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The Contender
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Should the government impose age restrictions?

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/26/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,282 times Debate No: 26514
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




I am against the government imposing age restrictions on things such as sex, driving, or drugs. My opponent will argue the opposite.


1. People mature at different rates
The idea behind age restrictions is that minors are not mature enough for certain things. However, the relationship between age and maturity is not as obvious as one may think. One must think of the mentally handicapped, as well as child prodigies. While these people are not the norm, they are there.

2. There are no victims
If a minor voluntarily chooses to do something taboo, they are not a victim. It was their decision. If an adult was involved in a hypothetical scenario, such as an alcohol sale, they too are not a victim, for the same reason. Provided that nobody was harmed, the scenario does not affect society in any negative way. And if a minor becomes intoxicated, and ends up killing somebody in a bar fight, then obviously they should be held accountable. What should not happen is other minors being punished for the mistake.

I would like my opponent to provide both arguments and rebuttals. I await their response.


I am very grateful to my partner for having instigated this debate. I am delighted by the dark worldview expressed in the Opening Argument, and look forward to an intellectually stimulating discussion.

For the record, I agree fully that many of these age restrictions should be lifted - an agreement that I share with my partner. This debate, I expect, will turn on the broad language used in the premise: that no laws respecting age are appropriate. This is an untenable premise, and must be modified significantly before it can be successfully defended.

I will challenge my partner's premise on the following grounds:

1. The "Government" in the United States is a democratic republic, that operates on a strict constitutional matrix. The laws that impose limits on such acts as adults having sex with infants and removing children from school in favor of labor camps are demanded by popular vote. This popular demand is a compelling reason for respecting these laws.

2. There are compelling reasons to prevent the exploitation of children and of the elderly. I will explain some of these reasons in better detail a bit later. For now, I restrain myself to only one example: minors in the United States cannot enter into a legally binding contract under most circumstances. This prevents predatory actions directed at children from authoritative looking adults - and is reasonable.

3. Many of these age-specific restrictions apply to blatantly unjust behavior by powerful entities - and prevent harm to society. For example, telling job applicants that they are "too old," despite their qualifications. Likewise laws that unfairly discriminate against minors (such as curfew laws) can be challenged as unconstitutional - thanks to the democratically demanded restrictions. Removing these requirements can reasonably be predicted to result in greater levels of discrimination.

4. Many acts that do not obviously result in harm still do - actions such as purchasing child pornography, underage sex, and child labor can result in the reasonable expectation high levels of unseen harm. Evidence of this can be found in the missing fingers of child employees of cotton mills, for example. Consuming high levels of alcohol, even if done in a safe environment, can nevertheless result in severe pediatric health consequences - including substance abuse problems. (Personal aside: I once worked as an English instructor in a Chinese factory - in Taipei. Many of the factory workers were children, who loved cartoons during their lunch breaks. Disconcerting: the reactions of grown men whose jobs at the factory were replaced by children.)

5. The over broad premise simply allows to much freedom to speculate as to the potential consequences of implementing it. For this debate, I will confine the bulk of my criticisms to defending the status quo in this regard, as opposed to engaging in such potential hyperbole. I may want to examine, if the argument is pressed, what conditions were like before such laws were implemented, and the plight of those victimized by such acts as age discrimination, pedophilia, and the exploitation of child labor.

I will almost certainly add to this list over this contest. Depending. Regardless, I am certain that readers considering which side to vote for will want to have these concerns answered by Pro.
Debate Round No. 1


Contentions: see round 1


1. My opponent's examples are flawed in that the child did not have a say. For example, for the scenario of the raped infant, unless there is an infant who can talk, understand the concept of sex, and be willing to give consent, the problem is rape. Nothing to do with age regulations. As for popular demand, people deserve the right to make their own decisions, provided they do not harm another, without being constrained by social norms.

2. If a child is put into a harmful situation that they do not fully understand, then they are being coerced by an adult. I do not endorse this. Fraud is coercive, and should be illegal. If the child does understand their situation, and the consequences, then there should not be a restriction on their voluntary behavior

3. Despite being wrong, this scenario should not be banned. In reality, the owner who refused the old man will suffer because he missed out on a valuable worker, and the old man will benefit because he does not have to work in a hostile environment.

4. Child pornography and underage sex are almost definitely coercive, especially at young ages. Again, the problem is coercion rather than age. As for child labor, same thing. However, what if a child is just helping out an elderly neighbor, who then pays the child for their help? Should this be illegal? Of course not. And what if neither of a child's parents can work? I think anybody would rather lose a finger than starve to death from a lack of income.

