Attention: this is an automatic translation from this post
This is not an awareness campaign. But it could become one.
The central point of the question is the democratic participation of citizens in the context not only of Italy but also of Europe. Democracy is experiencing a crisis of representation in Europe; every European citizen in fact participates in various elections: those for the European parliament, the national ones, the district ones (in Italy now only for the regions) and the municipal ones, without forgetting also those relating to referendum consultations.
However, what appears to be an oversized exercise of representation collides with some limits in participation; with each election, abstention increases for several reasons: disgust for the political class; the feeling that electoral choices do not really affect political direction; the privilege of economics and finance over politics; finally, the poor education of citizens regarding the institutional mechanisms that regulate democracy and representation.
Today citizens are disillusioned and pass this disillusionment on to younger children, who almost never show up prepared for their first vote.
The initiatives of the Fridays for Future movement have shown that a young woman, even if she is unable to exercise the right to vote, can unleash public opinion on issues that interest young people; but above all they show that no “adult” has been able to do it, even if it was former US Vice President Al Gore (perhaps because Al Gore’s crusade was originally born to help corn producers in his Tennessee when he was running for the White House.
Citizen involvement must be cultivated
Most adult voters are therefore disillusioned, but we cannot continue to do things the same way and hope to reverse the trend and obtain different results.
Indeed, every civic education initiative is sterile: who would ever have an interest in driving a car if they can’t drive it yet?
If future voters are excluded from electoral processes and political discussion, they will likely continue to disregard even when they can vote. And when they can do so, they will suffer a cultural delay equal to the years of waiting, the years in which they were excluded from the vote.
A clarification: why are we opposed to lowering the voting age to 16?
The recent proposal made by Enrico Letta to lower the age for exercising the right to vote in Italy is not a valid remedy and presents the same problems that impose any age limit: you only earn two years of delay but the profound reasons for the lack of interest of young people towards politics are not changed. If the right to vote is a merit and a responsibility, it is not clear why sixteen-year-olds are more deserving and more responsible than fifteen-year-olds: perhaps because they have finished compulsory school? On the contrary, in most of the scholastic systems, the teaching of history and geography in the first two years of high school is absolutely insufficient compared to that of a student who has finished lower secondary school, especially for the purposes of world awareness modern!
We are therefore strongly opposed to lowering the age required to vote to 16.
Our absurd (cit.) proposal
Our proposal is simple: extend the right to vote to any citizen who is able to walk into a polling booth alone to draw a cross or write a couple of names in block capitals!
Let’s see why this choice would be convenient and, above all, right.
Why do children and young people deserve to vote?
The right to vote, the right to be represented, has always been linked to the taxpayer’s fiscal capacity: “No taxation without representation” was born as a political slogan that originated in the American Revolution and that expressed one of the main complaints of American colonists against Great Britain, but it is also one of the foundations of the participation of “productive” citizenship, the one that maintains the state apparatus.
The principle is now apparently outdated, since the right to vote is considered an inalienable civil right regardless of the citizen’s ability to pay; yet the principle is still valid, in the sense that from a solidarity perspective the active contribution of the citizen is fundamental for the functioning of the institutions. Thanks to progressive taxation and redistribution, all citizens are entitled to guarantees of freedom and participation. However, to be precise, all citizens but only if they are of age.
But if we consider the status of children and young people, we should reconsider the principle “No taxation without representation” in a different perspective:
- in the first place it is evident that it is the task of society (and therefore of the State as an essential tool for the organization of society) to grow and educate children, to allow them to obtain full citizenship, but above all to contribute to economic consolidation and social responsibility of society: this responsibility is by no means free, since children will be future taxpayers;
- equally evident is that the bet of society and the state towards children is a bet on the state itself: a favor (certainly not requested by children) that acquires meaning only because children are future citizens;
- On the other hand, it is terribly evident that, as atmospheric pressure is measured by considering an ideal column of fluids, the tax burden that weighs on each child’s head constitutes a “tax column” that today makes the future of every child even more burdensome;
- children and young people could therefore claim the slogan of America’s revolutionaries: “We do not accept any future taxes if we cannot be represented!”
Kids already pay the most expensive taxes: those on their own future!
Sinite parvulos: why is it suitable for children and teenagers?
Being able to take responsibility for deciding to the same extent that adults can is an incentive to take an interest in institutions! Why should a boy ever be interested in institutions if he is excluded from the decision-making perimeter?
The weight of such a responsibility will be a stimulus to understand the institutions, laws, mechanisms of representation and more: it will also be a stimulus to understand and confront, well before adulthood, with the increasingly subtle manipulations that communication politics (and not politics) exerts on society.
