Should legal adulthood be defined by merit rather than arbitrary age?

While I'm not totally versed in the details, I think there are potential social problems with letting 'adulthood' be defined by arbitrary legal age rather than some test of merit.

Historically, from what I can tell, this hasn't been the norm and is something of a modern incarnation; while some of these examples might be a bit overly-romanticized, I've read that in some smaller, communal Native American tribes for example, a man wasn't recognized as an 'adult' and allowed to court a woman unless he proved himself a competent hunter or warrior.

By the same token, I see legally recognizing people as 'adults' once they hit an arbitrarily defined age but without out any vetting system to determine if they're individually responsible enough to be considered as such by greater society to be problematic and on a nationwide scale it could lead to a lot of social problems.

Just as an example, in modern "mass society" anyone who is of a certain "legal age" is automatically granted a right to reproduce offspring, even if they don't have any of the skills or personal development needed to be a mentor or role model to a child, so I can see this as perpetuating a lot of culturally degrading effects.

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Cultural and political norms in the US no longer support local tribal rituals as a test of "adulthood."

I thought you traveled some.

I should have said "legal [adult] majority."

"While I'm not totally versed in the details, I think there are potential social problems with letting 'adulthood' be defined by arbitrary legal age rather than some test of merit."

The arbitrarily-set legal age is the default but it can be challenged if one believes that he/she is a de facto adult and should be granted all the legal rights and responsibilities of adulthood. The most famous example in the USA that I can think of is Drew Barrymore who was successfully legally emancipated form her parents' guardianship at the age of 15.

A minor can be deemed to be essentially a completely adult personal with all legal rights and responsibilities:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_of_minors

Or partial rights and responsibilities under certain circumstances using the Mature Minor Doctrine:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mature_minor_doctrine

"By the same token, I see legally recognizing people as 'adults' once they hit an arbitrarily defined age but without out any vetting system to determine if they're individually responsible enough to be considered as such by greater society to be problematic and on a nationwide scale it could lead to a lot of social problems."

People who are currently shitty legal adults would still be shitty people and have detrimental effects on society even if we took the rights, responsibilities and privileges of adulthood away from them.

"Just as an example, in modern "mass society" anyone who is of a certain "legal age" is automatically granted a right to reproduce offspring, even if they don't have any of the skills or personal development needed to be a mentor or role model to a child, so I can see this as perpetuating a lot of culturally degrading effects."

I can't think of any developed society wherein someone is granted the right to produce offspring once they hit a certain age. In any event, whether or not this system existed, I can't imagine it would be very effective. If anything, it would either lead to more back-alley abortions or it would lead to someone else (the state? taxpayers? the parents' parents?) having to take responsibility for the babies since, without legal adulthood, the babies' parents wouldn't have the same responsibilities and wouldn't face the same legal penalties as legal adults.

As ever, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" coupled with who sets the standards?

In the US, 18 years of age is the usual standard for legal majority (adulthood).  And because we're a federal system, there are exceptions, such as the 21 years of age requirement to purchase alcoholic beverages and the constitutional requirements to be elected to federal offices.

I think you're confusing legal adulthood with actual adulthood.  Legal adulthood is just shorthand.  We choose an arbitrary age because it's really cumbersome to administer adulthood tests or measure achievements to, say, give somebody a driver's license.  Or let them sign a contract.  Or whatever.  It's not an achievement or statement of worth.  It's just a legal designation.  People take it too seriously ... and so are you.

And, some of the 'achievements' we'd likely use to determine adulthood require 'legal adulthood' before they can even be attempted.  Child labor laws.  Mandatory school attendance. Driver's licenses.  Military enlistment.  You can't live on your own, earn a living, get married, etc. without being able to get a job and sign a contract ... which we only allow of legal adults.

If we had competence tests or merit-based legal adulthood, there are people that'd never make the cut.  Seems like a small problem ... until you realize they can't consent to sex, or sign a contract, or be employed.  Meaning, people would be left to determine 'meritorious' adulthood before they could enter into a contract with somebody ... otherwise, the contract is void.  That's a tough determination when it's based on something other than age.


JB

Which means it would go to a judge or a bureaucrat.  They already have a lot of power; this would give them essentially all power.

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