Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

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Saurus33
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Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Saurus33 » Fri Feb 06, 2009 9:54 am UTC

I was reading through N&A, and I noticed a disparity between the age at which a person can legally commit a criminal act, and the age at which a person can legally vote, own property, buy a gun, and so-on. Considering that these ages are supposedly based on the idea that at a certain age a person understands their actions, and the consequences thereof, it seems distinctly odd that there is a gap between them.

Thoughts?

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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:39 am UTC

It would be pretty readily accepted that a young child is not as capable of making informed decisions as a thirty-year-old is. It is often determined that 18-year-olds are old enough to vote, but that you can be younger and consent to sex. Trying to standardize an age for all purposes would probably be impractical... if a male started puberty at 12, he may well be mature enough to have sex at 15, but it probably wouldn't be a good idea to let him apply for a credit card. There is also a lot about maturity that is to do with culture... the drinking age may be lower in much of Europe but it is also a taboo to get drunk or binge drink. Thus, binge drinking isn't as prevalent.

For interest, the consent ages for various activities vary widely from place to place:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adult#Legal_adulthood
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Age_of_Consent.png
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_maj ... bdivisions
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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Malice » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:46 am UTC

Saurus33 wrote:I was reading through N&A, and I noticed a disparity between the age at which a person can legally commit a criminal act, and the age at which a person can legally vote, own property, buy a gun, and so-on. Considering that these ages are supposedly based on the idea that at a certain age a person understands their actions, and the consequences thereof, it seems distinctly odd that there is a gap between them.

Thoughts?


If I'm not mistaken, US law has those ages the same, except in special circumstances, mostly crimes so heinous that it is in the best interest of the public to keep them in prison and keep the record of their crime, which means charging them as an adult.
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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Amarantha » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:49 am UTC

It always bothered me in my late teens that I was considered an adult as far as admission fees etc went, but not in the case of adult freedoms. It was like, "Yeah, you're old enough now to pay full price for movie tickets and train tickets... what? no, you don't get any rights in return. Wait three more years."

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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby JBJ » Fri Feb 06, 2009 8:50 pm UTC

It seems as though one of the issues for defining an age for capacity/consent/majority/responsibility is that it varies greatly by individual. The selected age limits don't appear to have any scientific or statistical basis, but they do correlate to a gradual increase in available responsibilities, and hopefully maturity.

In the U.S., you can begin work at the age of 14, although there are restrictions on the type of work and the number of hours worked until you reach 16. At 16, the restrictions open up a little such as working up to 30 hours/wk during school session, and 40/week during the summer. At 18, as a legal adult, you can work as much as you want.

Money management usually begins with an allowance or payment for chores at a young age, leading up to near self-sufficiency with a checking account, ATM card, or credit card in the late teens. At that point, teens are often expected to pay for their own car, gas, insurance, or luxury items they may want.

You can begin driving a car at age 15 in many US states (with a guardian), and at 16 without supervision, although there may be time restrictions until 17 or 18.

Age of sexual consent in a number of states is 16, others 17, and a few at 18.

'R' rated movies are available without a guardian at the age of 17. (Which cracks me up that if I were 16 in the above states I could have sex but not see boobies on the big screen by myself)

Most people graduate high school at or around the age of 18 which corresponds to the age of majority.

I'm not saying these are the only milestones towards maturity, but they do represent the typical path for the majority of Americans. It's expected that you'll ease into many of the rights and responsibilities of adulthood with guidance, protection, and supervision. Some people may start earlier than others along the path. But there are people who may live a sheltered life in comparison who weren't guided into maturity by their parents. Now at age 18 or older they suddenly have all options available and without guidance or protection.

It seems more logical to me to grant full adult rights and privileges upon successful mastery of various prerequisites, theoretically making it possible for even a 16 year old to vote, get married, buy alcohol, etc... provided he/she passed all the requirements. It could also prevent someone who may be 30 years old from doing the same if they weren't mature enough. However, defining those requirements and coming up with a consistent, reliable testing method is impractical so instead we have a defined chronological age which fits the majority.
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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Telchar » Fri Feb 06, 2009 9:14 pm UTC

In relation to the criminal aspect, it is interesting and somewhat contreversial that one cannot have most mental disorders like schizophrenia until one is 18 according to the DSM-IV TR. While you could be exhibiting all the symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder, you do not actually have it until 18 and so can't use it as defense in a trial generally.
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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Simbera » Sat Feb 07, 2009 1:08 am UTC

Amarantha: I believe around the age you lose automatic concession status you gain the ability to enter the workforce (ie earn money to spend on the things).