It seems obvious, but exercising active electorate from childhood, children would come of age with greater chances of exercising passive electorate.
Moreover, if the most motivated friends and comrades can do “grown-up things”, even the peers less sensitive to democracy will be stimulated; all this will lead to a cascade effect with externalities unthinkable with any “civic education” course. And even the older kids, those so far less interested in politics, will begin to emulate the little ones who decide to vote. And perhaps even older and disillusioned citizens will enter into a virtuous competition with younger children.
If we succeed in sparking this spark, a fire of participation and democratic growth could be born for the whole of society.
Why is it convenient for the State?
For any democratic state, it is important that children are empowered to democracy right away. A paradoxical example of how important an early intervention is to include young people comes precisely from dictatorships: in authoritarian states, in fact, the involvement of the younger generations becomes one of the fundamental assets for creating consensus; not only that: the young people embedded in the system become the backbone of dictatorships, and even lead to the dictatorships themselves that minimum free thought that often determines the longevity and health of those states.
The paradox of dictatorships: do we want dictatorships to surpass democracies in terms of involving the younger generations?
For those who fear terrible upheavals in the political landscape, it is useful to remember that, due to the aging of the European population, the impact of the votes of minors will not be decisive for the political balance: demography is in fact extremely unbalanced upwards: even if all new voters able to vote were to vote, they would be less than 15% of the total population.
Naturally the children will become a target for all those politicians who will try to reach them, through all the multimedia channels aimed at the younger generations; but remember that those topics concern all citizens and not just the youngest: adults will perhaps learn something, and children will confront themselves with adults and will not be alone in front of social media as happens with the issues that remain within the youth perimeter , makeup artist, pixel art, music, etc).
Will this perhaps be the occasion to bring the issues that interest the younger generations to the generalist political agenda? Precisely those issues that the world would have ignored, if only an out-of-the-ordinary sixteen-year-old Swedish girl hadn’t shaken the world audience by playing the game of her life.
Why is it convenient for parents?
Parents rarely talk about politics with their children and often talk about it in clichés and without contributing to the maturation and fulfillment of future choices. Having a child who votes therefore also becomes an opportunity to make parents responsible first of all.
For parents it would be an even greater duty, to educate children in politics, to do so at an age where they can still be heard and not when, during adolescence, children are less and less willing to listen to their parents. (and not just when they talk about politics).
In addition, all adults, and not just those who have minor children, will feel compelled to set an example for children: politics could even become a topic of intergenerational conversation.
Right to vote. For everyone!
We hope to have contributed to making it clear that, in order to involve school children on political issues of interest to them, the only possible solution must be extreme, courageous and radical: we must propose the extension of the right to vote to all minors, without no age distinction. This idea today seems to us perhaps absurd, unjust and unattainable, but it is due to cultural conditioning; as we have tried to demonstrate, there are several reasons for considering it right and necessary.
Let’s think about it: until recently there were those who thought it absurd to grant the right to vote to anyone who was not a white male, possibly wealthy …
Moreover, we have always complained that “today’s kids” (those of every “today” since we can remember …) never mobilize enough: well, involving them in political decisions could finally combine youthful passion with a goal politic. Instead, by removing the youth from politics, only one result can be obtained: the children will become a political problem. The kids will become a brake on innovation in politics, an inconceivable subtraction of intelligence and imagination from the public debate.
We are sure that a campaign to ask for the extension of the right to vote for young people would have the advantage of intriguing them right away; perhaps they would immediately enter into a virtuous dialectical conflict with their parents who (we expect) will tend to be against this campaign …
As soon as politics has attracted the attention of young people as a political subject, (hopefully) their involvement in the issues that concern them will become easier! Therefore…
A little less than essential bibliography:
Olga Erenc’s degree thesis dedicated to the subject
S. Lecce, Should democracy grow up? Children and voting rights, Intergenerational Justice Review 9 (4), 2009
J. Rutherford, One child, one vote: Proxies for parents, Minnesota Law Review 82, 1998
P. Cook, Against a minimum voting age, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, vol. 16(3), 2013
If Minors Could Vote, by LANE WALLACE on The Atlantic
An idea by Giampaolo Bottoni, which we share in substance even if not in form
Bibliography of the aforementioned degree thesis by Olga Erenc:
- United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
- United Nations Committee of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 20 on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence, 2016
- United Nations Committee of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 12 on the right of the child to be heard, 2009
- The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1826 Expansion of democracy by lowering the voting age to 16, 2011
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Committee Concluding Observations on the combined third and fourth periodic report of Austria, CRC/C/AUT/CO/3-4, 2012
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Committee Concluding Observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, CRC/C/GBR/CO/5, 2016
- UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of the Netherlands, CRC/C/NDL/CO/4, 2015
- United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
- Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, League of Nations, 1924
- UNCRC Committee, General comment No. 20 on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence, CRC/C/GC/20, 2016
- UNCRC, General Comment No 12 on „UNCRC Committee, General Comment No. 12, The right of the child to be heard, CRC/C/GC/12 20, 2009
- Human Rights Committee General Comment No 25: Article 25 (Participation in Public Affairs and the Right to Vote) The Right to Vote in Public Affairs, Voting Rights and the Right of Equal Access to Public Service, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/ Add. 7, 1996
- UNCRC Committe, General Comment No.10, Children’s rights in juvenile justice, 2007
- International Labour Organization, Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, 1973
- C. R. Beitz, Political Equality: An Essay in Democratic Theory”, Princeton University Press, 1989.
