There’s an old expression that goes something like, you have to be pretty smart to believe something that stupid.
Exhibit A: Professor David Runciman, who is not just any old academic hack but the head of politics at Cambridge University, and his proposal to let six year olds vote. That’s right. Six. Not sixteen. As reported yesterday in the UK Guardian, Runciman suggests that our ageing population means that young people have lost the weight of numbers in our parliaments while the old and on the way out run — and ruin — everything.
“I would lower the voting age to six, not 16. And I’m serious about that. I would want people who vote to be able to read, so I would exclude reception [age-children]”, he is reported to have said.
“What’s the worst that could happen? At least it would be exciting, it would make elections more fun.”
Well, fun is one word for it. You might have others. Because kids can believe, well, some pretty dopey things.
Given that Labor is already odds-on favourite to win the next federal election, do we really need any Santa Clausstyle government that gives free stuff to its true believers and snoops on everybody else?
The past fortnight we’ve also learned of preschoolers being given lessons on how to campaign against the detention of refugees in Nauru and the government’s energy policies. If you want the nation’s classrooms to veer even further towards becoming re-education centres, here’s your pathway.
And should Runciman’s thought bubble come to pass, candidates with unfamiliar names (sorry, David Leyonhjelm) will be at a disadvantage against any politician with the good fortune to have the surname Cat, Dog, or Ball.
Of course if the above might be offensive to Year 2 readers, Runciman’s proposal should also put responsible adults off-side. Contrary to Runciman, normal people actually do care about the generations that will come after them.
If people didn’t care about future generations, nobody would bother writing a will and everyone would vote themselves rich.
OK, perhaps this argument gets wobbly if one takes into account the Baby Boomers, but let’s put them to one side for the moment.
Because as it turns out, like so many ideas about how to “save” democracy from itself (an urgent task in an era when ordinary people keep doing things that Cambridge professors don’t like), Runciman is really about entrenching power for one side. As he tells the Guardian, lowering the voting age might have stopped Brexit.
Runciman is not the only academic done with how we do democracy.
Earlier this year in Australia the Greens proposed lowering the voting age to 16 (not six, thankfully), a move which was widely seen as a cynical voteharvesting ploy.
The same phenomenon is at work in the United States where ever since Trump’s election progressives have dreamt about abolishing their Electoral College and entrenching the popular vote — proposals that would mean a few densely populated, left leaning cities could pick presidents in perpetuity.
Given these sorts of tantrums, which all boil down to “We lost! No fair!”, it seems at least some kiddies actually do get a vote.