July 27, 2007 | Graham

Procreate early, vote often

It must be one of the screwiest ideas to come out of a nominally intelligent person in quite a while. Labor MP Evan Thornley suggests that parents ought to be able to vote on behalf of their children under 18 years of age.

“Just imagine the radical change that would occur if parents voted not just on their own behalf but on behalf of their children, what that would bring to democracy, for investing in human capital, for investing in the next generation, for thinking about the environment and the longer-term future of our country…”

So last federal election I would have had 5 votes. One for me, and one for each of the kids. Thornley sees this as an advance with society moving from a property franchise to “one vote one value” and now “one person, one vote”. I guess there’s some sort of progression going on – you can’t vote for your wife anymore, so voting for your kids could be a good proxy.
Whoops. Now there’s a problem. Do I get to vote for the kids on my own, or do I have to share this right with their mothers? And how do we negotiate the voting balance as I’m pretty sure they don’t vote the same way I do. And what say should the kids have in this? And what rights would step-parents and adoptive parents have if the natural parents are still alive?
Thornley thinks that this change would tip the balance of power in favour of the future and such issues as “global warming, education funding and job creation”. But would it? Or would we be all casting votes in favour of Charlie Wonker after consultation with our off-spring?
Multi-millionaire Thornley has three children – more than the average – so perhaps is naturally predisposed to the idea. However, in general, the wealthier you are, the fewer children you have. I suspect there is a similar relationship between fecundity and “social progressiveness”.

“It would be a big change – yet hard, I would have thought, for the self-proclaimed ‘family values’ crowd on the other side of politics to oppose.”

More than a hint here of political positioning. Perhaps he’s chasing the Catholic vote, without having realised that Catholics no longer come in large families? (Although, according to our research, they do tend to vote Labor more than the general population).
Thornley floated the idea at The Australian Republican Movement conference in Melbourne where it was apparently warmly received. I’d be interested to see some regression analysis of the relationship between voting patterns in the republican referendum and family size.
Of course, we probably needn’t consult our kids, in which case we’d be skewing the system in favour of fertility, which doesn’t seem inherently reasonable to me. Who’s got more stake in the future – the parent or the capitalist? You might as well bring back the property franchise. In which case I wouldn’t get to vote at all. But worth $100 M Evan would get to spend all day filling out ballots.

Posted by Graham at 9:18 am | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. here’s another screwy idea: let’s vote directly for ministers. i bet we’d get better management of the nation.
    and let’s re-write the constitution to make the citizens the masters of the nation. we could have citizen initiative and recall, and a bill of rights.

    Comment by al loomis — July 27, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

  2. Oh great. So now on top of Are we there yet, are we there yet? and Can I have a lolly/ice cream/Happy Meal/X Box/PlayStation/laptop/iPod/plastic surgery/divorce from my parents? we are also set to be given our voting orders.
    Can you imagine it?
    I’ll have a Liberal in the lower and aaaaah, a Green in the upper. No. Wait. Make that an independent in the upper – the one with the hat. No, wait. I’ll have the Democrat with the drum kit in the upper.
    Sorry dear, they’ve run out of Liberals in the lower.
    It’s all your fault. If you hadn’t made me clean my room we could have got here in time to get a Liberal. I hate you.

    Comment by Lyn — July 27, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

  3. Just a point of observation, but shouldn’t you give the children the vote when they can think independently?
    Who can trust parents anyway? I mean they lie to their children constantly…santa, easter bunny, procreation? (but then I suppose the same could be said of politicians.)
    Supposing you decided to give parents their child’s vote, at what age would it stop and at what age would it begin? (think of the extremes)
    And then what’s the use giving more votes to the people that have lead the world to where it is?
    The loss of anonymity in voting perchance?
    Apologies to anyone who found certain sections missing endings, but thats what thinking is for….

    Comment by A-nonny-mouse — July 27, 2007 @ 10:33 pm

  4. You have hit the nail on the head with this crazy idea.
    Implementing it would cause incredible conflict within families, as two parent families worked out how to cast one vote or more.
    And why stop at kids, what about those in comas, those suffering senility, many others whose capacity make it impossible for them to vote.
    The collection of proxies in these circumstances would be a disaster for democracy.
    Nothing wrong with floating funky ideas, more politicians should do that, but when presenting ideas you’d like to think they’d given them more than a few minutes’ thought.
    Incredible that this guy has been promoted by some as whiz-kid. More like a dip-stick.

    Comment by Andrew Landeryou — July 28, 2007 @ 12:05 am

  5. Labor MP Evan Thornley must be an intellectual. No ordinary person would be so stupid.

    Comment by DIS — July 30, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

  6. We already have this system. On census night, parents write their religion against the names of their children, despite the fact that the kids are not yet old enough to know whether or not to believe in a superman in the sky. or even which one. Then these census figures are taken by religious power brokers to prove they should have more say in determining legislation, and thus we are slithering back into the bad old days of religious interference in politics…
    Pell for president anyone?

    Comment by Peter — August 5, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

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