Ramesh, I think there’s an awful lot of daylight between arguing, as I take Seth and Kathryn to be arguing, that a 21-year-old may not be ready for prime-time and that most 17-year-olds still need some serious adult supervision, and arguing that 21-year-olds and 17-year-olds “should be treated as children.” I’m a big fan of Diana West’s book, The Death of the Grown-Up, and I wholeheartedly agree that we should be cultivating responsible adults not pampering childishness. These kids, or young adults, are obviously responsible for their mistakes (and apt to make more of them than — we hope – 30-year-olds). But their youth is a factor in mitigation. Now, not everything can be mitigated — some wrongs are so bad youth is no excuse. But when it’s not the crime of the century, it’s common sense that youth matters in how we should think about it. I don’t think conservatives need to push back against that.
A lot of the proposals I read that urge remaking conservatism, or, as the proposals are usually framed, ”applying old principles to new circumstances,” run along the lines of “We need to come to terms with the welfare state, it’s not going anywhere, so let’s not obsess over reducing the size and scope of government; let’s instead strive to make the welfare state work better — i.e., do comparatively more things for — the middle class.” Why isn’t that a case of treating adults more like children than conservatives would have been comfortable with a few decades ago?