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On Age Limits

Posted February 1st, 2012 at 9:51 PM by twocows
Updated February 1st, 2012 at 10:03 PM by twocows (update)

Take the following to be true:
0. Human happiness has inherent value. Human life has inherent value because of the previous. Human liberty has inherent value insofar as it does not negatively impact the two former.

1. Age limits (ala consent, alcohol, etc.) are a compromise. There are people below the age limit mature enough to handle the responsibilities and above the age limit immature enough not to handle them.

2. It is morally wrong for an adult to have sex with or to sell alcohol to one of these "irresponsible people" because they may get hurt or hurt others, thus impacting their happiness and that of others (this is the supposed moral foundation for these sorts of laws).

Then it must also be the case that:
3. There is a set of people above the age limit who are not prepared for the responsibilities (1) and whose happiness or right to life may be impacted as a result (0, 2).

4. There is a set of people below the age limit who are prepared for the responsibilities (1) and whose liberty is impacted by these laws, and thus potentially their happiness (0).

And thus,
5. Laws mandating age restrictions and those who support them are inherently acting immorally. They restrict the liberty of those mature enough to handle responsibilities (4) and harm those not mature enough to handle them (3).

Know someone who died to a drunk driver? Then you know someone who probably died because our society as a whole refuses to work toward fixing age-restricted laws. Yes, I'm making an appeal to emotion here, but it shows exactly what the problem is. Some people above the age limit are just not ready to handle those responsibilities.

Laws that mandate age restrictions are a compromise. They are a "patch" to the law to balance the number of people who will die or be significantly harmed through irresponsibility against those who will have their freedom restricted. The people who support these laws are condoning the sacrifice of the minority's happiness to benefit the majority's. They compromise on the very values upon which our society is predicated.

Maybe that's fine with you, though. Maybe you think it's a necessary sacrifice, that there's no other way. If that's the case, surely there has been a lot of dialogue over coming up with a better way? There hasn't. Nobody talks about this issue, everybody accepts the "required sacrifice" argument at face value. Maybe there isn't a better way; maybe we're doomed to balance liberty against life forevermore. I don't buy it. Regardless, what harm could possibly come from trying to find a better solution? Isn't it worth it to make life a little better for those few of us affected by these issues?

I proposed an idea a while back in OC regarding age of consent. As some people mentioned, it'd probably have some problems with implementation, but I'm only one person (and not one particularly familiar with economics). These are things that everyone needs to come together and work toward a solution on. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people in the world, surely we can come up with a solution to this that's better than "liberty versus death."
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  1. Old Comment
    twocows's Avatar
    Updated my example to be less certain when it's supposed to be probabilistic.
    Posted February 1st, 2012 at 10:02 PM by twocows twocows is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Esper's Avatar
    Still not sure how you determine who is and isn't responsible enough for sex, alcohol, etc. And how can you be sure that a responsible person will not have a lapse in responsibility?

    Now if we had more "safety nets" in place I'd be a lot more okay with not having age restrictions. What I mean is, we would have free and widely available health clinics with counselors and medical professionals and the like for people interested in having sex so they could know beforehand what they're getting into and have somewhere to go to after in case they have more questions or just need help. You'd also need a lot of safe, supervised places where young people could drink, learn their limits, and not cause harm to others or themselves. We'd have to take a lot of things more seriously, like how we educate people to be respectful to others' choices, sexualities, identities, etc. I would not want to see some 15 year old boy feeling totally free to have sex if he thought it was okay to take advantage of someone whose decision making was impaired by alcohol. Basically, we need to have systems in place to make things as safe as possible, but more importantly we need to get people to want to be safe and care about the safety of other people.
    Posted February 2nd, 2012 at 8:31 AM by Esper Esper is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Oryx's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Scarf View Comment
    You'd also need a lot of safe, supervised places where young people could drink, learn their limits, and not cause harm to others or themselves.
    This is the best solution I think tbh, even though it's really difficult to implement. Maybe have places that are designed for younger people to drink and have people trained to deal with younger people drinking, so they have a license to let people drink there that are below the age limit? That would serve the dual purpose of de-stigmatizing the idea of alcohol (which is one of the big reasons why people drink until they black out, because it's not allowed and they never learned to drink any other way) and letting kids get the "I WANNA DRINK A LOT" out of their system. I know when I first started drink I personally was like "wow, this is...really cool. I want to do this more!" before I mellowed out about it, and I'm a responsible person. An irresponsible person, once discovering they could get drunk, would be much more likely to go way too far until they mellowed out on it as well.

    The biggest problem is that I'm trying to think of it like driving, with supervised driving and such, but the reality of it is that driving can be policed like that because of the roads. Drinking is masked by homes and parties and such so it's not something we can control like driving.
    Posted February 2nd, 2012 at 10:25 AM by Oryx Oryx is offline

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