Age of sound judgment: a letter to the Washington Post

The Washington Post editorialized last month in favor of dropping the voting age to 16. I dashed off a letter to the editor, which they didn’t run, and is here adapted:

At what point are young people to be entrusted with important life responsibilities? The Post has repeatedly opposed easing the drinking age from 21 so as to allow persons of 18 or 20, who may include service members returning from combat missions, to enjoy a glass of beer. It opposes subjecting late-teen juvenile offenders to the level of accountability applied to adult criminal defendants. Its coverage suggests sympathy with proposals to raise the marriage age to 18, which would mean that a couple of 17 is not deemed mature enough to enter on binding vows of mutual support even with parental blessing and judicial ascertainment of their independent choice.

Now the Post supports slashing the voting age to 16. Perhaps the pattern here is that the Post sees 16 year olds as incapable of making decisions to govern their own lives, yet competent to govern everyone else’s.


  • Lower the voting age to 5. Lego and Hershey’s could be given cabinet rank. A bailout could be arranged for Toys “Ya” Us. And the US Navy could be tasked to rescue Santa and his elves from the threat of polar melting..

  • I always wondered why the 18 – 20 crowd didn’t band together and kick those fellas out of office that raised the drinking age… After all, they could leverage their youth and excess of “spare time” to do a bang up lobbying effort.
    But a 16 year old can operate motor vehicles, their lethality has been proven, so why not let them vote to raise taxes again for better roads… and maybe higher teacher pay. Then the 16 – 20 demographic can lobby for drinking age reform. And maybe even legalized recreational marijuana…

  • Congratulations on identifying the inconsistency in the Post’s own editorials.

  • I think the obvious conclusion is that the Post, correctly?, views voting as far less important than marriage, drinking, etc. After all, voting is a mere ritual, meaningless at the individual level, yet bestowing societal esteem on the participant. So the Post sees voting in this context as similar to giving out participation awards in high school. Plus it yields more circuses for the hoi polloi, which the Post no doubt values.