Carlos Alberto Montaner: The Voting Age in Latin America
By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Latin American Herald Tribune
December 23, 2019
Deputy Camila Vallejo, a young Chilean communist, believes that 16-year-olds should vote in her country. I don’t know why 14-year-olds are not also allowed to vote. Or 13-year-olds, as happens with a Jewish Bar Mitzvah. That’s the trend. The communists from “Podemos” wants the same in Spain. And Camila is not alone in that absurd request. (I’ll immediately explain why it’s “absurd”). She is accompanied, among others, by the deputies Raúl Soto of the Christian Democracy and Juan Santana of the Socialist Party.
I guess that the conjecture has a certain interest –– if young Chileans are old enough to break windows and face the police, if they are old enough to burn train and bus stations, they should be able to vote and be voted to Congress or to the presidency. After all, their Argentine neighbors can vote at age 16. Also the Austrians, the Nicaraguans, the Ecuadorians, the Germans from certain regions, the Scots and several of the nations that were part of Yugoslavia and today are independent –– Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia. That’s the way the wind is blowing.
It has been a crescendo. In the modern world that emerged from the American Revolution (1776-1781), at the beginning only the owners able to read and write voted. Then all white males were allowed to vote, regardless of their properties or their knowledge. Later, after the Civil War (1861-1865) blacks joined the voters’ ranks. Then (in 1920), women could finally vote. In that same year, Congress passed the Prohibition or Dry Law for pure demagogy. It was a gift to the suffragists. In 1933, with their tails between their legs, American lawmakers had to revoke the law.
What would be the ideal age for people to vote or be voted? 16, 18 or 21? None of them. As far as we know today as a result of neurological studies, the appropriate age is around 25 years. It is at that time, month more or month less, when the brain matures due to the development of the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that regulates emotions, controls impulses, judges risks accurately and allows long-term plans.
None of this was known some time ago. (What is known is that young people tend to opt for radical formations). Politicians and military leaders had correctly detected that at 18 years of age, “cannon fodder” is abundant and took advantage of it. They did not know why suicidal recklessness is more present during the teenage years, and it did not occur to them that believing oneself invulnerable or eternal is a biological deficiency that is corrected when appropriate neural connections are established.
There is nothing that seems more obscene to me than the footage of Adolph Hitler reviewing teenage troops while the Allied cannons can be heard very close to his lair. In ecstasy, the boys stare at the Führer for whom they are about to lose their lives. Hitler doesn’t care about the sacrifice. He is the quintessence of the narcissist unable to feel the least empathy.
I think the same thing when I see the images of spoiled brats destroying cities with impunity in Chile, Ecuador or Bolivia. But the way to deal with this phenomenon is not lowering the voting age, but quite the opposite –– increasing it. I know it is swimming against the current, but it is always preferable to act in accordance with science and conscience. In the end, Camila Vallejo couldn’t care less if Chileans vote in plural and transparent elections. What she likes is the Cuban revolution or Venezuelan Chavism, not democracy or freedom.