5. The thing about consequences is that people assume that if something is made legal, everybody would suddenly do it. This is not true. If somebody is worried, say, about a 5 year old going and buying cigarettes, there are some things to consider. First, their parents would probably be supervising them. Second, they would have to somehow get the money. Third, they would have to significant prior understanding of cigarettes. The list goes on.


I want to thank my partner for his timely response. As my own time is rather short, I have been afforded a few extra hours to consider his argument before responding.

I will begin with rebuttals.

I am very happy that my partner and I agree on so much. The entire purpose of argument is to erase disagreements. As it pertains to this debate, there seem to be very many points of agreement - which I gleefully will call "concessions."

1. My partner agrees with me that there, in fact should be age restrictions imposed by the government in a wide variety of scenarios. Most of these violate his premise, such as state-imposed age restrictions on sexual activity involving minors. I am happy to agree with him, and the debate is more or less settled; some age restrictions should exist, and are rightfully imposed.

In his first rebuttal, my partner points out for me (and I am grateful) that some age restrictions are called "rape." It is assumed that some persons are so young, that they simply cannot be expected to understand adult behavior. In these cases, we both agree that the age restrictions are an important means of societal policing.

2. Here, my partner points out that it is possible that a long list of "ifs" can easily be imagined that render some age restrictions unnecessary. I agree with him that some restrictions are indeed unnecessary, and those that are needed are not always needed in every case. However, these "rules of thumb" are used and requested by society because it is so often impossible to calculate harm.

3. The discussion covering age discrimination requires a societal-level discussion that does not normally apply to individuals. Because society itself is harmed by such discrimination, society itself must defend its own interests.

4. The question of child pornography and underage sex is delicate. However, this seems to be yet another area in which my partner and I agree; there are almost no examples of appropriate sexual activity that involves children and adults - as delineated by age. Therefore, we agree that age restrictions are useful in this regard. My partner asks: what if a child has parents that cannot work? Isn't it better to lose a finger than it is to starve to death? This is a false choice, pretending that there are only two possible choices akin to asking when a man stopped beating his wife. In most developed nations, it is possible for society to spare itself child labor camps (and get those children in school) by the creation of some type of social safety net. I doubt that my partner is suggesting that we adopt the social policies of those nations where starvation or mutilation are actual choices.

5. If something were made legal, would everybody just do it? Consider: do children in the Philippines not begin smoking at ages as young as 5? Another list of hypothetical "what if" scenarios are produced, but none of these force a skeptic to adjust their argument. The bottom line: if a thing is legal it will be done more than if it is illegal. Consider laws in the US that once drove down the speed limit to 55 mph. Today, with the speed limit raised, very few people continue to drive at the old speed limit, preferring the new, faster limits. There is no question that the change in law had an impact on the driving habits of Americans.

I want to present a case that I think backs up my argument that some age appropriate laws are beneficial to society. This particular law is a type of "age restriction" that is imposed on the way that a state may treat its youth population. A school in Meridian, Mississippi was recently sued (with help from laws intended to protect minors) for civil rights violations. Federal laws restricting the ways in which children can be punished by school officials were ignored, as the school routinely sent its students to jail - for such "crimes" as violating the school dress code. Many of these students were handcuffed, arrested and detained for more than 48 hours while awaiting trial. [1]

Laws that deal with the appropriate treatment of juvenile offenders eventually were enacted, and these "age restrictions" are now being actively enforced, to the benefit of hundreds of families.

My argument, as of this round is:

1. My partner has conceded that some age restrictions are appropriate, and is no longer defending his original premise, that he would lend his support to no such restrictions.

2. Some age restrictions are not called "age restrictions;" some of these restrictions are called "rape; child endangerment; child abuse; and neglect."

3. My partner has stipulated that victimless crimes against minors should be done away with - and has specifically stated that actions that cause harm are to be retained. However, he has never offered any metric by which we may calculate whether or not harm has occurred. Without this ability to identify harm, we are left with no choice but to disregard this element of the argument until such a metric is explained.

4. Some age restrictions are imposed by government - upon government. The government may not treat it's minor citizens as harshly as it might otherwise.


Debate Round No. 2


My opponent has not responded to my claim of everyone maturing at different rates. I would like for him to rebut this. For simplicity, here it is again:
The idea behind age restrictions is that minors are not mature enough for certain things. However, the relationship between age and maturity is not as obvious as one may think. One must think of the mentally handicapped, as well as child prodigies. While these people are not the norm, they are there.


1. I did not say that age restrictions are appropriate. However, taking advantage of ignorance is fraud, and coercive. While it may be easier to do this to a child, that does not mean a hard line should be set.

