Congress has once again taken up the banner of credit card reform. Chances are that we can expect some of the changes they propose to actually take effect. Some we agree with, especially those laws that prevent issuers from making unilateral changes to the consumer’s contract or those laws which create counterintuitive ways of charging their customers.
One proposal on the table, however, seems so worrisome that it borders on the ridiculous and that is the proposal to restrict the issuing of credit cards to those under 21 unless they have a parent or guardian backing them or unless they are able to pass a test of their financial “literacy.” Why is this nation so bent on avoiding the definition of a legal age of adulthood? At 18, aren’t people adults? They can vote in national elections to decide the President of the United States. If they win the lottery or land a high paying job, we let them keep their money—we don’t place it in the hands of a more financially “literate” guardian. We allow 18 year olds to go to the front lines of war zones, to hold an enemy in their sights and to make the life and death decision to pull the trigger. Even those who do not go to war, at 18 years old, can buy a gun. Heck, at 16 we allow people to drive 3000 pounds of metal out into traffic where they risk the lives of others as well as their own. Doesn’t responsibility for life and death decisions require more maturity than a card with $1000 balance?
Given that at 18 we trust people with life and death decisions as well as enormous financial possibilities, what sense is there in requiring someone to be twenty-one years old to do anything? Either the 18 year olds are adults, or they aren’t. Let’s be done with this confusion. If we decide that 21 is the age of maturity then, fine, no one should be allowed into the armed forces until they are 21 because we don’t think they’re mature enough to make the soldierly decisions of an adult and we certainly don’t want to send children into combat. Otherwise, and I think this is much more viable stance, let’s consider the 18 year old adults to actually be adults, with all the rights applicable to adults, and let’s end the double standard.