…but too young to die, as a wise man once sang.
Now we have the political equivalent:
Former South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley said over the weekend that politicians should have to take mental competency tests once they hit 75 years old to ensure they are fit to serve the public.
“We need to have mental competency tests for anyone over the age of 75,” she said. “And I don’t say that to be disrespectful. I don’t care if you do it for 50 and older. What I’m saying is, these are people in D.C. that are making decisions on our national security.”
Of course, this tin-eared politico uses this argument to score a point off the noticeably-senile Joe Biden, but she does have a point nevertheless.
We don’t let people go into public office when they’re too young, because even among a poulation of ignoramuses, youthful wannabe-politicians are no more than the primordial ooze of society. Young people, as it’s been said, argue with passion, vigor and conviction; except that they’re almost inevitably wrong.
So given the inescapable fact that old farts start losing their marbles as they approach senility — forget the numbers, stats and medical studies on this, it’s an inescapable fact of human life — why not set an arbitrary upper limit on public service? Forget that “testing” bullshit as suggested by Haley et al., that’s just busybody government attitude on display. Carve it in stone — hell, stick it in the Constitution, why not? — but make it impossible for any Olde Phartte to govern.
Yes, I know: some old people are commendably active, mentally speaking, and denying them office would have denied us of, to name but one, Ronald Reagan (at least his second term, anyway). But even in Reagan’s second term, it was apparent that the old boy was losing his marbles. And taking our cue from that, it’s not really how old a President is when he takes office, it’s how old he’ll be at the end of his first term that’s important. Think about it: 70 years old on Inauguration Day means 78 towards the end of his Presidency, when he’ll still have his finger on the nuclear trigger and be proposing legislation that may suit the present but be a hopeless long-term proposition. Older than 70? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Joe Biden.
Which brings me to the next issue about senior-citizen politicians: the “I’ll be dead by then” attitude that is as inescapable a mindset as physical senility. Oh sure, we’d like to think that our politicians are going to be statesmen like Washington or Jefferson and think of generations to come; but the most likely scenario is that they’re going to be more like Barack fucking Obama. (Tangentially, the only reason to allow older men to become president is because they’re more likely to die soon after leaving office, unless they’re named Jimmy Carter in which case they continue to meddle and foist their horrible ideas and opinions on us long after they’ve exceeded their useful date.)
If we think about this logically, politicians and lawmakers in general should have to live with the consequences of their actions, because then the urge to just say “oh fuck it, let the kids deal with it” is a lot less appealing.
Corporations, by the way, recognize this issue quite clearly, which is why we have mandatory-retirement policies in so many professions — airline pilots at
55 65 being the most noteworthy — and why so many people prefer middle-aged doctors to both young and inexperienced doctors and old doctors who may not be up to date with recent advances or do things “because I’ve always done it this way”. There are limits to experience, of course, and particularly when that experience stands in the way of proper action. Most corporate boards, by the way, have no age limit but that’s because the proper function of a board is advisory and not executive.
Here’s my suggestion: all public servants, regardless of position, should be banned from running for public office after the age of 67 — the de facto “retirement” age of current society. I know that medical advances are wonderful and have done so much to ensure that the age of Man is no longer just threescore years and ten etc., but allowing much older people to run for office — yes, Trump as much as Biden — is an irresponsible indulgence that in general and in the long term will turn out to be harmful to society. (Trump, for example, would be 78 were he to win the Presidency in 2024, which means he’d be 82 at the end of his term of office. You sure you want an octogenarian Trump flailing around the Oval Office for two whole years? And that’s assuming he’s still got all his marbles now: by no means an established fact.)
As a bookie might put it: yeah, there are some senior citizens who would function perfectly well while late into their seventies and even eighties — but that’s not the way to bet.
If we have a lower limit on political life, why not an upper one?