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Hazmatac
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Dave I agree that it *tries* to be based on observation of conduct, but I think its safe to say that it's by no means precise. It's a SWAG at best, IMO.

Personally, I wouldn't object to some kind of "coming of age" based ... ritual, for lack of a better word ... which a person would have to complete and be evaluated to judge them as being at a point where they are capable of fully exercising their ability to reason. The key here would, I suspect, be how to determine if they have the *capability* - while resisting the temptation to evaluate whether or not they *will* execute their reason fully.

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Personally, I wouldn't object to some kind of "coming of age" based ... ritual, for lack of a better word ... which a person would have to complete and be evaluated to judge them as being at a point where they are capable of fully exercising their ability to reason.
Yeah, I'm not particularly satisfied with an age-based system, but I don't see any realistic alternatives. The thing about age as a basis is that it isn't thwarted by evaders -- if you are not dead at 18, you will be treated as an adult, and you must take responsibility for your actions. With a performance-based system, you can simply fail the test and thus become a burden on your parents or society. (Bearing in mind that parents are responsible for the actions of their children, and this is a responsibility that legally cannot be shirked trivially).

Besides, in the current climate, I believe that the test would involve professing the credo of self-sacrifice, thus would be inversely correlated to actual mental maturity.

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Yeah, I'm not particularly satisfied with an age-based system, but I don't see any realistic alternatives. The thing about age as a basis is that it isn't thwarted by evaders -- if you are not dead at 18, you will be treated as an adult, and you must take responsibility for your actions. With a performance-based system, you can simply fail the test and thus become a burden on your parents or society. (Bearing in mind that parents are responsible for the actions of their children, and this is a responsibility that legally cannot be shirked trivially).

If we are talking hypothetically, then perhaps a system by which one could achieve full maturity early, with an age-limit (21?) to allow parents to escape the grip of a moocher child. I use 21 only because from my understanding, some research suggests that maturity/reason centers in the brain do not fully develop until the late teens/early 20's.

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Yeah, I'm not particularly satisfied with an age-based system, but I don't see any realistic alternatives. The thing about age as a basis is that it isn't thwarted by evaders -- if you are not dead at 18, you will be treated as an adult, and you must take responsibility for your actions. With a performance-based system, you can simply fail the test and thus become a burden on your parents or society. (Bearing in mind that parents are responsible for the actions of their children, and this is a responsibility that legally cannot be shirked trivially).

Besides, in the current climate, I believe that the test would involve professing the credo of self-sacrifice, thus would be inversely correlated to actual mental maturity.

There are currently, in the various states, differing legal ages (age of majority) at which a child can get married, and in some states there's an exception on condition of parental approval, such that, with parental permission, a child can get married at 16, I believe (but perhaps it's as young as 14).

Why not handle the issue in that manner?

The parents, who know their child best, can determine whether or not their child is responsible enough to get married (or be considered a responsible adult). Let the parents come up with a performance-based test themselves.

Also, get rid of child labor laws or put the same conditions on them if legal conditions are needed -- with parental permission, a child can go to work as an adult, when the parents think they are ready. (Of course, when the employer thinks they are as well.)

There would still be a legal age of majority due to the need for objectivity, but this manner of exception would allow children who are ready prior to the age of majority to be considered and treated as the adults they've proven themselves to be.

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If we are talking hypothetically, then perhaps a system by which one could achieve full maturity early, with an age-limit (21?) to allow parents to escape the grip of a moocher child. I use 21 only because from my understanding, some research suggests that maturity/reason centers in the brain do not fully develop until the late teens/early 20's.
I think that's a plausible alternative. It's not too much different from the current one where you can get exceptionally emancipated before the statutory age. I don't know the practical details of emancipation, that is, I don't know if courts are generally inclined to accept or to reject petitions. Dang privacy laws make it pretty much impossible to research the question.
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The parents, who know their child best, can determine whether or not their child is responsible enough to get married (or be considered a responsible adult). Let the parents come up with a performance-based test themselves.