- J. Wall, Democratising democracy: the road from women’s to children’s suffrage, in: The International Journal of Human Rights, vol. 18(6), 2014
- F. Schrag, Children and Democracy: Theory and Policy, in: Politics, Philosophy and Economics No. 3, 2004
- J. Roche, Children: Rights, Participation and Citizenship, in: Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research, Vol.6(4), 1999
- K. Hanson, A. Vandaele, Working children and international labour law: A critical analysis”, in: The International Journal of Children’s Rights, Vol.11(1), 2003
- J. Rawls, S. R. Freeman, Lectures on the history of political philosophy, Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008
- S. Olsson, Children’s suffrage: A critique of the importance of voters’ knowledge for the well-being of democracy, The Internationa Journal of Children’ Rights vol. 16, 2008
- D. Zlotnik, The future of adolescents right to vote and political participation, Leiden Law Blog, 2017, available at: http://leidenlawblog.nl/articles/the-future-of-adolescents-right-to-vote-and-political-participation
- K. Roberts, Youth mobilisations and political generations: young activists in political change movements during and since the twentieth century, in: Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 18, Issue 8, 2015
- M.P. Wattenberg, Is voting for young people? 2007
- K. Gerland, Future Perspectives and Images of the Past: A “New, Young Generation” of the 1980s in the GDR at the People’s Republic of Poland, in: Berghoff H., Jensen U., Lubinski C., Weisbrod B., History by Generations: Generational Dynamics in Modern History, 2013
- J. Holt, Escape from Childhood, 1974
- B. Franklin (ed), Chapter 2, Children Political Rights, in: The Rights of Children, 1986
- M. Freeman, History of children’s rights, in: The International Journal of Children’s Rights, vol.23(4), 2015
- T. Cockburn, Authors of Their Own Lives? Children, Contracts, Their Responsibilities, Rights and Citizenship, in: M. Freeman, The Future of Children’s Rights, 2014
- ) E. Kay, M. Tisdall, Is the Honeymoon Over? Children and Young People’s Participation in Public Decision-Making, in: M. Freeman, Children’s Rights: Progress and Perspectives: Essays from the International Journal of Children’s Rights, 2011
- S. Detrick, J.E. Doek, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: a guide to the “Travaux préparatoires”,1992
- N. Vučković-Šahović, J.E. Doek, J.
