Lower the Drinking Age

The Amethyst Initiative reinvigorates the debate.

It's been nearly 25 years since Congress blackmailed the states to raise the minimum drinking age to 21 or lose federal highway funding. Supporters of the law have hailed it as an unqualified success, and until recently, they've met little resistance.

For obvious reasons, no one wants to stand up for teen drinking. The alcohol industry won't touch the federal minimum drinking age, having been sufficiently scolded by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and federal regulators. So the law's miraculous effects have generally gone unchallenged.

But that may be changing. Led by John McCardell, the soft-spoken former president of Middlebury in Vermont, a new group called the Amethyst Initiative is calling for a new national debate on the drinking age. And McCardell and his colleagues ought to know. The Amethyst Group consists of current and former college and university presidents, and they say the federal minimum drinking age has contributed to an epidemic of binge drinking, as well as other excessive, unhealthy drinking habits on their campuses.

This makes perfect sense. Prohibitions have always provoked over-indulgence. Those of us who have attended college over the last 25 years can certainly attest to the fact that the law has done nothing to diminish freshman and sophomore access to alcohol. It has only pushed underage consumption underground. It causes other problems, too. Underage students, for example, may be reluctant to obtain medical aid for peers who have had too much to drink out of fear of implicating themselves for drinking illegally, or for contributing to underage drinking.

More than 120 college presidents and chancellors have now signed on to the Amethyst Initiative's statement, including those from Duke, Tufts, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Maryland, and Ohio. Over the last few years several states, including Wisconsin, Montana, Minnesota, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Vermont have also considering lowering their drinking ages back to 18.

All of this has the usual suspects predictably agitated. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, not accustomed to striking a defensive posture, calls the Amethyst Initiative's request for an "informed debate" on the issue "deeply disappointing," and has even raised the possibility that parents shouldn't send their kids to colleges who have signed on to the measure.

Acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker says it would be a "national tragedy" to, for example, allow 19- and 20-year-old men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to have a beer in celebration of completing their tours of duty.

Supporters of the 21-year minimum drinking age have long credited the law with the dramatic reduction in traffic fatalities they say took place after it was passed. But a study released last July may pull the rug out from their strongest argument.

The working paper by economic researchers Jeffrey Miron and Elina Tetelbaum finds that the bulk of studies on highway fatalities since the federal minimum drinking age went into effect erroneously include data from 12 states that had already set their drinking ages at 21, without federal coercion. That, Miron and Tetelbaum conclude, may have skewed the data, and indicated a national trend that may not actually exist.

While it's true that highway fatalities have dropped since 1984, it isn't necessarily because we raised the drinking age. In fact, the downward trend actually began in 1969, just as many states began lowering their drinking ages in recognition of the absurdity of prohibiting servicemen returning from Vietnam from enjoying a beer (the 1984 law was a backlash against those states). As Miron and Tetelbaum explain, 1969 was the year when "several landmark improvements were made in the accident avoidance and crash protection features of passenger cars," a more likely explanation for the drop than a law passed 15 years later.

Miron and Tetelbaum also credit advances in medical technology and trauma treatment for the decline in fatalities, which makes sense, given that we've seen improvements in just about every other area of human development over the same period, including life expectancy, and both incidence and survival rates of major medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, and stroke—none of which have much to do with teen drinking.

The U.S. has the highest minimum drinking age in the world (save for countries where it's forbidden entirely). In countries with a low or no national minimum drinking age, teens are introduced to alcohol gradually, moderately, and under the supervision of their parents.

U.S. teens, on the other hand, tend to first try alcohol in unsupervised environments—in cars, motels, or outdoor settings in high school, or in dorm rooms, fraternity parties, or house parties when they leave home to go to college. During alcohol prohibition, we saw how adults who imbibed under such conditions reacted—they drank way too much, way too fast. It shouldn't be surprising that teens react in much the same way.

