesterday, which drew softer demand from both foreign and domestic investors, drew a line under the recent Treasury market rally, which was also tested by a faster-than-expected reading for business activity by S&P Global over the month of October. Benchmark 10-year notes yields were last marked 5 basis points higher in the early New York trading at 4.901% while 2-year notes were pegged at 5.091%, 3 basis points higher than yesterday's auction levels, ahead of a $52 billion sale of 5-year notes later in the session. The U.S. dollar index, meanwhile, was marked 0.14% higher against a basket of six global currency peers and trading at 106.41 heading into the morning session. In other markets, global oil prices drifted modestly higher in early New York trading ahead of Energy Department data on domestic stockpiles and international exports later this morning. Brent crude contracts for December delivery were marked 23 cents higher at $88.31 per barrel while WTI contracts for the same month edged 13 cents higher to $83.87 per barrel. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was marked 42 points lower, or 0.99%, in the opening hour of trading while the Dow was down 133 points despite the impact of Microsoft's advance. The tech-focused Nasdaq, meanwhile, was down 186 points, or 1.43%, as the slump in Google shares offset a smaller gain for Microsoft. In overseas markets, Europe's Stoxx 600 was marked 0.28% higher in late-day Frankfurt trading amid another busy earnings session while Britain's FTSE 100 edged 0.02% lower in London. Overnight in Asia, reports of a new trillion-yuan bond sale from the Chinese government, worth around $137 billion in U.S. dollar terms and aimed at adding further stimulus to the moribund economy, boosted sentiment and helped regional stocks eek out a modest 0.09% gain heading into the close of trading.
  • Action Alerts PLUS offers expert portfolio guidance to help you make informed investing decisions. Sign up now.

Read More

Continue Reading


People in Europe ate seaweed for thousands of years before it largely disappeared from their diets – we wonder why?

The decline of seaweed as part of the staple diet in Europe remains a mystery.

  Yarlander / Shutterstock
Seaweed isn’t something that generally features today in European recipe books, even though it is widely eaten in Asia. But our team has discovered molecular evidence that shows this wasn’t always the case. People in Europe ate seaweed and freshwater aquatic plants from the Stone Age right up until the Middle Ages before it disappeared from our plates. Our evidence came from skeletal remains, namely the calculus (hardened dental plaque) that built up around the teeth of these people when they were alive. Many centuries later, this calculus still contains molecules that record the food that people ingested. We analysed the calculus from 74 skeletal remains from 28 archaeological sites across Europe. The sites span a period of several thousand years starting in the Mesolithic, when people hunted and gathered their food, through to the earliest farming societies (a stage called the Neolithic) all the way up to the Middle Ages. Our results suggest that seaweed was a habitual part of the diet for the time periods we studied, and became a marginal food only relatively recently. Unsurprisingly, most of the sites where we detected the consumption of seaweed are coastal. But we also found evidence from inland sites that people were ingesting freshwater aquatic plants, including lilies and pondweed. We also found an example of people consuming sea kale.

How are we sure people ate seaweed?

We identified several types of molecules in the dental calculus that collectively are characteristic of seaweed. We refer to these as “biomarkers”. They include a set of chemical compounds called alkylpyrroles. When we detect these compounds together in calculus, we can be fairly sure where they came from. The same goes for other compounds characteristic of seaweed and freshwater plants. To have become embedded in dental calculus, the seaweed and freshwater plants had to have been in the mouth and most probably chewed. Biomarkers do not survive in all our samples, but where they do, they’re found consistently across many individuals we analysed from different places. This suggests seaweed was probably a routine part of the diet.

Perceptions of seaweed

Today, seaweed is often seen as the scourge of beaches. It accumulates at the high-water mark where it can create a slippery and sometimes smelly barrier to the sea. But it is a wondrous world of its own. There are over 10,000 species of seaweed worldwide living in the intertidal zone (where the ocean meets the land between high and low tides) and the subtidal zone (a region below the intertidal zone that is continuously covered by water). Around 145 of these species are eaten today and in parts of Asia it is commonplace. Seaweed is edible, nutritious, sometimes medicinal, abundant and local. Although overconsumption can cause iodine toxicity, there are no poisonous intertidal species in Europe. It is also available all year round, which would have been particularly useful in the past, when food supplies were less reliable.

Reconstructing ancient diets

Reconstructing ancient diets is challenging and is generally more difficult as you go back in time. This helps explain why we’ve only just realised how much seaweed was being eaten by ancient Europeans. In archaeology, evidence for ancient diets often comes from physical remains: animal bones, fish bones and the hard parts of shellfish. Evidence for plants as part of the diet before farming, however, is rare. Techniques to study molecules from archaeological remains have been around for some time. A key method is known as carbon/nitrogen (C and N) stable isotope analysis. This is widely used to reconstruct ancient human and animal diets based on the relative proportions of these elements in bone collagen. But the presence of plants has been difficult to identify, due to their low nitrogen content. Their presence is masked by an overwhelming signal for animals and fish.