- J. O’Neill, The Missing Child in Liberal Theory Towards a Covenant Theory of Family, Community, Welfare and the Civic State, 1994
- N. Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood, 1982
- G. Lansdown, The Evolving Capacities of the Child, UNICEF, Innocenti Research Centre, 2005
- D. Cook, Children as consumers, in: The Palgrave Handbook of Childhood Studies, eds. J.Qvortrup, W.Corsaro and M. Honig, 2009
- K. Bacon, S. Frankel, K. Faulks, Building the „Big Society”: Exploring Representations of Young People and Citizenship in the National Citizen Service, in: The international Journal of Children’s Rights, vol. 21(3), 2013
- The Child as Citizen, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 633, 2011
- K. Abovitz, J. Harnish, Contemporary discourses on citizenship, Review of Educational Research 76 (4), 2006
- G. Van Bueren, The international law on the rights of the child, 1995
- G. Hegel, Philosophy of right, 1991
- S. Lecce, Should democracy grow up? Children and voting rights, Intergenerational Justice Review 9 (4), 2009
- C. Lopez-Guerra, Enfranchising minors and the mentally impaired. Paper presented at the Symposium in Honor of Brian Barry, 2010
- H. Pitkin, The concept of representation, 1972
- J. Rutherford, One child, one vote: Proxies for parents, Minnesota Law Review 82, 1998
- F. Schrag, The child’s status in the democratic state, Political Theory 3 (4), 1975
- P. Van Parijs, The disenfranchisement of the elderly, and other attempts to secure intergenerational justice, Philosophy and Public Affairs 27 (4), 1998
- N. Urbinati, Representative democracy: Principles and genelaogy, 2006
- P. Appelbaum, “I vote. I count.”: Mental disability and the right to vote, Psychiatric Services 51 (7), 2000
- C. Tak Win, M. Clayton, Should the voting age be lowered to sixteen? Normative and empirical considerations, Political Studies 54 (3), 2006
- Y. Dejaeghere, M. Hooghe, Brief report: Citizenship concept amongst adolescents. Evidence from a survey among Belgian 16-year olds, Journal of Adolescence 32 (3), 2009
- L. Steinberg, E. Cauffman, J. Woolard, S. Graham, M. Banich, Are adolescents less mature than adulst? Minors’ access to abortion, the juvenile death penalty, and the alleged APA “flip-flop”, American Psychologist, 64 (7), 2009
- J. Marc, Children as citizens: Towards a contemporary notion of child participation, Childhood 11 (1), 2004
- E. Cohen, Neither seen nor heard: Children’s citizenship in contemporary democracies, Citizenship Studies 9 (2), 2005
- R.J. Dalton, The good citizen: How a younger generation is reshaping American politics, 2008
- R. Hart, Children’s participation: From tokenism to citizenship, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 1992
- R. B. Howe, K. Covell, Empowering children: Children’s rights education as a pathway to citizenship, 2005
- R. Kassimir, C. Flanagan, Youth civic engagement in the developing world: Challenges and opportunities, in: Handbook of research on civic engagement in youth, eds. L. Sherrod, J. Torney-Purta, C. Flanagan
- N. Smith, R. Lister, S. Middleton, L. Cox, Young people as real citizens: Towards an inclusionary understanding of citizenship, Journal of Youth Studies 8 (4), 2005
- S. Weller, Teenagers’ citizenship, 2007
- J. Ward, The on-line citizen-consumer: Addressing young people’s political consumption through technology, Journal of Youth Studies 11 (5), 2008
- R. Clegg, Who should vote? Texas Review on Law and Politics, vol.6, 2001
- P. Cook, Against a minimum voting age, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, vol. 16(3), 2013
- T. Fowler, The status of child citizens, Politics, Philosophy and Economics, vol. 13 (1), 2014
- J. S. Hodgson, Kent W. Roach, Disenfranchisement as punishment: European Court of Human Rights, UK and Canadian responses to prisoners voting, 2017
- J. A. Siegel, Felon Disenfranchisement and the Fight for Universal Suffrage, Social Work, vol. 56 (1), 2011.
- Invernizzi, J. M. Williams, Children and citizenship, 2008
- Invernizzi, B. Milne, Are children entitled to contribute to international policy making? A critical view of children’s participation in the international campaign for the elimination of child labour, in: The International Journal of Children’s Rights, vol.10(4), 2002
- Invernizzi, and B. Milne, Conclusion: Some elements of an emergentdiscourse on children’s right to citizenship, in: A. Invernizzi and B. Milne (eds)Children’s citizenship: an emergent discourse on the rights of the child? Journal of Social Sciences, Special Issue N. 9, 2005
- E.F. Isin, B.S. Turner,
- J. Clarks, K. Coll, E. Dagnino, C. Neveu, Disputing Citizenship, 2014
- J. Korczak, A Child’s Right to Respect, 2017
- J. Hoffman, Citizenship Beyond the State, 2014
- C.C. Gould, Rethinking democracy: freedom and social cooperation in politics, economy, and society, 1953
- J. Scott, G. Marshall, A Dictionary of Sociology, 2015
- T. Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Children have the right to be heard and adults should listen to their views: Janusz Korczak lecture dedicated to children participation, Council of Europe, 2007
- Ed. M. Berenbaum, F. Skolnik, Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 12, 2007
- J. Olczak- Ronikier, Korczak. Próba biografii (Korczak. An attempt at a biography, in Polish), 2011
- L. Barszczewska, B. Milewicz, Wspomnienia o Januszu Korczaku (Memories of Janusz Korczak, in Polish), 1989
- K. Gawlicz, M. Starnawski, For child and social justice: radical approaches in education and care for young children in interwar Poland, in: Early Years: An International Research Journal, vol. 38, issue 2, 2018
- J. Korczak, Pamiętniki i inne pisma z getta (Ghetto diary, in Polish), 2012
- B. Engelking, J. Leociak, The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, 2013
- J. Korczak, Jak kochac dziecko. Dziecko w rodzinie (How to love a child. The child in the family, in Polish), 2012
- Legislative history of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2007
- B. J. Lifton, The king of children: a biography of Janusz Korczak, 1988
- C. Breen, Age Discrimination and Children’s Rights: Ensuring Equality and Acknowledging Difference, in: International Studies in Human Rights, vol. 86, 2006
- The Case for Children’s Rights: A Progress Report, in R Franklin (ed), The Handbook of Children’s Rights: Comparative Policy and Practice, 1995,
- V. Vuolanto, Child and Parent in Roman Law, in: The Oxford Handbook of Roman Law and Society, 2016.