Anti-alcohol organizations like MADD and the American Medical Association oppose even allowing parents to give minors alcohol in supervised settings, such as a glass of wine with dinner, or a beer on the couch while watching the football game. They've pushed for prison time for parents who throw supervised parties where minors are given access to alcohol, even though those parties probably made the roads safer than they otherwise would have been (let's face it—if the kids hadn't been drinking at the supervised party, they'd have been drinking at an unsupervised one). They advocate a "not one drop until 21" policy that's not only unrealistic, it mystifies and glorifies alcohol by making the drug a forbidden fruit—a surefire way to make teens want to taste it.

McCardell and the academics who have signed on to the Amethyst Initiative are asking only for a debate—an honest discussion based on data and common sense, not one tainted by Carry Nation-style fanaticism. In today's hyper-cautious, ban-happy public health environment, that's refreshing. The group comprises serious academics who have collectively spent thousands of years around the very young people these laws are affecting. The nation's policy makers would be foolish to dismiss their concerns out of hand.

Radley Balko is a senior editor of reason. A version of this article originally appeared at FoxNews.com.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • anarch||

    Isn't that picture illegal to show?

  • Mad Max||

    Disclaimer - federal prohibition is bad. The 21 yr drinking age may be bad on the state level, too, independent of federal coercion.

    However, the fact that college presidents want to relax the law doesn't necessarily show much. Colleges have been big on relaxing *in loco parentis* restrictions, except in areas impacting certain specific constituencies (that is, protecting approved groups from "harassment").

    They also want to avoid legal liability, and allowing students to violate the drinking age could involve such liability (as could permitting "harassment," another form of pressure for speech codes). If the drinking age goes back to 18, colleges will be able to claim they aren't responsible for keeping their charges sober.

  • Invisible Finger||

    The U.S. has the highest minimum drinking age in the world (save for countries where it's forbidden entirely).

    MADD wants the drinking age raised to 150
    (taking the lead of the intellectual property lobby).

  • ||

    ...In countries with a low or no national minimum drinking age, teens are introduced to alcohol gradually, moderately, and under the supervision of their parents.

    U.S. teens, on the other hand, tend to first try alcohol in unsupervised environments-in cars, motels, or outdoor settings in high school, or in dorm rooms, fraternity parties, or house parties when they leave home to go to college.



    This seems to have less to do with the drinking age and more to do with American teen curiosity.

    I submit that, regardless of the minimum drinking age, kids will experiment with alcohol away from home, just like they do with cigarettes, pot, and porn. Very few American parents will spend any time at all "teaching" their children about appropriate alcohol abuse.

    And to claim, as this article does, that because lots of teens will disregard any law that attempts to impose limitations on their consumption of [your drug of choice here] then such laws should not be on the books is admiringly Libertarian, if a little insane.

    They advocate a "not one drop until 21" policy that's not only unrealistic, it mystifies and glorifies alcohol by making the drug a forbidden fruit-a surefire way to make teens want to taste it.



    Taste it? We're talking about college-aged kids away from home for the first time in their lives dying from binge-drinking in fraternity hazing sessions under the auspices of University oversight!

    Okay ... since we want to let our returning military members raise that glass to celebrate the fact that they lived through a tour of combat (God forbid they should want to fire up a doobie), and we still wish to protect minor children from damaging themselves through imitating adult behaviors, how about we raise the age at which someone can enlist in the military up to 21, and keep the drinking age where it is? What's wrong with that?

  • ||

    While old, a study in the 1986 Journal of Policy Analysis and Management by Asch and Levy found the chief effect of raising the drinking age to be "mortality redistribution" ie., fewer 16-20 year old deaths offset by more 21-25 year old deaths.

    Mike Males covered this in his book "Framing Youth" and "Scapegoat Generation" and Researchers Dee and Evans revisited some of this in a 2001 American Economics Association paper.