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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby ManaUser » Sun Feb 08, 2009 1:38 am UTC

Telchar wrote:In relation to the criminal aspect, it is interesting and somewhat contreversial that one cannot have most mental disorders like schizophrenia until one is 18 according to the DSM-IV TR. While you could be exhibiting all the symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder, you do not actually have it until 18 and so can't use it as defense in a trial generally.

Really? That seriously needs to be fixed.

But on the other hand, being tried "as an adult" isn't all bad. It means you get a real trial, a jury, the presumption of innocence and all that, normally minors pretty much at the mercy of the judge.

Still it doesn't seem right to punish minors as harshly for their mistakes if they're not deemed capable enough to make other important decisions like voting. (Plus as a purely practical matter, I would think a young person could be more easily rehabilitated, so we should focus more on that than punishment.)

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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby psyck0 » Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:10 am UTC

Telchar wrote:In relation to the criminal aspect, it is interesting and somewhat contreversial that one cannot have most mental disorders like schizophrenia until one is 18 according to the DSM-IV TR. While you could be exhibiting all the symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder, you do not actually have it until 18 and so can't use it as defense in a trial generally.


You're misrepresenting the issue somewhat. Schizophrenia never seems to DEVELOP before age 18, which is why the put that criterion in there. There is an equivalent of antisocial personality disorder for younger children (actually 2, for different age ranges), based on the goal of helping the children NOT later develop antisocial personality disorder (which is much worse and again almost always develops later in life). I also don't think it's worth anything in court, because the person is still fully competent- they're not psychotic, but psychopathic.

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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Amarantha » Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:16 am UTC

Simbera wrote:Amarantha: I believe around the age you lose automatic concession status you gain the ability to enter the workforce (ie earn money to spend on the things).
Good point; I hadn't thought of that. And as a high-school student who'd chosen not to enter the workforce yet, I at least had the option of getting a concession card.

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Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby Compintuit » Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:39 pm UTC

Hello XKCD! I've been reading a lot around here, and have found this as one of the smartest places of discussion on the net. So I'm posting my problem here.

A great deal of my thoughts come down to the children - or rather, those who are judged unable to look after themselves/making responsible discussions. For the most part, that judging is done only on age. Why? What single property of age is there makes it uniquely suited to deciding so many things? i.e. driving, drinking, voting, marrying, copulating... I call the use of age limits age discrimination, because I feel that is what it is.

I have known many people older then me, and much less mature. I'm sure you've all seen that, too. I may be biased, but I feel myself much more capable of making the decisions in driving then some of my friends, who actually have their license. For the last election (in Canada), I felt myself more aware of the issues then 98% of Canadians. Why should I be barred from voting because of my age? It's a fact people mature differently - heck, for a while girls do faster then guys. I think age is a crappy way of deciding who is responsible.

But then, what other ways could there be? I'm trying to think of some - but it's difficult. Anyone have any suggestions for determining who is capable of making responsible decisions?
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Re: Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby GBog » Sun Feb 08, 2009 6:10 pm UTC

I don't think there are any good ways to measure maturity. Age limits are obviously arbitrary, but they have the advantage that they cannot be (secretly) manipulated by the current government/other interest groups.

For voting age, an alternative would be some kind of suffrage exam, which you would have to pass in order to gain the right to vote, but that opens up a whole range of difficulties. Who should decide which questions are on the exam? Should the exam test for general awareness of issues, or individual party platforms? How should the result of the exam be determined? Such an approach would be open for manipulation by those governing the test, who potentially could try and exclude those with undesirable political views from the voting mass. Also, it would be very costly.

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Re: Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby TheStranger » Sun Feb 08, 2009 6:20 pm UTC

Age is really one of the hard rules that can be applied to everyone (you either reach 18, or you die before). The exact age is always arbitrary (a given 17yo is no more mature then a given 18yo) but it since maturity has to be marked at some point...
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Re: Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby aging.child » Sun Feb 08, 2009 8:12 pm UTC

Just yesterday we were discussing this question in our ap history class. We were talking about what freedom is, because we were studying the Civil War era. What everything came down to was that most forms of government favor the society's well-being over the individual's rights. So yes, an individual should have the right to drive, drink, marry, etc., at any age, but if we let five year olds go around driving, drinking, marrying, etc., then our society will fall apart.

