Charles Moore

Why should 16 year olds get the vote? They don’t pay tax.

Why should 16 year olds get the vote? They don't pay tax.
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No doubt it will happen, because the Tories will not dare oppose it, but is there any conceivable good reason why 16-year-olds should have the vote, as first Alex Salmond, then the Liberals, and this week Ed Miliband have promised?

The argument is that giving people the vote makes them feel empowered. But the sad fact about human nature is that once you have won a right, you quickly take it for granted. I am part of the first generation to have had the vote at 18 rather than 21. We were quite pleased by this, but less interested than our parents’ generation. Our children’s generation is astonishingly uninterested. If 16-year-olds get the vote, they may feel fleeting excitement — and, because most children know nothing about money, may be more likely to vote Labour — but after a few years, they will get bored and then people will start demanding a human right to vote at 14, or 12, or eight.

Virtually no 16-year-olds pay tax. It is often said that there should be no taxation without representation, but the sentence is also true when reversed. If you are not paying and never have paid tax, I do not really understand why you should have a say in its distribution.

This is an extract from Charles Moore's Spectator's Notes in this week's magazine. Click here to read for free with a trial of The Spectator app for iPad and iPhone. You can also subscribe with a free trial on the Kindle Fire.