  • bill||

    It should not be 18 but 19. That way it's still illegal for high schoolers but young adults at college can participate with their peer group which includes 21 and 22 year olds.

  • Matt||

    "I submit that, regardless of the minimum drinking age, kids will experiment with alcohol away from home, just like they do with cigarettes, pot, and porn. Very few American parents will spend any time at all "teaching" their children about appropriate alcohol abuse."

    When I was in college, it was easy to tell the kids whos parents had drank with them as a kid from those who didn't, as the ones who didn't were usually passed out in a pile of their own vomit. My mom, a member of MADD, thought that those parents were irresponsible. Perhaps you just don't know what you are talking about?

    "And to claim, as this article does, that because lots of teens will disregard any law that attempts to impose limitations on their consumption of [your drug of choice here] then such laws should not be on the books is admiringly Libertarian, if a little insane."

    And your attempts to control the chemical balance of the minds of other individuals (probably while drinking caffeine or using another deadly, mind-altering drug) is admiringly fascist, if a little insane. People have to make these choices on their own, why point guns in their face to stop them from making a decision only they themselves can make?

  • the innominate one||

    good article, Radley. I would have liked to see it posted contemporaneously with the Chapman article. count/ pointercount, you know.

  • ||

    They advocate a "not one drop until 21" policy that's not only unrealistic, it mystifies and glorifies alcohol by making the drug a forbidden fruit-a surefire way to make teens want to taste it.



    Taste it? We're talking about college-aged kids away from home for the first time in their lives dying from binge-drinking in fraternity hazing sessions under the auspices of University oversight!



    It's a continuation of the metaphor, dude. It's forbidden fruit. What do you do with forbidden fruit? You taste the fruit. Taste the fruit = drink the alcohol to excess.

    So, the antecedent of "it" was "forbidden fruit," not "alcohol."

  • ||

    Okay ... since we want to let our returning military members raise that glass to celebrate the fact that they lived through a tour of combat (God forbid they should want to fire up a doobie), and we still wish to protect minor children from damaging themselves through imitating adult behaviors, how about we raise the age at which someone can enlist in the military up to 21, and keep the drinking age where it is? What's wrong with that?



    I'm eighteen, employed full time, pay taxes and treated as an adult by the criminal justice system.

    Fuck you. And the horse you rode in on.

    I remember my thoughts from 35 years ago.

  • ||

    My 17-year-old son has told me that liquor laws never influence how much he is going to drink. He says he is guided by his own desire and by how tolerant he estimates his mother and I to be. His grades are good, he holds a part-time job, plays in the school band, and is on the school's rugby and wrestling teams. He is polite to everyone, and cheerful in all weather. If it weren't for demon rum, I suppose he'd be a millionaire and the ambassador to Sweden.

  • Milena Thomas||

    I can't believe this is even being debated. The age of majority is 18. Prohibiting drinking until 21 is unconstitutional. Period.

  • ||

    People have to make these choices on their own, why point guns in their face to stop them from making a decision only they themselves can make?



    So your argument is that children are able to make "a decision only they themselves can make"? Only not "children", because you have decided that they are instantly "adults" when they turn 18. So, the night before their birthday, they can't make a decision regarding this, but at the stroke of midnight, they all of a sudden become capable decision-makers?*

    Wow. Why not make the minimum drinking age 10? Oh, that's right ... you've decided that it must be 18. No higher. No lower. Wow.

    I remember how I was at 18. I'm glad the Federal minimum age is 21.

    *Since this has been a rather popular argument for lowering the drinking age, I figured it would work just as well arguing against raising the age. And, hey, it does!

  • ||

    James, if the law is doing more harm than good, which is Radley's argument, then yes, it should be repealed. It's not because most teens will disregard the law, but rather the loss of liberty combined with the increased danger of doing something underground rather than in a supervised environment. If the law isn't helping anything, then get rid of it.

