Didi asked:

The question would be how to summarize the argument or arguments and evaluate them?

There is a gaping inconsistency in the logic of our democracy in denying children this fundamental democratic right. Many argue that children haven’t the intelligence and experience to vote in a meaningful way. This argument was used years ago as a reason for denying non-male, non-white people the right to participate in elections. Nobody’s intelligence or experience is of more value than someone else’s. We all bring our own attributes to the ballot box when we select a candidate.

Others may say that children don’t work and thus don’t really contribute to society and therefore shouldn’t vote. Well, School is work. And with a double digit unemployment rate and people on social assistance, this rationale is also absurd. Would we deny the unemployed the right to vote?

Answer by Shaun Williamson

There is no inconsistency here. The usual way of denying the vote to non white people was to say that they were like children and therefore not capable of understanding. The same argument was also used to justify slavery, black people were childlike and needed some big white slave owner to look after them.

Everyone has always agreed that children are not capable of understanding things in the same way that adults do. That is why we do not have the same rules of criminal responsibility for children. That is why we don’t judge them morally in the same way as we do other adults.

Can two year old children understand democracy, can one year old children vote in any meaningful way? At what age do you suggest democratic rights should start?

The idea that no one’s intelligence or experience is of more value than someone else’s is absurd and should certainly not be applied in the design of nuclear power stations. Perhaps we should give children the opportunity to design nuclear power stations.

In our system of democracy we give a vote to all adults (with some exceptions). That is the best system we have been able to devise so far. One of our definition of a child is someone who is too young to understand the responsibilities of being a voting citizen. In some democratic countries not voting is illegal and could result in a jail sentence. Do you want to see children go to jail?