To Repeat Myself, Kids Should Have the Right to Vote



By 01/06/2011

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Ever since that movie about social networks, the credit claiming business has gone into overdrive.  A new idea might be worth $65 million.

So it is with considerable umbrage that I read Michael Kinsley’s saucy claim in Politico that he is the first red-blooded American to urge that kids be given the right to vote.

Wait a minute. I called for that election reform 20 years ago.  My “immodest proposal” was published in no less a source than Daedalus, the official journal of the American Academy of Sciences, an organization founded by John Adams (to give him credit) of which I am a member (more credit).  I even wrote a short version for the Brookings Review where I had been a senior fellow (still more credit).

Back then I demonstrated that greedy geezers get 10 times as much in welfare benefits per capita as needy children do. They even get free admission to all the national parks as they cruise around the country in their oversized Buicks, while hard-working parents with three children, taking one brief annual vacation in their secondhand Chevy, are asked to pay an arm and a leg. If you don’t believe me, stop by and take a look at my official U. S. National Park Service Golden Passport, scheduled for use next week in Yosemite.

When it comes to schools, the case for the kid vote is especially powerful. The educational needs of kids are routinely ignored at the expense of the material needs of voting adult workers, whose tenure, guaranteed salary steps, health care benefits, and retirement needs are given pride of place. Come to think of it, let’s do the kid vote first in school board elections.

Admittedly, Kinsley does not himself take full credit for my idea—he attributes it to a Japanese woman who wrote a letter to the Economist.

She is undoubtedly a smart lady, but that is a clear mis-attribution. Just as I did back in ‘92, she proposes that parents exercise the vote on behalf of their children.  I further suggested that parents be given the option to assign the right to their child whenever they think he or she is capable of casting it on their own.  That right, once given, can never be taken back. Every other November, the conversation at the dinner table might become quite interesting.

Imagine President Obama seeking the kid vote. I can hear the ideas tumble out: Dollars must be spent on schools, not pensions; teachers must be held accountable; and students must be given a choice of school.  No one would pay much attention to Republican demands for local control.

There are a few wrinkles to be ironed out, of course. Which parent gets the vote? What is to be done with election-day newborns?  What proof of parentage is required?

Those issues don’t seem terribly difficult to resolve, however.  Thanks, Mr. Kinsley, for reviving my idea. Hope to get some credit one of these days.

-Paul E. Peterson




Comment on this article
  • Frank says:

    Good for you. I read that letter in the Economist too, I think.

    *Daedalus not Dead…, of course.

  • [...] giving at least some children the right to vote. Harvard political scientist Paul Peterson has been making that case for a long time (albeit on somewhat different grounds). And columnist Michael Kinsley defended a similar idea in [...]

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