    This is all aside from the ideological argument behind the issue, which is that no matter the statistics, adults have the right to put whatever they want into their body. Yea, we *could* raise the age of adulthood, and the rights that come with it, to 21, but that would probably be foolhardy. At 18 you begin making many of your adult decisions, and many people begin living on their own.

    As for the argument that parents letting their kids try beer or wine at home under supervision wouldn't help, I have to disagree there as well. I don't think it can be argued that no education is better than some education. We couldn't be worse off than just letting kids go off to college on their own and get introduced to alcohol there, completely unaware of how to use it responsibly. You say that parents don't show their kids pot, cigarettes, or porno, but that is for obvious reasons. Pot is illegal, so parents don't want their kids getting involved in something illicit. Porn doesn't need to have an education attached to it as it poses no danger, plus is an exceedingly awkward subject for a teen to discuss with a parent. Cigarettes are an unhealthy habit that parents generally don't want their kids starting. Alcohol could be argued as an unhealthy habit as well, but cigarettes aren't more or less dangerous with education, so there is no reason to introduce your kids to cigarettes.

  • Julien||

    If you're alowed to vote at 18 and help in electing someone as stupid as Bush...surely you're old enough to drink legally.
    No really though, making it illegal to drink before 21 is a joke, it sure doesn't stop it and it probably gives under-age drinking more notoriety than it would have if it wasn't illegal. I've lived in Europe most of my life (except for 6 years in New Jersey), and I think young adults under the age of 21 drink more responsibly in Europe than college students under 21 in the US (appart from the UK, the weather just makes them sad, thus the need to drink to forget)...but seriously...my friends and I never felt like drinking our asses down underground...drinking is more of a social thing here in Europe. You have a drink or two around a table with your friends, talk and enjoy the moment...or have a Tapas (I've been living in madrid for 2 years now).
    http://mylifeiscrap.com

  • ||

    J sub D ... okay, then ...

    1) No minimum ages for anything, except that parents (even Casey whatshername and the Texas polygamy guys) decide everything for their children for the first year. After that, the kid decides.

    2) If we must have some kind of age determination, then let's make it consistent. After all, when kids become adults, they do it all at once in a blinding flash of light.

    3) No driving, voting, charging as an adult or anything adult-related until 21. Or 16. Or 35. Whatever makes you feel good in the absence of science.

  • ||

    J sub D ... BTW, my 18-year old self would also have told my 50-year old self to go fuck himself. But my 50-year old self knows better, now.

  • ||

    James, in the previous thread I explained the logic behind not restricting anything after the age of majority. The question is obviously what to set the age of majority at. Right now it is at 18. In its current state, the drinking age should also be 18. You could argue for making the age of adulthood 21, but I don't think you would get much support. The age of majority should be at the lowest possible point that is reasonable, where the average person can make responsible decisions about their lives. The way our society is set up, it would be unreasonable to raise the age of majority to 21 since then that is saying that kids getting out of high school would need 3 more years of schooling before college, couldn't move out until 21, etc etc. Not to mention I think it would collapse the army.

    As far as the bit about becoming an adult "in a flash of light", the argument is completely ridiculous. What is the alternative to a set age? Of course not everyone is the same, but you have to set some point where before you are a child and after you are an adult. Would you like a "responsibility test"? How would such a thing even be administered. And by who? The government?

  • Matt||

    "Only not "children", because you have decided that they are instantly "adults" when they turn 18. So, the night before their birthday, they can't make a decision regarding this, but at the stroke of midnight, they all of a sudden become capable decision-makers?*

    Wow. Why not make the minimum drinking age 10? Oh, that's right ... you've decided that it must be 18. No higher. No lower. Wow."

    Actually, I never said that. We could instead just remove the drinking age entirely, and let parents decide when they want their kids to drink. When the child becomes autonomous, she can make the decision to drink on her own. I think parents will do a much better job supervising their kids then government officials with guns.