Hiding in plain sight

The evidence for seaweed had been present all along, but unrecognised. Our discovery provides a perfect example of how perceptions of what we regard as food influence interpretations of ancient practices. Seaweed was detected in chunks that had been chewed (and presumably spat out) at the 12,000-year-old site of Monte Verde, Chile. But when it is found at archaeological sites, it is more commonly interpreted as having been used for things other than food, such as fuel and food wrappings. In European archaeology, there is a longstanding perception that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers ate lots of seafood, but that when people started farming, they focused on food sourced from land, such as their livestock. Our findings hammer another nail into the coffin of this theory. Today, only a few traditional recipes remain, such as laverbread made from the seaweed species Porphyra umbilicalis in Wales. It’s still not clear why seaweed declined as a staple source of food in Europe after the Middle Ages.

What are the implications?

Our unexpected discovery changes the way we understand past people. It also alters our perceptions of how they understood the landscape and how they exploited local resources. It suggests, not for the first time, that we vastly underestimate ancient people. They had a knowledge, particularly about the natural world, that is difficult for us to imagine today. The finding also reminds us that archaeological remains are minute windows into the past, reinforcing the care required when developing theories based on limited evidence. The consumption of plants, upon which our world depends, has been habitually left out of dietary theories from our pre-agrarian past. Rigid theories have sometimes forgotten that humans were behind these archaeological cultures – and that they were probably similar to us in their curiosity and needs. Today seaweed sits, largely unused as food, on our doorstep. Making the edible species a bigger component of our diets could even contribute to making our food supplies more sustainable. The Conversation

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Read More

Continue Reading


EUR/AUD bearish breakdown supported by additional China fiscal stimulus and AU inflation

Weak PMI readings from the Eurozone, an increase in China’s budget deficit ratio, and renewed inflationary pressures in Australia may trigger a persistent…



  • Weak PMI readings from the Eurozone, an increase in China’s budget deficit ratio, and renewed inflationary pressures in Australia may trigger a persistent bearish sentiment loop in EUR/AUD.
  • Watch the key short-term resistance at 1.6700 for EUR/AUD.
  • A break below 1.6250 key medium-term support on the EUR/AUD may trigger a multi-week bearish impulsive down move.

The Euro (EUR) tumbled overnight throughout the US session as it erased its prior gains against the US dollar recorded on Monday, 23 October; the EUR/USD shed -104 pips from yesterday’s intraday high of 1.0695 to close the US session at 1.0591, its weakest performance in the past seven sessions.

Yesterday’s resurgence of the USD dollar strength has been attributed to a robust set of October flash manufacturing and services PMI data from the US in contrast with weak readings seen in the UK and Eurozone that represented stagflation risks.

Interestingly, the Aussie dollar (AUD) has outperformed the US dollar where the AUD/USD managed to squeeze out a minor daily gain of 21 pips by the close of yesterday’s US session. The resilient movement of the AUD/USD has been impacted by positive news flow out from China, Australia’s key trading partner.

China’s national legislature has just approved a budgetary plan to raise the fiscal deficit ratio for 2023 to around 3.8% of its GDP which was above the initial 3% set in March and set to issue additional sovereign debt worth 1 trillion yuan in Q4. This latest round of additional fiscal stimulus suggests that China’s top policymakers are expanding their initial targeted measures to address the ongoing severe liquidity crunch in the domestic property market as well as to reverse the persistent weak sentiment inherent in the stock market.

In addition, the latest set of Australia’s inflation data surpassed expectations has also reinforced another layer of positive feedback loop in the Aussie dollar which in turn may put Australia’s central bank, RBA on a “hawkish guard” against cutting its policy cash rate too soon.

The less lagging monthly CPI Indicator has risen to an annualized rate of 5.6% in September, above consensus estimates of 5.4%, and surpassed August’s reading of 5.2% which has translated into a second consecutive month of uptick in inflationary growth.

In the lens of technical analysis, a potential bearish configuration setup has emerged in the EUR/AUD cross pair from a short to medium-term perspective.

Major uptrend phase of EUR/AUD is weakening


Fig 1: EUR/AUD medium-term trend as of 25 Oct 2023 (Source: TradingView, click to enlarge chart)

Even though the price actions of the EUR/AUD have been oscillating within a major ascending channel since its 25 August 2023 low of 1.4285 and traded above the key 200-day moving average so far, the momentum of this up movement is showing signs of bullish exhaustion.

Yesterday (24 October) price action ended with a daily bearish reversal “Marubozu” candlestick coupled with the daily RSI momentum indicator that retreated right at a significant parallel resistance in place since March 2023 at the 65 level which suggests a revival of medium-term bearish momentum.

EUR/AUD bears are now attacking the minor ascending support

Fig 2: EUR/AUD minor short-term trend as of 25 Oct 2023 (Source: TradingView, click to enlarge chart)

The EUR/AUD has now staged a bearish price action follow-through via the breakdown of its minor ascending support from its 29 September 2023 low after a momentum bearish breakdown that was flashed earlier yesterday (24 October) during the European session as seen from the 4-hour RSI momentum indicator.

Watch the 1.6700 key short-term pivotal resistance (also the 50-day moving average) for a further potential slide toward the intermediate supports of 1.6460 and 1.6320 in the first step.

On the other hand, a clearance above 1.6700 invalidates the bearish tone to see the next intermediate resistance coming in at 1.6890.

Read More

Continue Reading