In earlier posts, I discussed some thoughts about seeing intelligence in others. In particular, I am interested in how intelligence is recognized and acknowledged without imposing a requirement that the intelligence has to be familiar (such as being human-like or educated intelligence).
I also tied this in with the basic respect for others that is essential for non-coercive governments where rule by majority is enforced by consent of a super majority. In other words, although there may be a sizable group who consent to being ruled by those they oppose, and that consent goes to the extent of actively assisting the government to counter the remaining minority who withhold their consent. Protests are not sustainable or threatening if the government has a sufficient super-majority of consent. My focus was on one way to build and strengthen that super majority was through clear expression of acknowledging the intelligence and good will of opposing views even if they are not prevailing.
Today I want to talk about acknowledging intelligence as we grow up. How we respect the growing up process can have an impact on how we go about governing ourselves. At one extreme, the government can assume that mature adults can handle their business in a responsible manner without government interference. At the other extreme, the assumption is that most people need tight regulation and support to make up for their lack of idealized maturity. The former can describe some libertarian views and the latter can describe some highly regulatory views.
There are many models of the growth phases of people growing up. I’m going to propose my own (which undoubtedly is not original). It is based on 6 year milestones where we may acknowledge increasing responsibility and autonomy.
Briefly summarized my scheme defines the following phases:
- Phase 0: the child is an extension of the parents
- Phase 1: the child enters primary education from third party
- Phase 2: the youth is able to live independently, responsible only to himself
- Phase 3: the young adult is able to enter a broad commitment relationship with one other person with a collective responsibility
- Phase 4: the young adult can enter limited contracts with third parties with mutually agreed terms
- Phase 5: the adult can participate in groups that collectively can set contracts for populations including individuals who oppose them
- Phase 6: the adult can individually set contracts affecting populations that include individuals who oppose them
I left the age ranges out of the list, but I think the 6-year milestone works for each phase.
I suppose our ancestors saw a model somewhat like this. Over time this model degenerated into something approximately where age-specific maturity stops somewhere around phase 2 and 3. Advanced phases are granted through appointments or elections.
I see the government treating even its oldest citizens as if they haven’t grown up past the youth stage of development but that government grants a single individual full phase 6 authority based only on the fact he can win an election. We rely on elections and appointments to determine maturity above phase 2 or 3 of individual independence.
With that in mind, I’d like to start talking about phase 2 and work out from there. I start there based on personal experience that on reaching the age of 12, I felt a sense of being more independent. Although I didn’t take the opportunity, I felt I could live on my own and provide for my welfare. In our family, there was no special ceremony about turning 12. The closest may be the milestone of 13, but only because of the superficial right to claim to be a “teen”.
At around 12 years old, I felt if I could live independently if I had the opportunity to earn money. I lived in a rural area with some agricultural opportunities that could employ youths. I didn’t consider it, but there were some who did take advantage of that earning capability. I’m not sure about whether they took that opportunity to finance their independence.
In earlier times, though it was feasible to start living independently at that young of an age and work to take care of ones welfare. There was an important limitation though. That independence was limited to only being responsible for oneself. Generally, but not always, work opportunities were age appropriate to avoid excessive risks to that individual. However, work opportunities did not include jobs where the worker could work independently that can affect another person’s welfare. By this I mean that the youth’s work would generally be supervised by an older individual who would absorb any responsibility to others. Generally the jobs were low responsibility jobs with low pay. The pay could be sufficient to pay for basics of independent living albeit at a very low standard.
Jumping ahead to the next phase starting at 18 years is mostly centered on young-adult-marriage. I choose this term to say this is a specific subset of marriage as it applies to young adults in terms of their increasing maturity. At this phase of maturity we acknowledge the individual’s maturity to accept full responsibility for a single other adult who mutually agree to make decisions and accept resulting responsibilities collectively. This is a very broad concept of a contract to cover all of their needs instead of a narrower contract for a specific service. At this age, we accept that they can extend that shared responsibility to any offspring they may have.
This marriage-age phase allows for a joint effort but one of a near complete commitment to act as one person.
In contrast is the next phase where we allow individuals to enter into much more narrow contracts with third parties where both parties agree to narrow terms of the contract. In contrast to marriage contract, there is no broad acceptance of all aspects of welfare for both parties. Instead, the contract is limited to specific conditions committed to by both parties. This is requires a higher level of maturity because such contracts limit the responsibilities for consequences. For example, a contract may be for an exchange of a service for a price that is higher than what may be available elsewhere. As long as the service provider honors his end of the contract, he is not harmed by the lost opportunity of the buyer. Contrast that with a marriage where the impact of all decisions are always shared.
Following this progression of increasing responsibility, the next phase is when individuals are trusted to act in groups to impose contracts on non-voluntary parties. At this phase, an individual can hold positions in governing bodies such as boards, legislatures, committees, etc where the body can issue rules to impose on populations that include individual who may oppose the policies. This is like a contract but where one of the parties doesn’t explicitly sign. We expect a higher level of maturity that can acknowledge and respect the opposing view.
For example consider an elected representative who wins a hotly contested race. Although he ran on a specific agenda, when entering office he has a duty to represent his opposing constituents for services requiring his representation. An example is an opposing constituent should still have access to meet with the representative and request assistance or discuss the issues. This is unlike a mutual-agreement contract where the obligations are fully spelled out and limited only to the parties signing the contract.
The final phase of progression is the executive who can act individually to affect the welfare of those who did not explicitly grant their approval and in fact who directly oppose the executive. This is like the previous phase except that the individual can act completely alone without a need for building a consensus. It appears in the executive branches of mayors, governors, and presidents. In general there ability to act independently has limits, but where it is granted it is theirs alone to decide.
Briefly backing up to discuss the early phases. The pre-independent child between 6 and 12 is nonetheless receiving instruction, training, and exercises from adults who are independent of their parents. The dependent child younger than 6 is fully dependent on the parents or individuals contracted and directed by the parents. These phases are a topic for a future discussion.
A highly regulatory society does recognize these different categories of different kinds of responsibilities to others. But age stops being a primary requirement after reaching the age of 18, the age of maturity permitting contracts and marriage. And even so, the regulations assume individual maturity between age of 12 and 18.
Only appointments and elections can grant liberties associated with later phases of maturity.
A highly libertarian society would grant greater liberties based on acknowledging inherent maturity that come with aging growing up.
Most of the policy debates in US politics are inflated because of the assumption of leveling the maturity of all citizens to the lowest level of maturity for independence. Most of the regulations are meant to address specific reservations we have about intermediate levels of maturity corresponding to young adulthood.
For example, the current debates about the definition of marriage derive from a specific concern of the earliest adult phases of about 18-30.
After that age, we readily grant that people are mature enough to rule over opposing citizens. It makes no sense to say that that age can not decide for themselves the definition of marriage.
If we restrict the argument to defining young-adult marriage, there are two simplifying factors. First, the general trend is for postponing all marriage until the upper end of that range. Very young marriages are less popular. When they occur, the adults usually have a high motivation of starting a family. Even though there are young adults may prefer a different definition, for most it is not an unrealistic burden to wait until they are 30.
My impression is that most of the demand for alternative marriage arrangements come from older adults who are well past the age of maturity that allows us to grant great powers to elected or appointed officials.
This is not a useful argument one way or the other about marriage. Instead it is an illustration how our degenerated views of the influence of age on maturity is distorting our ability to govern. We are trying to regulate a population that we assume have not matured past the age of somewhere between 12 and 18.
Governing may be easier if we recognize the growing up doesn’t stop at 18.