i Editor's Letter: The Chance To Be Chancellor


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The Independent Online

I was amused to see that the Citizenship Foundation is giving teenagers the opportunity to try to run the economy.

The Chance To Be Chancellor website allows 14- to 18-year-olds to take on the role of George Osborne, setting out and defending their Budget for the country.

Apparently, the scheme was set up because Mr Osborne said he wanted to hear more from young people about what they thought of the Budget. I bet he did. When it comes to ruthless pruning of expenditure on other people, while boosting the income of oneself, or one's own peer group, you can't beat a bunch of teenagers, as I know from experience.

"Why do you have to pay for car insurance? Why don't you just save up the money and use it to mend the car if you have an accident?" (This from a recently qualified 18-year-old driver.)

"Why don't people who can't afford stuff just not buy it?" (A response to the payday loan story from a 17-year-old shopaholic who rarely leaves the house without raiding the Bank of Mum.)

I'm all in favour of teaching citizenship. But sometimes the cart seems to be put way, way in front of the horse. By all means give teenagers a chance to play at running the economy, but wouldn't it be great if they learned how to run their own finances first? If they were given the odd tutorial on how to fill in a tax form, work out which mortgage to choose or – gasp – open a bank statement?

Wait (as my daughter would say), that would involve them having some knowledge of real life before running the country. OMG!!! (another filial favourite), what a dangerous precedent to set.