Ah, it’s good to see my taxes being spent so wisely.  Not.


… when I find myself heartily agreeing with this letter in the Irish Times today:

Sir, – Can I assure the compiler of “What’s Hot/What’s Not” (Magazine, May 5th) that many of us who are over 60 are more than capable of navigating the intricacies of the Ryanair website.     Believe it or not, we actually also know how to boot up our computers, open a web browser, send an e-mail, and we even know that a mouse is not just a furry little creature you might find running around the house from time to time. – Yours, etc,  Finian Matthews,  St Margaret’s Road, Malahide, Co Dublin.

It was in response to a crass bit of “journalism” in the Irish Times magazine last Saturday (see picture).  It confirms my suspicion that editorial content in the magazine has been surrendered to a bevy of 20- and 30-year old women who have more in common with Ross O’Carroll Kelly than Kathleen Ni Houlihan.

Six months ago I revealed my plan to resolve the Eurozone crisis: all German workers would be given a 30% wage increase by their employers.  This would, I said, “at a stroke, level the competitiveness playing field within the Eurozone while, at the same time, putting lots of new Euros into the hands of Germans to spend on Greek holidays, Spanish wine and Italian shoes.”

Bizarrely, I have seen no evidence that my plan has been taken up by European leaders.  My phone has not exactly been hopping with calls from Berlin and Paris, expressing gratitude for my brilliant insight into how to solve the major economic crisis of our times.  Sarkozy, at least, will now have plenty of time to repent for his lack of action.

But at least one solid citizen (of the USA as it happens) has taken up the cudgels and written a letter to the Financial Times  (3rd May) promoting the very policy I suggested here.  Take a bow, Raul Elizalde, of Path Financial, Sarasota, Florida:

It’s time to recognise that Germany reaped enormous gains from the creation of the common currency. If it is really committed to the eurozone’s survival, it will have to give back some of those gains, not only by providing bailout money or booking private sector losses, as it is doing, but also by surrendering some of its relative competitiveness. The most direct way is by running a higher inflation than the periphery ……. recent German unions’ demands for higher wages present just the right opportunity. Conceding higher pay could ease some built-up political pressures brought about by austerity, reward the long contribution to competitiveness made by German workers, and make the periphery’s relative adjustment easier to achieve.

There is a head of steam building up in the UK and Ireland on the issue of reducing the minimum voting age for parliamentary elections to 16 or 17 from the current minimum of 18. Even the normally sensible Electoral Reform Society has weighed in behind the proposal. I think it is a very bad idea.

Yes, you can join the army before you are 18. But in the army you are told what to do, and you don’t have a say in how it’s run. In our democratic system, you as a voter have the right to tell the politicians what to do. And quite simply, 99.9% of 16 year olds haven’t a clue as to how to run a country.

Yes, 16-year olds pay taxes: income tax if they have income, and VAT on most stuff they buy. But so do 10-year olds , and we aren’t suggesting that they be allowed to vote.

Ask anybody in their twenties, thirties, forties or older whether their views on politics as a 16-year old were sensible and well-informed and you will find that the universal answer is NO. Many people are frankly embarrassed by the stuff they believed at that age.

I think 18 is the right age to set as the minimum voting age. It is an age of independence for many, when they go to university or start to work. It is the age at which people start to take responsibility for themselves. The legal age for buying alcohol or tobacco is 18.

If we allow votes at 16 or 17, what’s next? Many of the same arguments for votes at 16 can be applied for allowing 14-year olds to vote. Any mandated minimum age is necessarily arbitrary, but we have to have one, and 16 is frankly too low.