    "I remember how I was at 18. I'm glad the Federal minimum age is 21."

    Ah, the "I can't control myself, so neither can anyone else!" argument. Why should your stupidity infringe on the rights of others? Because you couldn't drink responsibly, millions of American's shouldn't be able to, and indeed will be forced not to at the point of a gun? I can scarcely believe I reside in the same country as these idiots.

  • ||

    Robbie,

    I'm still chewing on your previous argument for making the "age of majority" the transitional point between childhood and adulthood.

    Right now it is at 18. In its current state, the drinking age should also be 18. You could argue for making the age of adulthood 21, but I don't think you would get much support.



    Clearly. ;)

    And there is no alternative to using age as the arbiter of such a point, unless possibly the "responsibility test" thing works out ... and, frankly, I like that better.

    My only bone of contention is this: Why choose a single age for all rights and responsibilities? A person can be tried for crimes as an adult when they are as young as 14, so why isn't 14 a good age?

    As I mentioned in the thread you noted, a graduated system, such as the one we currently have, seems to make the most sense to me. When people go on about "I was an adult at age ...[whatever] therefore the law should be ...[whatever]", it makes for a lame argument, particularly when growth, itself is a graduated endeavor.

  • ||

    Dammit, Matt ...

    We could instead just remove the drinking age entirely, and let parents decide when they want their kids to drink.



    That's stupid. Sorry, but it is. Lots of parents are just children, themselves. And what about psychopaths like Casey whathername or the polygamist cult in Texas? Society, even a Libertarian one, needs to have some form of protection for its weakest members.

  • ||

    I'd leave the drinking age alone and increase the adulting age.

  • ||

    Ah, the "I can't control myself, so neither can anyone else!" argument. Why should your stupidity infringe on the rights of others? Because you couldn't drink responsibly, millions of American's shouldn't be able to, and indeed will be forced not to at the point of a gun?



    I never said anything like that. Being in control of oneself has nothing to do with being able to recognize the bigger picture, Matt. And where do you keep getting these gun references?

  • Elemenope||

    They also want to avoid legal liability, and allowing students to violate the drinking age could involve such liability (as could permitting "harassment," another form of pressure for speech codes). If the drinking age goes back to 18, colleges will be able to claim they aren't responsible for keeping their charges sober.

    Um...good. Colleges are not law enforcement agencies. They have been forced to act as such by stupid laws, and have suffered accordingly.

  • ||

    J sub D ... BTW, my 18-year old self would also have told my 50-year old self to go fuck himself. But my 50-year old self knows better, now.

    Your eighteen year old self would have held the moral high ground. I don't blame him for getting pissy about your 50 year old self trying to control his life.

    A perfect answer does not exist about what is the best way to declare someone an adult. Age seems to me to be the best of many imperfect criteria. Since adulthood embraces both rights and responsibilities, requiring young adults to bear the full panoply of resposibilities but forego the rights is immoral.

  • ||

    James, the reason for having a single age is that it determines the age at which you are responsible for your own actions. If you can make decisions that you can be responsible for, for example, entering into a contract or being tried as an adult, then you have the full rights of adulthood. The concept of being a child is that you don't have decision making capabilities yet. Once it is determined that a person is old enough to make adult decisions, then you may not restrict the decision making abilities of that adult individual.

    As for the graduated system, that's fine, as long as there are no rights given after the age of majority. If we, as a society, determine that a particular right is able to be granted to kids before the age of adulthood, that is fine. Discriminating against groups of adults based on age after the age of adulthood is not fine, however.

    As for being tried as an adult at 14, I think that flies in the face of what the concept of "adult" means. We should never be charging anyone below 18 as an adult because we do not yet legally consider them adults. If they are so irresponsible as to not be able to make decisions about their own lives, how can we hold them as equally responsible as another adult when they make poor decisions that affect others lives?

