Over the last few weeks youth around the world have been well and truly stepping up to the plate: making their voices heard and making a visceral call to older generations to consider their future.
Whether it was the climate change demonstrations, or Eggboi’s one-man demonstration, it’s becoming obvious that youth not just should have, but deserve, a seat at the political decision-making table. It seems abundantly clear that climate change is going to affect those who are under 18 today to a degree (hopefully not four to five degrees), much greater than our Australian parliament with an average age of 51 (and if you think that’s old, the average age of a US senator is 62 – connect the dots you will there).
Which begs the question: if people under 20 have the greatest interest in addressing climate change (amongst myriad issues that have long-term effects) then why should those who have no invested interest in the future have a say in it?
Indeed it seems an injustice for youth not to establish an upper-age limit for voting. There are arguably (and as demonstrated across Australia over the last few weeks!), incredibly switched-on people under 18, who cannot vote, however in 2018 there were around 4 million voting Australians aged 65 and over (15% of the population) – a proportion which is only increasing with the aging baby boomer generation. In fact, the 2018 figure is projected to more than double by 2050. That would be 22% of the population effectively voting with a short-focus lens attached to their reading glasses.
In developed countries it’s common for a mandatory retirement for judges at 70 or 75 – this is because early dementia and cognitive decline are very difficult to detect on your own and the gravity of a judge’s decisions is unarguable. Yet the elderly can vote – and in numbers that potentially have enormous influence on election and referendum outcomes.
Perhaps, it could be argued, there should be no upper age limit for voting, because of the valuable nature of life experience (something much younger people obviously have less of). But it can also be argued that experience and time create ingrained biases and a propensity for repetitive behaviour and thought-patterns, resulting in a less-flexible mind (closed to new developments and new evidence). It’s why older people are more traditionally conservative and often polarised (‘I just know what’s right and wrong’).
In fact, in a world where social media is being blamed for political extremism to political apathy, it’s actually the demographic who use social media the least – that is, the over 60s – who are growing even more politically polarised.
Older people are less likely to vote for progressive policies. In surveys in the U.S. and the U.K people over 65 are nearly twice as likely to be against same-sex marriage, to be pro-Brexit, and five times less likely to prioritise budget spending on education.
Combine this factor with statistics that show it’s the over 65s who lose the most money to scams (they’re clearly the easiest demographic to con, yet it would appear they also make fewer reports, than say the internet-savvy 18 to 24 age bracket) – and get scared.
Time to consider capping the voting age: and to ask ‘should people get to vote if they won’t face the consequences?’ The dead shouldn’t hold dominion over the living.