My experience as a parent and dealing with other parents is that sometimes the parent really doesn't know their child all that well.

For example the mother or father who lie for their children to cover up their own failures of responsibility, the parents who are convinced that little Johnny or Jill is a perfect angel but they are actually drug using bullies and thugs in training.

No, any standard must be removed from feelings.

I don't think an arbitrary age can be avoided at this time. Some sort of non-confrontational emancipation could be applied with the child seeking the responsibility prior to the age of majority but that age can not be made something that can be avoided, or subject to emotional whim.

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The parents, who know their child best, can determine whether or not their child is responsible enough to get married (or be considered a responsible adult). Let the parents come up with a performance-based test themselves.
I would not trust a home-brewed test of that kind. It would not be implausible that some jackass parent would say "If he can shoot straight, he's an adult", and then we have a 10 year old gang-banger buying guns and killing people who he doesn't like, then he'd be off to jail for the rest of his life. Someone needs to be the custodian of his rights until he actually is mature enough to understand the consequences of murder. Obviously this happens without a system of parentally-devised emancipation "tests". Since unleashing children has consequences for the rights of other, there has to be a system whereby the rights of others are protected against the actions of children.
Also, get rid of child labor laws
Yeah, that should go without saying. Such laws go well beyond the proper function of parental-approval.
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I would not trust a home-brewed test of that kind. It would not be implausible that some jackass parent would say "If he can shoot straight, he's an adult", and then we have a 10 year old gang-banger buying guns and killing people who he doesn't like, then he'd be off to jail for the rest of his life. Someone needs to be the custodian of his rights until he actually is mature enough to understand the consequences of murder. Obviously this happens without a system of parentally-devised emancipation "tests". Since unleashing children has consequences for the rights of other, there has to be a system whereby the rights of others are protected against the actions of children.Yeah, that should go without saying. Such laws go well beyond the proper function of parental-approval.

I wasn't suggesting that any age under the age of majority would be appropriate, but that some younger age than the age of majority, perhaps 16 or 14, for example, could be available with the discretion and permission of the parents. I don't know how this currently works -- in states that have such laws that permit 16 or 14 year olds to marry if the parents give permission. Is that all that's required, simply the permission of the parents, or does that just begin a legal process of determination?

Just because the parents judge that their child meets the requirements of an adult, doesn't require or mean that others will; they'll have to make their own judgement about the child themselves. But at least children who the parent consider to be exceptionally responsible wouldn't be held down due to the maturity level of others. It would be a legally available options with conditions in order to make exceptions for particularly responsible children under the age of majority.

I do understand the potential for abuse, such as your 10 (or 14 or 16) year old gang-banger, but the same potential exists even with an age of majority set at 18 or 21. (Perhaps that's what you mean by, "Obviously this happens without a system of parentally-devised emancipation "tests.") Should we not have an age of majority due to the fact that some young adults, at the age of majority, are irresponsible and resort to crime?

Being considered to be an adult at an earlier age than the age of majority doesn't require that others treat the child as responsible adult blindly, excepting that the child is held legally responsible as an adult. An employer doesn't have to, by law, hire such a child (but he could without legal penalty), nor does a landlord have to rent to such a child (but he could without legal penalty), etc. Nor does it require that a gun shop sell the child a gun (so that he can get on with his gang-banging future); it just means that he could sell such a child a gun without legal penalty.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see your worry as sufficient argument against the idea, or the option, of a parentally-devised emancipation test. Rather, it seems that you're going to penalize the responsible parents and children due to the problems of the irresponsible.

What am I missing?

[i should not have said "parentally-devised emancipation test" in my last sentence. I mean something along the lines of a process that rests upon, in part at least, or begins with the parent's permission, not just a parent's whim.]

