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The Trap of Incrementalism in the Political Inclusion of Children.

Thirty years on from the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international norm for the age of political majority remains set at 18 years of age. With few exceptions, those under 18 are denied access to the single most important component of formal political participation – the right to vote in elections (whether local or national). Practical efforts have primarily been focused on the incremental inclusion of older children into the franchise, via attempts to lower the voting age to sixteen. Theoretical arguments, by contrast, have defended a much more expansive position on the inclusion of children, whether lowering the age to 14, 12, or even eliminating age limits entirely. In this paper, I explore the gap between practice and theory. I argue that proponents of children’s enfranchisement should commit to arguing, at the practical level, for drastic changes to our democratic systems, so as, if successful, to enfranchise all those children who have a strong claim to political inclusion, rather than merely those closest to 18 years of age. Such a commitment to the theoretically more defensible (although politically less likely) positions could work to the advantage of children, by making moves such as the lowering of the voting age into the reasonable compromise position, rather than an extreme to be opposed.
Conference Contribution
Type of thesis
Munn, N. (2019). The Trap of Incrementalism in the Political Inclusion of Children. Presented at the From a Protected to an Empowered Childhood, KU Leuven.