2. There isn't much to say here.

3. How can the topic of discrimination not apply to individuals? All society is is a collection of individuals. And as for not hiring somebody due to discrimination, the individual is better off because a smarter, non-discriminatory employer will hire him instead.
Physical harm is easy to measure. Emotional harm is not the business of the law.

4. What if the child is 17 and the adult is 18? Certainly this shouldn't be a problem in the eyes of the law, provided it was consensual.
As for child labor, in most cases my example was a false choice. However, it was a hypothetical, and the idea of the false being the true choice must be considered.
A social safety net should not exist, because it steals from other citizens. Charity must be voluntary.

5. Obviously, if something was made legal, rates would very likely increase. However, would the rates be drastic? I am inclined to say no. Take the situation of drugs. While drugs are illegal, my guess is that most people, myself included, refrain from drug use by choice, not by deterrent.


Many thanks to my partner, for the recent argument.
  • My task is to argue that any age restrictions should exist at all
  • Some restrictions apply to government - and not citizens
  • Because maturity rates are often difficult to gauge, age restricitons are appropriate
  • The judicial system can exempt persons for unecessary restrictions
As I attempt to convince readers who might vote on this debate that any "age restrictions" at all are a good idea, I keep finding myself drawn to those restrictions that deal with sex. Specifically, the sexual relationships of children, and those that exist between children and adults. Of all of the behavioral restrictions that we might encounter, I feel that these must be regarded as some of the easiest to understand. As we close this round, I will therefore focus most of my argumentation on the premise that adults should not be permitted to have sex with children without any social oversight at all.

I need to press for a response to my argument that many restictions on the treatment of minors applies to government - and not to citizens. Should laws that protect minors from adult prisons, be removed?

I apologize for having neglected to rebut the argument that leads my partner's last presentation:
The idea behind age restrictions is that minors are not mature enough for certain things. However, the relationship between age and maturity is not as obvious as one may think. One must think of the mentally handicapped, as well as child prodigies. While these people are not the norm, they are there.

I repeat this argument as follows:
  • People mature at different speeds
  • We are often unable to determine how mature a person might be, if we only judge by age
  • Therefore, adults should be permitted to have sex with children, as part of removing the laws pertaining to "age restrictions."

Obviously, my partner does not make this argument as explicitly as I do. My counter to this logic is:

If we cannot judge the maturity level of a person, then we should treat that person in a way that is more likely to limit the harm that we may inflict upon that person than to increase that level of harm. In other words, if we do not know that we are not causing harm, then we should advance our goals with caution.
We are not oppresed by age restricitons - we do not have to always obey them

I should point out that the laws that deal with age restrictions in the United States are rarely absolute. Waivers can be obtained for such activities as operating motor vehicles and having sex with minors. A hardship driver's license can be obtained that will allow a person to prove that they can safely drive a car, tests can be taken that can demonstrate that a person is competent to work in certain vocations - regardless of age. As for having sex with children, this can also be done under American law, by obtaining a marriage license and the consent of the parents of the child for the marital union to proceed. Since these waivers exist, we are not "oppressed" by these age restrictions - we simply must demonstrate that they are not needed in specific cases.

Harm no one, and do what you will - John Stuart Mill
I might argue that the parents of an underage girl might be "harmed" by having a pointy math teacher straining into their daughter. This might cause them quite a bit of angst, even if the act was consensual otherwise. In such a case, the parents are harmed by having their rightful ward treated in such a way. Therefore, "harm" does not always have to involve only those persons directly impacted by an action. Once the girl is no longer a minor, no longer "nonage" as John Stuart Mill might say, her actions are no longer the responsibility of her parents - and the paradigm is changed. Often a childs' parents can serve as good judges of that childs' maturity level. There are no good reasons why a childs' parents should not be asked before an adult has sex with their child.

(This is, to my mind, a very clear example of why we should retain at least some age restrictions.)

Therefore, my argument as of this round is:

The laws that bind the actions of minors to their parents or guardians also must necessarily include these persons in any decision that might cause harm to a specific child. Therefore, before any sexual action between a child and an adult can be considered "consensual," the approval of that childs' parents must also be obtained. Otherwise, harm has been inflicted upon those parents or guardians. To avoid this, and to almost completely neutralize my partners premise, the law often allows for waivers to be awarded that will allow many age restrictions to be ignored.
Debate Round No. 3


1. My opponent says that we should advance our goals with caution. I agree, but why must this be limited to actions involving minors? Things like driving, drinking, and sex inherently require a level of caution.