  • Rhywun||

    If the drinking age goes back to 18, colleges will be able to claim they aren't responsible for keeping their charges sober.



    The horror. Next thing you know, they'll think they're responsible for "teaching" or something.

  • ||

    By the way, the "gun references" are referring to any law, since if you decide to not agree to follow the law, you are met with force. Be it gun, tazer, or club, the result is still the same. If you resist the law, you will ultimately get hurt.

  • Elemenope||

    The Jews were right. They had some experience with this.

    The age of majority ought to be 13 for guys. 12 for girls (they mature quicker).

    Da dah! Base the fucker on biblical teachings, I dare you!

  • Joe Donatelli||

    I make the same argument, albeit not as eloquently, at my Web site, joedonatelli.com. My main argument - I'm tired of people who drink like a**holes.

  • Matt||

    James,

    "That's stupid. Sorry, but it is. Lots of parents are just children, themselves. And what about psychopaths like Casey whathername or the polygamist cult in Texas? Society, even a Libertarian one, needs to have some form of protection for its weakest members."

    Hey, I'm not talking out of my ass when I suggest this. In Europe they have drinking ages that no one listens to, and their alcohol problem, while it exists, isn't nearly what ours is. I just don't think that a removal of the drinking age (and legalization of all drugs) will bring about the anarchy everyone says it will, and I think the problems that everyone cites in defense of the status quo will continue to exist regardless of the current law. I would certainly go to age 18 as a compromise with the likes of MADD, but I doubt they would allow even that much.

    "I never said anything like that. Being in control of oneself has nothing to do with being able to recognize the bigger picture, Matt. And where do you keep getting these gun references?"

    I'd certainly be willing to accept that lowering the drinking age to 18 might (big might there) increase alcohol-related fatalities. However, I think life has sharp edges, and the freedom lost by legislating those edges away is a tragedy.

    As for the guns, imagine this scenario.

    Officer: You look underage, missy. Come with me to the station.

    College student: No.

    Officer: (Draws gun) Come with me to the station.

    Anytime a law is passed, no matter how trivial, it is backed up with guns. Sometimes, the law is worth it (such as, "Don't murder people). Most of the time, it isn't worth it. That is why I think we should be very careful with what laws we pass.

  • Tom Alciere||

    My website, linked from this post, clearly shows that the drinking age does not make people under 21 safe. MADD bigots offer scientific studies to prove the USA should not be a free country, with liberty and justice for all, and the debate is misdirected to the question of whether statistics will rise or fall, but the States set the carnage level as precisely as they set their sales tax level, by setting the penalties and enforcement levels.

    My website also offers a free product, an example of how a voluntary effort can save lives. Namely, it offers Windows Media Player files that call up and run TV news segments vividly illustrating the horrible consequences of bad decisions, in a sequence calculated to be seen as fair and balanced by young viewers, because older drunk drivers are included also.

    Outvoted discrimination victims need to express hostility toward lawmakers elected where they live. (Rep. Paul Hodes is not "my" Congressman and does not "represent" me!) They should say they won't join the National Guard because Congress and the state legislators hate everybody under 21. Why sign up to protect the lives and property of people who, on election day, won't even vote to protect your right to liberty? Tennessee Air National Guardsman Christian Tidwell was killed 6 January 2007 at age 19 by a drunk driver who was 56 and had two prior drunk driving convictions. Tidwell never got a chance to drink legally, one of many examples on my site.

    Hostility is best expressed on a postcard mailed from abroad.

  • ||

    As long as our society recognizes the need to protect certain members from ignorance and evil, I don't have a problem with changing the age (again).

    However, in my opinion, the studies and statistics that are available (not including the work-in-progress referred to by Radley ... because its not done, yet) clearly indicate that rolling the age back down to 18 would recreate the conditions that caused us to push it up to 21 in the first place, and do a poor job of demonstrating the collective adults' ability to nurture and care for their young.

