media punk

The phrase “crisis is actually an opportunity” is often repeated these days. Sometimes it can be true. However, at other times this approach is used to push through some really crazy ideas. This can be said about the proposal that came from Elina Egle, chief of Employers’ Confederation of Latvia.

What Egle proposed seems a progressive idea at a glance. “Perhaps it is about time to give the right to vote also to children,” she said to journalists. But of course it had nothing to do with the rights of the children. Egle explained that their right to vote would be given to their parents. In other words, it would not be the child itself (even if we are talking about, let’s say, a 16 years old person) who would get the possibility to vote. Instead, the child’s mother or father would be given some extra votes, though unknown how many.

I guess Egle has never read the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the 1st article of which clearly stipulates: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights .” To give somebody more votes just because he or she has procreated would entail the contrary – that human beings are not equal. In a similar fashion one could try to argue that those who have paid at least X amount in taxes or have an Y level of education should get extra votes in election. Perhaps this can be justified by utilitarian arguments, but democracy has as its cornerstone the principle of one vote for every citizen. As philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote hundreds of years ago: “Everybody count for one, and nobody for more than one.”

One thing is clear though. This proposal has more to do with the elderly people than with children. The whole point behind Egle’s idea is to diminish the political influence of pensioners by giving more power to the families with children. The argumentation goes like this (I don’t personally agree with this kind of “logic” though). Pensioners are basically just a burden on the state budget, they do not create anything, they just consume. And there is a whole lot of them, which means it is a big part of electorate ready to support populist politicians. On the other hand, families with children are our future. They raise the new citizens, they work hard and pay taxes, and they are a much more realistic and rational part of the electorate. So what to do if those damn pensioners just vote for the wrong parties, while poor families with their kids cannot get their will through? Right, let’s give the families more votes, and let’s claim that these are the votes for the little ones, the bright future of our country.

Smells like cheap populism to me, and much worse kind than the one that is used to get the votes of the pensioners. The idea is anti-democratic from beginning to the end. Trying to at least partly exclude a whole group of society from political participation cannot be considered democratic. Neither is the idea that some citizens can have more votes than others acceptable. I just hope that even in these turbulent times such populist ideas will not get through. Otherwise those cherished kids, the future of our country, will perhaps never ever get to vote – because the democracy will be abolished in the name of, well, whatever the populist creed will invent to justify it.

Didzis Melbiksis

Multilingual citizen. Europe, Sweden, media, politics.

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