Edited by Trebor
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I wasn't suggesting that any age under the age of majority would be appropriate, but that some younger age than the age of majority, perhaps 16 or 14, for example, could be available with the discretion and permission of the parents.
Well, to some extent this is already possible. The most wide-spread is the marriage age; there's also early enlistment in the military; back in the day there was "early drinking" (in the presence of the parent) though I suspect that went away with neo-prohibitionism.
Should we not have an age of majority due to the fact that some young adults, at the age of majority, are irresponsible and resort to crime?
No, I'm just saying that I don't trust the parents' judgment automatically, so I'm like to see some objective test (because the age of majority has real consequences for my rights).
[i should not have said "parentally-devised emancipation test" in my last sentence. I mean something along the lines of a process that rests upon, in part at least, or begins with the parent's permission, not just a parent's whim.]
I agree, you should not have, also in the earlier post. If the proposal is that there be an objective test that has as its first step parental permission, then we would have a credible alternative to waiting until age 18 to enjoys the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. My objection is basically to the idea that the 'rents exclusively should make that determination.
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I suppose such an objective test would test the child's ability to conceptualize and reason on a level equal or greater than an "average" adult regardless of whether or not the child would use this ability. First, it would probably be difficult to devise such an "average" adult rationality, and second it probably wouldn't be an easy task to test for it in others.

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Instead of adult legal age, the child could emancipate himself legally to adulhood when he's ready, relieving his parents from their responsibility.

So the child who sees the irresponsibility of childhood as a benefit to his delinquent ways can continue to mooch off of his parents and burden society forever?

No thanks.

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Good parenting is possible.

Of course it is but you don't make laws based on the majority.

The majority of parents do a good job, but there are a minority for whom such requirements are necessary.

Edited to add...

I've also seen parents who do everything "right" but still have children who are useless, mooching thugs and criminals.

Edited by Zip
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  • 2 months later...

What I want to know is, why should it be a government decree that sets the age of majority?

How about if there were a number of different ways in which an individual could be declared an adult? In an Objectivist society, there could be a test or even a set of tests available that a young person (obviously one who has reached puberty since that is nature's gauge of adulthood) could take and prove himself to be mentally capable of supporting himself. There are tests for young people who were in car accidents and suffered brain damage for example. At age 18 they must undergo such tests in order to determine if they are capable of managing their property (e.g. settlement from the insurance, which up to then has been managed by their guardians of property).

Some variation of that kind of testing, plus I imagine a test that shows the individual has a clear understanding of the law (which would be a much simpler matter since there would be no non-objective laws, after all).

And there could also be the right of parents to apply to the Court to have their offspring declared adults, if by such & such an age (whether it's 18, 21, 25 or any age in between or beyond) the child has shown no signs of shifting himself to do it, preferring to be supported by the parents beyond the time when the parents are willing to do so. These days many parents ARE willing to support a child thru university, but at some point the parents may be ready to say, "Enough!"

Anyway, I do not think it is something for government to decree, but rather the Courts should be available for teens who wish to be declared adults, and for parents who wish to have their able-minded children declared adults.

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What I want to know is, why should it be a government decree that sets the age of majority?
What does "majority" refer to? Something legal. Who makes law? The government.
In an Objectivist society, there could be a test or even a set of tests available that a young person (obviously one who has reached puberty since that is nature's gauge of adulthood) could take and prove himself to be mentally capable of supporting himself.
Not obvious. The important question is, is the person able to act rationally and recognize and respect rights? That has to do with mental maturity, not reproductive capacity.
There are tests for young people who were in car accidents and suffered brain damage for example. At age 18 they must undergo such tests in order to determine if they are capable of managing their property (e.g. settlement from the insurance, which up to then has been managed by their guardians of property).
Factor in the problem of failing the test -- that means that someone else must be the custodian of your rights. This is comparable to the problem of parents of retarded children. Open-ended custodial care imposes a burden on a few others; usually a small and manageable burden, but not small and manageable if you have a lousy exam (comparable to many graduation exams). There is no reason to legally mandate a further burden on parents past the child's age 18. It happens automatically -- of course parents could, if they want, continue to take care of their child for decades. The parent needs prove nothing to dispose of the responsibility imposed on them by the fact of birth.
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That brain development does not reach full maturity until 16-17 years of age. One of the last parts to develop fully is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex which is believed to be used in risk assessment and decision making.