- McGillivray, Children’s Rights, Paternal Power and Fiduciary Duty: From Roman law to the Supreme Court of Canada, in: International Journal of Children’s Rights, vol. 19, 2011
- N. Thomas, Towards a Theory of Children’s Participation, in: International Journal of Children’s Rights vol. 15, 2007
- W. Kerber-Ganse, Eglantyne Jebb – A Pioneer of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in: International Journal of Children’s Rights, vol. 23, 2015
- D. Marshall, The construction of children as an object of international relations: The Declaration of Children’s Rights and the Child Welfare Committee of League of Nations, 1900-1924, in: International Journal of Children’s Rights, vol. 7, issue 2, 1999
- C. Mulley, The Woman who Saved the Children, 2009
- C. McCutcheon, Congress A to Z, 2014
- P. Vreeman, The Ageing of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in: The Future of Children’s Rights, 2014
- M. Freeman, Why it is important to take children’s rights seriously, in: Children’s Rights: Progress and Perspectives: Essays from the International Journal of Children’s Rights, ed. Michael D. A. Freeman, 2011
- L. Beckman, The Frontiers of Democracy: The Right to Vote and its Limits, 2009
- N. Thomas, Children, Politics and Communication. Participation at the margins, 2009
- P.Demeny,Pronatalist Policies in Low-Fertility Countries: Patterns, Performance and Prospects, Population and Development Review, vol. 12, 1986
- Hobbes, The Elements of Law, Natural and Politics, 1650
- J.S. Mill, On Liberty, 1859
- J. Fishkin, Equal Citizenship and the Individual Right to Vote, in: Indiana Law Journal, vol. 86, 2011
- Aristotle, The Politics, 1984
- J. N. Shklar, American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion, 1991
- M. L. King Jr., Speech Before the Youth March for Integrated Schols, 1959 in: A Testament of Hope: The essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., 1986
- M. Young, Inclusion and Democracy, 2000, 6
- R. Dworkin, Sovereing virtue: The theory and practice of equality, 2000, 210. 209.
- J. E. Doek, The CRC and the Right to Acquire and Preserve a Nationality, in: Refugee Survey Quarterly, vol. 25(3), 2006
- Nigel Thomas, Towards a Theory of Children’s Participation, in: International Journal of Children’s Rights vol.15, 2007, 199
- R. Thorburn Stern, Implementing Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Participation, Power and Attitudes, 2017.
- Roger A. Hart, Children’s
- A Commentary on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, eds. André Alen, Johan Vande Lanotte, Eugeen Verhellen, Fiona Ang, Eva Berghmans and Mieke Verheyde, Article 13 The Right to Freedom of Expression By Herdís Thorgeirsdóttir, 2006
- A. Daly, Article 15 The Right to Freedom of Association and to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, in: Commentary on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, eds. André Alen, Johan Vande Lanotte, Eugeen Verhellen, Fiona Ang, Eva Berghmans, Mieke Verheyde, and Bruce Abramson, 2016 117) H. Thorgeirsdóttir, Article 13. Freedom of expression, in: Commentary to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, eds. André Alen, Johan Vande Lanotte, Eugeen Verhellen, Fiona Ang, Eva Berghmans, Mieke Verheyde, and Bruce Abramson, 2006 118) G. Maher, Age and criminal responsibility, Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law vol. 2:493, 2005
- B. Milne, Do the participation articles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) present us with a recipe for children’s citizenship? in: Working to Be Someone: Child Focused Research and Practice with Working Children Account, 2007
- Quennerstedt “Children, but not really humans? Critical reflections on the hampering effect of the 3 p’s”, International Journal of Children’s Rights, 2010.
- J. Korczak, Pisma wybrane II, (Selected works, in Polish),1978