Friday, June 17, 2022
How responsible are children?
I am a centrist. As this post of mine is based on common sense, it will most likely trigger both left wing and right wing cultural warriors. You have been warned!
The Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act of 1984 sets the age at which you can buy or publicly consume alcohol in the USA to 21 years. This is based on a broader legal principle, which is that children are less responsible than adults, and thus a) should not be allowed to do certain things and b) are punished less harshly if they do something wrong. Now every single legislation pertaining to age is somewhat arbitrary. The drinking age in the USA changed over the course of history. It is different in other countries. The minimum age of the US president is 35, which seems like a completely random number. But while any individual number could be endlessly discussed, most people do agree that some sort of age restriction makes sense; both for the protection of children themselves, and for the protection of others from irresponsible acts by children.
Now if you were to design a legal system from scratch, how would you design age restrictions? Probably you would list everything you wanted an age restriction on, and then sort them by relative impact or risk level. For example the minimum age to drive an electric scooter is lower than the minimum age to drive a car, because the average outcome of a scooter accident is less harmful than the average outcome of a car accident.
Unfortunately, not every legislation is based on common sense. The culture wars resulted in each side pushing their agenda to a point where they reject any restrictions on whatever they define as "freedom", even age restrictions. Thus the story of the Uvalde shooter, who went out on his 18th birthday to legally buy some automatic rifles. Or the discussions on lowering age limits for sex change medications and procedures, including "puberty blockers", which due to the low age at which puberty begins always target young children below the minimum age of consent.
I am taking no stance here on the availability of guns or sex change procedures to responsible adults, that is a different discussion. But what we are saying here is that somebody who can't be trusted with a bottle of beer is responsible enough to handle weapons designed for mass killings or to make irreversible life-changing medical decisions. Both sides are sacrificing their children on the altar of culture wars, with a huge potential for self-harm and harm to others. Shouldn't there be a more consistent system of how much responsibility a child can have?