Wednesday, June 22, 2011

John Seery's "Too Young to Run?"

Why shouldn't 18 year olds be eligible to be elected Members of the House, Senators, or even Presidents of the United States? Regular readers will know that this blog has endorsed the idea of dropping the minimum age for serving in elected office. I got that idea, as I've said, from the political theorist John Seery, and I still haven't heard a coherent argument against it. I see now that Seery has a new book out advocating a Constitutional amendment to lower the age of eligibility. It's not often I can recommend a book I haven't yet read, but I can make an exception here -- Seery is terrific, a wonderfully interesting and creative thinker, and from what I've read of his in the past he also writes clearly: no jargon. (By the way, I suppose I should be clear since I've written about them together: I picked up the idea of lowering the age of electoral eligibility from Seery; I have no idea how he feels about lowering the voting age, not to mention the perhaps crackpot idea of vote-from-birth).

I think I'll finish by just quoting the publisher's blurb:
Under the Constitution of the United States, those with political ambitions who aspire to serve in the federal government must be at least twenty-five to qualify for membership in the House of Representatives, thirty to run for the Senate, and thirty-five to become president. What is the justification for these age thresholds, and is it time to consider changing them? In this provocative and lively book, John Seery presents the case for a constitutional amendment to lower the age barrier to eighteen, the same age at which citizens become eligible to vote. He divides his argument into three sections. In a historical chapter, he traces the way in which the age qualifications became incorporated in the Constitution in the first place. In a theoretical chapter, he analyzes the normative arguments for office eligibility as a democratic right and liberty. And in a political chapter, he ruminates about the real-world consequences of passing such an amendment and the prospects for its passage. Finally, in a postscript, he argues that younger citizens in particular ought to be exposed to this fundamental issue in civics.


  1. I don't think there is anything wrong with it. It will still be up to the voters who should represent them, and you certainly can't argue older people/politicians are more mature.

  2. Its true, it is an odd Constitutional contradiction that I've been legally voting for 4 years, but it'll be another 3 years before I could legally hold federal elected office. Traditionally in most places in the US the standard is that anyone eligible to vote in a given election is therefore also eligible to run in that election. This rule is very reliable for state elections, but isn't true in all federal elections; there's the age exception and congressman like mine, Canseco, don't have to live in their districts, but that's another problem.

  3. Looks fascinating. Too bad it's $45.

  4. The number of 18 year olds who either deserve to be in Congress or would 1) run for Congress and 2) win is vanishingly small. Considering how difficult it is to amend the Constitution, there are far better and more significant changes we could focus on if we wanted to go through the effort.


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