You don’t know about the Tide pod challenge? It’s a YouTube-inspired viral dare to stick a colorful Tide laundry detergent packet in your mouth until it melts and record the results for future potential employers and fathers-in-law to see.
Early this year the American Association of Poison Centers issued a “High Alert” to sound the alarm that “intentional exposure among teens to single-load laundry packets continue to rise” They stated that were 86 reported poisonings in the first three weeks of January alone.
In an unrelated story, the good people of Golden will decide on whether or not to allow these teenagers to vote in municipal elections, by lowering the voting age to 16 (Question 2E).
Of course, the damage they inflict with Tide pods is only upon themselves. But giving ballots to teenagers is like giving them a six-pack and the keys to your neighbor’s car.
In the early 1970s we did lower the voting age nationally for 18-year-olds in order to give them say in policy issues, namely whether they should be drafted. If we are going to force you to give up years to military servitude and potential death, it seems reasonable to give you some small voice in the matter.
Policy issues certainly impact 16-year-olds as well, as it does 12-year-olds, and toddlers. But none of them own property or are legally responsible for their own actions until they are 18. Until then they have very little skin in the game. A 16-year-old with a vote is playing with someone else’s money and regulating someone else’s stuff. And like anyone who has ever had a corporate expense account knows, spending other people’s money is easy.
There is little wonder why progressives keep working for a younger voter age.
At least a 16-year-old with daddy’s credit card can only spend dad’s money.
The larger question is are kids more mature and readier for adult responsibility, including the vote, now compared to previous generations?
Tell me with a straight face that 16-year-olds today understand the real world more than the kids of the great Depression or World War II. Today teens are suffering from what researchers call “prolonged adolescence.” They have found that since 2000 teens are less motivated, less likely to drive a car or have a job. Understandable given the time demands of Snapchat and Netflix.
If young people today are more prepared for the weight of adulthood than their forebears, why did the Left demand Obamacare mandate that kids can stay on mommy’s health insurance until they’re 26? Soon in Golden kids can vote for a full decade before having to balance their own personal budget with health insurance.
With less real-world wisdom they are less able than any previous American generation to make decisions about their own precious selves, no less decisions that impact whole populations.
Which brings us to Amendment V, which if passed by voters this fall would lower the age to run for the Colorado legislature from 25 to 21.
Without doubt there are teens wise enough to vote and 21-year-olds able to represent others in public office. That’s always been true. But compared to the past there is a lot fewer of them.
For a little historical context lets go back to the writing of the U.S. Constitution. Our founders thought no one under 25 had the wisdom be a U.S. representative. To be a senator you had to be 30. And to be president, 35. And that was in 1787 when the average life span was about 38 years. In order to run for Congress, you lived almost two-thirds of your life. Your brain was two-thirds full of all the wisdom it could ever hold.
Today’s life expectancy is over 78 years. So, to run for Congress or state legislature today your brain is only a third full of its maximum wisdom. (Which finally explains Congress.)
Let me try it this way. If we were to adjust that original minimum age to run for office for the growth of the average life span, like we do when we index things for inflation, you’d have to be 51 today to run for Congress.
When most of the people being sent to the hospital for taking the Tide pod challenge are over 50, then I’ll vote to let kids run our government.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.