    And Matt, this will have no effect whatsoever on whether guns are used to enforce this same-law-different-age, except to guarantee that those guns will be pointed at increasingly younger members of our society.

  • ||

    On a libertarian website, the argument is easy: the only semi-valid point one can make for the age of legal drinking be above the age of majority is statistical, and therefore, utilitarian. In the end, the libertarian ideals, i.e. freedom and liberty, trump those of utility. Punish those who act irresponibly and hurt others, and let everyone else lead their own lives. Any other argument falls on its face.

  • wicks cherrycoke||

    Has it crossed MADD's mind, or the AMA's, that the reported drop in fatalities may be the result of stepped-up anti-drunk driving enforcement, increased criminal penalties for drunk driving, and the pushing of designated drivers -- all of which coincided with the increased drinking age?

  • Alberta Blue||

    "However, in my opinion, the studies and statistics that are available (not including the work-in-progress referred to by Radley ... because its not done, yet) clearly indicate that rolling the age back down to 18 would recreate the conditions that caused us to push it up to 21 in the first place"

    That's odd, when I was 18 I drank in both Alberta and Quebec which set the drinking age at 18. It certainly wasn't anarchy, and it isn't going to create the hellhole that you think it will.

    The answer is education, same with everything else. It's up to the parents and educators to teach us about alcohol so we can make informed decisions on our own.

    "and do a poor job of demonstrating the collective adults' ability to nurture and care for their young."

    18 years old isn't "young." At that age people who have left high school will have to make adult choices on education, work, etc. Most people from the age of 18-21 don't require "collective" protection from adults, nor should they.

    Dear god, if someone hasn't figured out how to act as a rational mature person by the age of 18 they're already in trouble.

  • Alberta Blue||

    "Has it crossed MADD's mind, or the AMA's, that the reported drop in fatalities may be the result of stepped-up anti-drunk driving enforcement, increased criminal penalties for drunk driving, and the pushing of designated drivers -- all of which coincided with the increased drinking age?"

    All they have to do is look at Canada. We've had similar drops and they were all primarily due to the initiatives that you just stated.

  • Matt||

    James,


    However, in my opinion, the studies and statistics that are available (not including the work-in-progress referred to by Radley ... because its not done, yet) clearly indicate that rolling the age back down to 18 would recreate the conditions that caused us to push it up to 21 in the first place, and do a poor job of demonstrating the collective adults' ability to nurture and care for their young."

    Perhaps the magic of state's rights can come in to save us? Actually, by the constitution any attempt to set the drinking age is already illegal, so states will have to set their own limits anyway (the fed gets around this by tying drinking age to highway dollars).

    Here is what would happen:

    The federal government will remove its bribes/blackmails for the states to set the drinking age to 21. Then, the states can decide on their own. The only state that I think even has a prayer of changing the age back to 18 is Vermont, and maybe New Hampshire.

    The states will decide for themselves, and then we can find out what the best policy by examining the outcome! Brilliant!

    "And Matt, this will have no effect whatsoever on whether guns are used to enforce this same-law-different-age, except to guarantee that those guns will be pointed at increasingly younger members of our society."

    Right, unless we removed the age limit entirely, as they (sort of) do in Europe, in which case guns aren't really involved at all.

  • ||

    Ok, as much crow as I can eat at one sitting ...

    1) JerseyDave says it the most purely. Not my position, but doesn't leave a nasty aftertaste and is idealogically sound.

    2) Alberta Blue ... I "came of age" when Vermont still allowed 18 year olds to freely partake. I don't recall describing a "hellhole". It was simply a shitload of teenagers holding keggers and avoiding cops. A fair share of 14 year olds in the mix, but I'm pretty sure they didn't even understand the concept of a drinking age, so they're moot. Just like was happening North of the border. Okay, that wasn't crow ... but I digress.

