Why is “more” nearly always believed to be better than “less”?
Sometimes this is a very practical question, such as whether taking more of a particular drug/medicine is more beneficial than taking less. For example if you have a blinding headache taking more and more paracetamol won’t do you a lot of good!
On the other hand the question can also be far more philosophical, and I want to raise such a question now …. about voting rights. But first, a little history.
- From 1265, only a few percent of the adult male population in England (of which Wales was a full and equal member from 1542) were able to vote in parliamentary elections that occurred at irregular intervals to the Parliament of England.
- In 1432, King Henry VI established that only owners of property worth at least forty shillings, a significant sum, were entitled to vote in an English county. The franchise was restricted to males by custom rather than statute.
- Reform Act 1832 – extended voting rights to adult males who rented propertied land of a certain value, which allowed 1 in 7 males in the UK voting rights.
- Reform Act 1867 – extended the franchise to men in urban areas who met a property qualification, so increasing male suffrage.
- Representation of the People Act 1884 – addressed imbalances between the boroughs and the countryside; this brought the voting population to 5,500,000, although 40% of males were still disenfranchised because of the property qualification.
- In 1918, all men over 21 and women over 30 won the right to vote
- In 1928 all women over 21 won the right to vote resulting in universal suffrage.
- In 1969 everyone over 18 won the right to vote.
As you can see, since the year 1265, MORE people have been given the right to vote on the basis of property ownership, or gender, or age, so that today all citizens over the age of 18 are allowed to vote in elections and referendums. There is no additional qualification on the basis of gender, property, income or wealth.
So what’s my point, and the purpose of my question?
A couple of months back there was a debate about reducing the voting age to 16 with the bulk of the argument in favour going like this:
“There seems something immoral about allowing young people to work, pay tax and put their life on the line for their country by enlisting in the army, but to give them no say in how our country is operated. These young people are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of political decisions for longer than any other demographic, and they should be given the option of having a say.”
It was the way that the question about 16 year olds was phrased that got me thinking: “…… work, pay tax, put lives on the line….”?
So, should 16 year olds who DON”T work or pay tax be given the vote is surely a legitimate way to ask the question too? And how about whether 18 year olds should be allowed to vote if they are not taxpayers, or any other age group for example? These questions are no different from recent suggestions that people over the age of 60 should not have been given a vote in the EU Referendum because “they have had their time and are affected less by the outcome”. Or that voters under the age of 30 should get TWO votes. There is no doubt that in some cases these questions are raised from a political perspective because they were put forward by people from the “losing group”, but equally there is a philosophical perspective where culturally we MUST ask these questions related to improving our culture, our society. We should definitely never ask such questions solely to improve our own position on something in the short term, as Dear Jeremy is clearly doing.