Interestingly, most of the class (we are 16-17 and mature for our age) preferred societal collapse to being denied rights because of our age. Some went so far as to say the government shouldn't impose any regulations, besides no killing, raping, stealing, things that harm someone else. Our biggest issue was whether children should be able to choose whether to go to school or not.

So I guess my question is, can we achieve any level of order in society without age discrimination? Or are the individual's rights more important than having an ordered society?
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Re: Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby ddxxdd » Sun Feb 08, 2009 9:15 pm UTC

aging.child wrote:So I guess my question is, can we achieve any level of order in society without age discrimination? Or are the individual's rights more important than having an ordered society?


Let's answer that question with specifics. Let me list all the areas where your age legally matters, and why:

1. Voting
~It matters because you need people making informed votes based on what affects them
2. Drinking
~We need people to drink responsibly, and we need to make sure that their bodies can handle the toxin.
3. Marrying
~We need people to be thoughtful enough to spend the rest of their lives together, right?
4. Signing up to become a model
~You need to be able to compare all of your life choices, and consider your odds, before you commit to becoming a full-time model.

So now the assumption here is that at 18, you have a pretty good idea of what your life is like, what your options in life are, and how the rest of society affects you. What gives your this knowledge? I have no idea, they don't teach you that in school. But it's a pretty good assumption that about 4 years out of puberty, when you lose some friends and make new ones, when you interact with the opposite sex, etc., is a good standard for knowing what to do with the rest of your life and choosing political leaders that will affect yours.
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Re: Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby yoni45 » Sun Feb 08, 2009 9:24 pm UTC

Age is, in fact, positively correlated to maturity. It might not be a perfect correlation, but it's nevertheless a strong correlation.

A given 10 year old is likely more mature than a given 5 year old. A given 17 year old is likely more mature than a given 10 year old. Is a given 18 year old likely more mature than a given 17 year old? Sure. The difference is simply much more negligible - but it's not the 18 year olds we're trying to separate from the 17th year olds. It's the 18 year olds from the 11 year olds, and the line has to be drawn 'somewhere'... We just decided on an anecdotally acceptable one.
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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Faranya » Sun Feb 08, 2009 9:28 pm UTC

ManaUser wrote:Still it doesn't seem right to punish minors as harshly for their mistakes if they're not deemed capable enough to make other important decisions like voting. (Plus as a purely practical matter, I would think a young person could be more easily rehabilitated, so we should focus more on that than punishment.)


Punish them as harshly?

I don't know about the US, but I do about Canada. The Youth Criminal justice act applies to people between 12 and 18. Because anyone who commits any crime before age 12 cannot be held legally responsible for their crime. Also, the maximum penalty for murder is 10 years, no more than 6 of which can be spent in prison, as illustrated by http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6287820.stm

Even "trial as an adult" does not apply until after 14.

I really disagree with the fact that children under twelve cannot be held criminally responsible. If the case in that link had happened six months earlier, she would have gotten off completely free. However, I do find the disparity peculiar.

At 16 you are old enough to be trusted with 2 tons of lethal vehicle. However, you are not old enough to cast a statistically insubstantial vote, or have a drink at a restaurant. At 12 you are considered perfectly capable of understanding to a degree the criminal nature of your actions, but unable to comprehend sex until 14? I know age limits are arbitrary, but one would think there would be some kind of intelligent guiding background into placing them. As it seems, they are just placed randomly on teen ages that end in an even number.
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Re: Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby TheStranger » Sun Feb 08, 2009 9:38 pm UTC

aging.child wrote:
So yes, an individual should have the right to drive, drink, marry, etc., at any age, but if we let five year olds go around driving, drinking, marrying, etc., then our society will fall apart.


How about smoke, live on their own, be legally responsible for their own well being?

I don't think that society would collapse... but I do think that you would end up with a good number of dead kids.

So I guess my question is, can we achieve any level of order in society without age discrimination? Or are the individual's rights more important than having an ordered society?


