When I was a young man the age of majority was
twenty-one and the draft age was eighteen. It was fashionable
to complain about being able to die for one’s country at
eighteen and having to wait until twenty-one to vote or buy an
alcoholic beverage. For those with no actual memory of those times,
I will say that the alcohol complaint was much more common than
the one about voting. Also, in the late fifties and early sixties,
there were very few draftees dying for their country at any age.
When I was about twenty years old one of my teachers
gave a very good explanation of why there was no direct correlation
between the qualifications for soldiering and voting (or drinking).
When one is exhorting one’s men to charge an enemy position,
one does not want deep reflection on the wisdom of the order by
one’s subordinates. On the other hand, a little wise reflection
might not be out of place in the voting booth. Bar hopping might
be closer to voting than to soldiering.
Times change. There is no draft and eighteen
year olds are now adults. When my daughter went off to the university
I regularly received bills for tuition but no information on grades.
When I inquired about grades, I was told that since my daughter
was over eighteen, she was an adult and therefore releasing her
grades to a third party would be a violation of privacy laws.
It gets more interesting. Someone decided that
eighteen year olds are not old enough to drink alcoholic beverages
and the federal government forced all States to raise their drinking
ages to twenty-one under threat of losing highway funds. The federal
government is also considering prohibiting the purchase of firearms
by persons under the age of twenty-one. The voting age, however,
remains at eighteen.
It is obvious that there is no merit to the argument
that if one is old enough to serve in the armed forces he must
be old enough to vote or to drink. On the other hand, if one is
too young to be trusted with a shotgun or a scotch and soda, is
he old enough to be trusted with a ballot? If you think your political
philosophy or your candidate’s physiognomy will appeal to
the eighteen to twenty-one year old vote, your answer might be
yes. If you are interested in good government, you might want
to consider raising the voting age to twenty-one, or maybe thirty-one,