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Age Discrimination In Officeholding

This is the kind of thing that one tends to forget as one gets older, but American law is full of difficult to justify age discrimination provisions. Are any of us really troubled by the thought of a 20 year-old having a beer? Particularly odd, as Jonathan Bernstein notes, are the variety of federal offices for which one is not allowed to run if one is under 35 years old.

For example, while it seems like it would be difficult in practice for a twentysomething to win a senate election, it’s very hard to see what the problem would be with letting such a person serve if he managed to win. I’d rather have Jamelle Bouie or Ezra Klein in the Senate than any number of folks currently there. I’ve been reading recently about the debates at the Constitutional Convention and it’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to have been much explicit discussion of these age limits or what their purpose is. The escalation with the restrictions on who can be in the House laxer than those for the Senate which are laxer than for the White House seems to mostly be part of a symbolic scheme where they wanted to kinda sorta replicate the Commons/Lords/Crown structure of the British constitution. But as best as I can tell there wasn’t some specific concern here about a crop of 27 year-old senators wrecking the Republic.

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