Every so often some pundit predicts a generational war, when resentment on the part of struggling, overtaxed young people against the lavish social benefits going to seniors breaks out into open conflict.The Brexit vote has breathed some new life into this genre of punditry. Everyone noticed how younger voters leaned globalist, voting against Britain leaving the EU, while older voters were more nationalist.
My own explanation of this I’ve already given. Those vibrant cosmopolitan cities look way more fun when you’re 25. When you get to 45, you’re looking for something more solid, more rooted.
That’s a generalization of course. Individual temperament counts for something too. There are young nationalists and old cosmopolitans. When millions of people vote, though, it’s the generalizations that show up.
So a lot of young people are mad as hell at us old farts for crushing their cosmopolitan dreams.
Here’s one of those people: Heath Pickering, a Research Assistant at the University of Melbourne School of Government, down under there in Australia — where, by the way, they’re having a general election this weekend.
Quote from him, writing on Vice.com, June 27th, quote:
The democratic principle of “one person, one vote” is fundamentally flawed. The way Baby Boomers and beyond are voting the world over is evidence that old solutions often aren’t adept at tackling new problems. Old people keep gutting the future of young people. And it has to stop.End quote. “Gutting,” eh? We Boomer geezers, sitting here in our bath chairs listening to old Beatles records and fantasizing about Ursula Andress, we’re heartlessly gutting your future!
The solution, says Mr Pickering, is weighted voting. Quote:
To ensure the youth aren’t shafted, a citizen’s vote should be proportionate to their age …
In my view, age-weighted voting would work best if voters are broken down to five key age groups: 18-24, 25-34, 35-49, 50-69, 70-plus …
Anyone 18-24 years old would receive one whole vote. For each following age group, this would decrease by a fifth. So someone aged 35-49 years old would get 60 percent of one vote. Anyone over 70 would get 20 percent of one vote.
If this system was implemented, young people would be more fairly represented — under the logic that because they have to live with the consequences of political decisions the longest; they should have a greater say than older voters …End quote.
Interesting; although I couldn’t help thinking of Jerry Seinfeld’s proposal that we abolish all speed limits and just let people drive their age. You’re 85 years old? Hey …
I don’t think weighted voting by age has been tried anywhere, unless you count all those societies where public decisions are made by a Council of Elders. That actually worked pretty well for a few millennia.
Other kinds of weighted voting surely have been tried. I’ve been listening to Professor Steinberg’s lectures on European Lives in the 18th and 19th centuries. In his lecture on Bismarck he mentions the Prussian Constitution of 1850, which was based on the idea that everybody had the vote, but representation depended on the share of taxes paid. So one third of the parliament was elected by the top five percent of taxpayers, who voted on one list; the second third was elected by the next ten percent, and eighty-five percent voted for the remaining third. That worked too: The system was in place through to 1918.
Age-weighted voting, though … I don’t know. The great rule of human life, stated often here on Radio Derb, is Henri Estienne’s observation: Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait — “If Youth only knew, if Age only could.” Young people are great for getting things done, but they don’t know squat. Old people know it all, but they can’t do much.
If that’s right, it would make more sense to weight voting the other way, giving more weight in public decision-making to the elders of the tribe.
And the idea that young people have to live longer with public decisions has a leak in it. The leak is, that young people don’t actually care much about the future. When I was young I smoked a pack of cigarettes every day. I knew it was bad for me, but I didn’t care. By the time it mattered (I figured) I’d have given up, or medical science would have cures for the things I’d done to myself, … or something.
If I’d sensibly saved and invested my first few years’ wages, I’d be a rich man now. I didn’t, though. I spent them.
That’s what young people are like. I actually worry far more about the future now than I did fifty years ago. I worry about it on behalf of my kids, and on behalf of the civilization I’ve come to know and appreciate over years of reading and learning.
“If Youth only knew …” One of the things Youth doesn’t know is how much the future matters.
So fie! to Mr Heath Pickering of Melbourne, Australia; and one more cheer for Brexit, and the wise geezers who made it happen.