Some individuals are not ready to take on the full burden that comes along with full rights. Is a 6 year old ready to enter into a contract? Can a 8 year old hold down an apartment on their own? Is a 12 year old ready to hold down a full time job?
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Re: Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby Pa-Patch » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:33 pm UTC

It's arbitrary and not a great system, but the alternatives are worse. A line needs to be drawn SOMEWHERE, I don't think anyone supports 5 year old drivers or no driving 'till you're 40. You just need to try and find a good middle ground. And you obviously can't just subjectively decide that X person can't vote and Y can because of anything subjective.

Really, a lot of it comes down to the numbers of it all. Maybe 5 in 100 14 year-olds could vote as responsibly as the average adult, but that means we'd have 95 stupid votes screwing everything up. Do you think it causes more harm to make the few responsible ones wait a few years, or for the irresponsible majority to have too much power?
Or for a different facet: Would you rather have 1 person capable of choosing to have sex and 1 who isn't go without sex for a while, or have 1 person enjoying sex and 1 person being raped?
Drinking is one of the ones I think is really hard to argue against an age-based limit because the health effects are worse on younger people.

Keep in mind it's also not nearly as bad because, as opposed to other kinds of discrimination, we're not saying "You don't get to vote or drink". We're saying "You don't get to vote or drink YET, just in case you'd fuck it up. We're forcing all of you to wait until X age. After that, go crazy.".

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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Azrael » Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:04 pm UTC

Merged two threads with topics guaranteed to overlap significantly.

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Re: Age discrimination: is there a better way?

Postby Faranya » Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:58 pm UTC

Pa-Patch wrote:Or for a different facet: Would you rather have 1 person capable of choosing to have sex and 1 who isn't go without sex for a while, or have 1 person enjoying sex and 1 person being raped?


Why now, that's a rather idealistic view. Because everyone knows that teenagers will not have sex if it is illegal. The thing I've always had a problem with in this arguement is that rape is rape. It is rape if you rape a 12 year old, it is rape if you rape a 30 year old, it is rape if you rape a 90 year old. However, the age limit (especially really high age limits around 18) does nothing but criminalize consensual sex. This has it's own topic, so I'm not going to get into how you figure if it is rape or not.

As for driving, a 5 year old is going to flat out fail the driving test. They will never pass it. Thus, there would be no legal 5 year old drivers. You need to show a certain level of adequacy in order to be able to get a license, the age restriction is a completely separate condition from ability, which makes it seem arbitrary and pointless. I would rather driver's tests be more stringent, and share the road with a 14 year old who passed it than the 70 year old who ignores their deteriorating health.

Voting is a ridiculous point, because there are so many people who do not vote, our last election was down in the 60% turnout range, and there are so many who do vote for irrelevant reasons, such as family or geography. If one had to go obtain a permit to vote, even if it was nothing more than getting a sticker put on your driver's license, the resulting inconvenience might dissuade those with no sense of the issues, including the young, from casting votes.

My point I suppose it that there are mechanisms for dealing with incapable youth aside from an arbitrary line drawn in the sand.
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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Pa-Patch » Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:19 am UTC

A five year old taking a driving test could kill somebody.

Obviously, that's not what I meant by my rape example. If two responsible 14-year-olds want to have sex, I'm fine with it. I'm not supporting laws that say "No sex for under 18's", I'm supporting laws that say things along the line of "No sex between 14 year olds and 30 year-olds". I don't think it should be a thing of hard and fast rules either, but a line should be drawn somewhere. I'm thinking of say, an immature 8 year old girl having sex with a 30 year-old man. Just because it's not violent rape and she isn't screaming "No!" doesn't mean she's capable (emotionally or legally, and I don't want the legally to change) of saying yes, either.
Know that I'm not saying our current laws are where they should be. They need some fine-tuning and some loosening in some areas. I'm just defending that there should be laws at all.

There's a difference between people who vote stupidly and people who would be too lazy to vote if it took a bit more time. I'm not saying I'm a fan of those lazy voters, but stupid people can be just as vehement about their beliefs (often more so) than intelligent people. Unless you're supporting a system for getting a permit too complicated for young people, you're not going to stop stupid votes with that. If you are, you're just supporting a different mechanism.
Unless your views change between when you're 14 and 18, not being able to vote doesn't change much, because everyone is denied the vote for the same amount of time. If they do, I'd hazard saying that people's beliefs at 18 are generally more informed than theirs at 14.

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Re: Age Disparity Between Rights and Responsibilities

Postby Azrael » Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:09 am UTC

Not the place for discussing the particulars of consent law either. Please use the relevant (and active) thread.


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