For an example of the practical effects, one study provided people with 4 sets of cards. 2 sets were advantageous overall and two were disadvantageous. The disadvantageous ones had extremely high "wins," but not high enough to overcome the more numerous losses. The advantageous ones had smaller wins, but would net greater rewards over time. Prior to the age of 17, the big wins of the disadvantageous sets had emotional appeal and the feedback loop overtime were not regarded enough to cause them to adjust their behavior. With adults over that age, the slow wins would eventually cause them to prefer the advantageous decks.

Certainly their are outliers, but generally speaking, 18 is a good age to assume that the individual is at least biologically capable of assessing risk rationally, choosing delayed gratification, and making better long term decisions.

I agree that there is a certain amount of arbitrariness, but the difference for the vast majority of individuals will be in months and not years of time.

Also, I don't mean to imply that modern nueroscience is the basis of the laws surrounding the age of majority, but centuries of experience have probably shown the practical effects of this fact to be fairly consistent and societies have made laws accordingly.

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What does "majority" refer to? Something legal. Who makes law? The government.

Not obvious. The important question is, is the person able to act rationally and recognize and respect rights? That has to do with mental maturity, not reproductive capacity.

Factor in the problem of failing the test -- that means that someone else must be the custodian of your rights. This is comparable to the problem of parents of retarded children. Open-ended custodial care imposes a burden on a few others; usually a small and manageable burden, but not small and manageable if you have a lousy exam (comparable to many graduation exams). There is no reason to legally mandate a further burden on parents past the child's age 18. It happens automatically -- of course parents could, if they want, continue to take care of their child for decades. The parent needs prove nothing to dispose of the responsibility imposed on them by the fact of birth.

Fair enough. Then "age of majority" is the wrong term. How about "adulthood"? This is the concept I was thinking of in the first place, and why I suggested that the person must be able to reproduce as one condition for being able to apply to take the test. There are many bright 10 year olds out there, and in a proper kind of society people would develop mental maturity at an earlier age. Should they be able to get themselves declared as adults because they can pass a test? How much mental maturity is enough? What kind of test should apply for deciding?

I see your point that the government is supposed to make laws and this appears to be a legal question. As I see it, the question of when a person ought to be deemed to have reached adulthood is also a moral question. What is the proper approach?

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  • 1 month later...

*** Mod's note: Merged this post into an existing thread about legal age. - sN ***

Ok, I'm quite sure this has been done before but why the heck to we have age limitations in America?

So I was thinking about how in less than a month I will turn 18 and at which point I will be able to work at the meat department at the grocery store I work at. Then an important question came to mind. "Why can't I just start now?" I mean is there some *Magical* difference between me now and me in 2 weeks? Then I began to think about what Ayn Rand would say about this. So I related it to the economy (easy way to find out what she would say :)) What's the difference between me now and me in 1 year when I can begin to legally smoke? Not much, I would have graduated high school perhaps but that doesn't change my ability to inject cancer into my lungs. So I got thinking:

Why the Age Limit at all?

Alright so if a 15 year old can now go out and by beer what's the big deal. YES, drinking at that age is bad for your health and can really cause problems however that doesn't mean that the government should be telling us what we can and cannot buy. It should be our parents and we should learn to be responsible for our actions. Or what if a 14 year old got her drivers license what does that change? Okay, so she goes out and get's killed in some tragic accident and her family suffers and etc. HOWEVER, it was the parents responsibility to only let her drive if she was ready for it, and it was the-we'll call him the "Drivers ed. Teacher" for now-'s responsibility to ensure that she wasn't allowed on the streets until she was ready and it was HER responsibility to consider the the consequences of her actions and the impact it would have on her family. (And her, may she rest in peace.)