2. It should be up to individuals, not the government, to determine what is best for themselves. The government should certainly not require minors to get marriage licenses if they want to have sex. That's silly. What if parents are fine with their child having sex but are not fine with their child getting married at a young age. This is a perfectly understandable position for a parent to have. Also, there is a process involved in getting waivers, which presumably takes lots of time and money. Why should a 17 year old have to go through a government process, while an 18 year old, who could be just a day older, does not.

3. Parents should protect their children from certain activities while the child is not mature enough, but the government should not. I would say the decisions of a minor, especially one during or after puberty, are not the parents' responsibility. Rather, the parents are responsible for educating their child, and raising them to make good decisions on their own. I return to my example of hypothetical sex between a 17 year old and an 18 year old. The difference between the two is negligible. The parents are not responsible for the 17 year old's decision in this scenario.


Many thanks to my partner for having presented this topic for discussion, I always enjoy debating the merits of unorthodox ideas. For the record, I agree with him that many of the laws that govern victimless actions are unheeded. However, in this debate, I feel that a compelling argument requires a bit more than what was presented here.

I also want to make something very important quite clear. In this discussion, we have covered (lightly) the topic of child molestation and pedophilia. I want to clearly state that I do not believe that my partner here is in any way defending or endorsing sex between children and adults. I have tried to ensure that my arguments do not accidentally make this accusation, but I also want to state it explicitly. In this I want to point out that my partner himself puts his own age at 16 years old, hardly the age of a randy uncle-toucher.

Rebuttals and Closing Statement

Claim: Things like driving, drinking, and sex inherently require a level of caution.

Response: This is axiomatic, and I agree with this statement besides. So, I suppose I haven’t much of a rebuttal to offer. It’s true. Caution is advised when we do different sorts of things.

Claim: It should be up to individuals, not the government, to determine what is best for themselves.

Response: I agree that this is true most of the time. However, by definition, societal problems cannot be privatized; they must be dealt with on a society-wide basis. In our democratic republic, it is best that the people are able to act collectively – and enforce popular will upon our democratic processes. If the overall community is outraged by such things as football coaches having sex with student athletes in the locker room, then these public demands should be respected. Simply dismissing such concerns as “government” is almost nonsensical.

Claim: Getting a waiver that dismisses age-respective laws is an unreasonable burden

Response: Even in cases where this is not done, understandable examples are seldom prosecuted. A minor lying about her age in order to work at a job that she can competently fulfill is not a crime that is viewed as urgent by most prosecutors. The argument that all such laws should be abolished to prevent them from being enforces is simply not made.

A recurring theme in my partner’s presentation involves two persons of similar age being disproportionately punished for consensual sex. I should point out that laws governing such matters do indeed take into consideration the relative ages of the individuals involved, and minimum age differences are normally required in most states. In every case, no crime can be punished without first convincing a jury that a crime has occurred. I am convinced that no one in all of American history has been convicted, and has had that conviction be upheld, that fall into the category that is mentioned. At any rate, our judicial system is not mindless, and does not make mechanical, robotic decisions with regards to how it enforces the laws that society demands.

The age of consent in the United States varies from state to state. A very normal age at which a child may agree to sexual relations with another minor is 16 years old. [1] It is important to note that most parents are likely to very energetically agree that children younger than 16 should be somewhat restricted in how they sexually relate with their peers. In arguing that even these restrictions are too onerous, my partner nevertheless does not quite make the case that having no laws at all governing this would be a better condition than, for example, better laws.

Closing Statement

I would like to thank any readers of this debate that have followed our discussion to this point. I also want to sincerely request that our performances here be rewarded by having them be voted upon. My final argument remains largely unchanged, so I haven’t much more to add. That argument remains:

  • Calculations of harm must include those persons tasked with protection of those minors who may consent to adult or unsafe activity.
  • Government should restrict its treatment of juveniles to something more gentle and forgiving than what it will use with adults. These restrictions are appropriate.
  • Parents must offer consent for their children to engage in sexual activity, or they have been victimized – age restrictions give parents a way to punish those adults who wish to have sex with their children
  • Waivers and a justice system that uses ‘juries of our peers’ prevent unnecessary or inordinate age restrictions from becoming oppressive
  • My partner has agreed with me that there exist some situations that may require that activates be restricted by age.
Map of Age of Consent Laws (Wiki)
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by yuiru 4 years ago
Finally a debate about the children.
Posted by JorgeLucas 4 years ago
Yes, I mean all ages.
Posted by emj32 4 years ago
Just for clarification purposes, when you say the government shouldn't impose age restrictions, do you mean all ages? For example, you reference the selling of alcohol. Is your position in this debate advocating that a 6 year old, for example, should be able to legally purchase the alcohol? I'm not for or against, I'm just asking for clarification.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by ProwlerKnight 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: In the end DeFool really pulled out more evidence to make his case