I don't know maybe I'm just crazy but I think that this is one of the biggest restrictions on society today, maybe it's just me...

Edited by softwareNerd
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Ageism is like racism and sexism: a sad prejudice.

There's till a real problem to take in consideration, though, because nobody is born with instant knowledge and self-responsibility. When a child is still ignorant and dependent on one's parents, the parents have to be responsible for the child. For instance, it would be unfair to arrest a toddler for taking an item from a shop. As the child grows knowledge it can gain more responsibility. This is progressive, not sudden, and it's not age bound either.

The suddent boundary between childhood and adulthood is artificial and is simply a practical matter.

Age laws also have a degree of social responsibility. We live by the idea that parents cannot or even should not watch their children all the time, and as such cannot be blamed for all wrongs they commit.

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Age restrictions (some of them, at least) are proper for the same reason that it is proper for the government to enforce the obligation of parents to feed, clothe, etc. their children properly. Just like children cannot be expected to make their own living, they cannot always be expected to be able to make sufficiently well-informed decisions on how much alcohol to drink, what drugs to take, how fast to drive, etc.

This applies especially to newborns and very young children. Children who are brought up by good parents and teachers gain the ability to act responsibly much sooner than the legal age; however, children with lousy parents and teachers need a longer exposure to the real world in order to acquire the necessary knowledge. Plus, our present culture often encourages teenagers to "rebel," and the unnamed adversary they usually end up rebelling against is reason and reality--meaning that they cannot be expected to act responsibly until after the end of this rebellious age. In a more rational culture, the legal age could probably be lower--but until we get there, it is proper for the law to be based on the current conditions.

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Alright so if a 15 year old can now go out and by beer what's the big deal. YES, drinking at that age is bad for your health and can really cause problems however that doesn't mean that the government should be telling us what we can and cannot buy. It should be our parents and we should learn to be responsible for our actions. Or what if a 14 year old got her drivers license what does that change? Okay, so she goes out and get's killed in some tragic accident and her family suffers and etc. HOWEVER, it was the parents responsibility to only let her drive if she was ready for it

It is not OK to sell beer to a 15 year old, because his parents did not agree with it: it is his parents' prerogative to decide whether he's allowed to buy it or not, and the Law should simply enforce that parental right.

And driver's licenses are also the road owner's responsibility, because it is their job to make their roads safe. Roads should not be publicly owned, but in private ownership it would still be ridiculous for someone to allow 14 year olds to drive around on most roads.

Age limitations are not magical: if you look around on a city street, you'll notice that there are a bunch of very short people walking around, usually in the company of regular size people. Barring the occasional midget, these are called children, and we all, at some point (not magically, very naturally) have been children: we were unable to live on our own, we needed adults to take care of us. Lawmakers recognized this metaphysically given fact (again, not magical), and did the one thing they could do: based on the experience of previous generations, they have determined the most appropriate age limit above which most humans are automatically considered to be fully responsible, and have their full rights recognized, in the eyes of the Law. That limit is, according to a pretty wide consensus around Western civilization, 18.

It is unfortunate that some governments, such as most US states, see fit to restrict some rights until the age of 21, without adequate justification, IMO. This has more to do with Puritanism's remnants such as the wars on vice and drugs, than any rational considerations of the average 20-year-old's ability to reason. Also, some of the laws (such as the one you mentioned, about not being allowed to work around meat I think?), are stupid, usually based on modern government's tendency toward limitless power over society and the economy.

Ageism is like racism and sexism: a sad prejudice.

That's only true if children have the exact same range of actual rational abilities as white, black, male and female grownups do. You keep stating that they do, on this forum, but then refuse to acknowledge the many obvious arguments against such a ridiculous statement (such as what if a three year old wants to go to school at Disneyland for the next five years, as they would clearly want to, if allowed?). It is called Argumentum ad nauseam, and it is becoming very tiring to remind you of it every single time.

Why do you insist on doing it? Why don't you just address the arguments against your positions so many people have already made in other threads?

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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