    3) Matt, I am already on record as supporting State's rights, and I agree with you that it would be best to follow the original model, on this issue. I'm still not sure how guns come into play, other than in discussions like this one (Do people obey laws out of a sense of order or because they are afraid of the punishment? For another time...), but I'll stipulate that they could be involved, in a couple of likely, crazy-ass scenarios.

  • ||

    James,

    When it comes to the law, guns are always involved. Most of the time, they do not need to be drawn, in order to get one to obey. The threat is usually enough for most folks.
    And yes, some do follow the law out of a sense of order. Sometimes not.

  • Alberta Blue||

    "2) Alberta Blue ... I "came of age" when Vermont still allowed 18 year olds to freely partake. I don't recall describing a "hellhole". It was simply a shitload of teenagers holding keggers and avoiding cops. A fair share of 14 year olds in the mix, but I'm pretty sure they didn't even understand the concept of a drinking age, so they're moot. Just like was happening North of the border. Okay, that wasn't crow ... but I digress."

    The truth is that you won't stop binge drinking by raising the drinking age. People will drink regardless, and in the end it's absurd to say that someone is mature enough to join the military, live on their own, pay taxes, drive, vote, yet not mature enough to have a beer.

    I can still recall American soldiers from Fort Drum coming up to Kingston to get a beer. It's a ridiculous law, and one that doesn't even help decrease the amount of drinking in society.

  • Nick||

    I just don't get it - it's the car that kills, not the beer. If they want to reduce drunk driving among teenagers, how about making the drinking age 16 and the driving age 18? People can lose their alcohol virginity in the comfort and safety of their parents' home two years before they get behind a wheel, by which point hopefully most of the novelty factor will have died out (as it usually does when drinkers turn 21). Sounds reasonable to me.

    Furthermore, MADD's "survey" of reduced drunk driving accidents since the instatement of the 21-drinking age has almost zero merit because the figure does not show trends in people from ages 18 to 21 only. You can't say because less 39 year olds are driving drunk that it must be because 18 year olds aren't able to drink.

    Perhaps drunk driving reduced because MADD, to their credit, called attention to the horrible act and put it on the national map. I'm not a drinker, and I credit MADD's display at my elementary school for a statistically significant part of that. But their policy regarding the drinking age is almost as irrational as hitting the highway after three bottles of everclear.

  • ||

    "The only state that I think even has a prayer of changing the age back to 18 is Vermont, and maybe New Hampshire."

    What about Louisiana? Dont they serve frozen drinks in drive thrus down there?

  • zoltan||

    Oh fucking christ, Butler's spewing his utilitarian, graduated bullshit again?

    However, in my opinion, the studies and statistics that are available...clearly indicate that rolling the age back down to 18 marijuana back to legal status would recreate the conditions that caused us to push it up to 21 keep black men from thinking they can fuck white women in the first place, and do a poor job of demonstrating the collective adults' government's ability to nurture and care for their young to protect white men's fragile egos.

  • ||

    zoltan wins the thread!

  • zoltan||

    John is my hero. I look forward to imitating his raving tone whenever possible.



    Though I still think you're full of shit.

  • ||

    Me being the European I don't understand all the hype about minimum drinking age. Legally in Europe there is NO minimum drinking age. There is only a minimum age to purchase alcohol in the stores/bars, usually set at 16 or 18 years. A 10 year old can drink a beer in the public if he/she wants that.

    It is also not uncommon to see young kids with their parents drinking beer together. I don't see any problems with that. Kids try alcohol at low age and they see it is nothing special and as you can see - majority of Europeans are still healthy and alcohol abuse is pretty rare.

    Arguments about car accidents are also weak. Why just don't lower your BAC level for young drivers? In Europe they must have BAC of 0,0 if they are between 18-21, or even 24 years old in some countries.

    So I support no minimum drinking age (let's parents decide what is ok for their kids) and purchasing age of 16 or 18 for alcohol as it is already in place in Europe. It creates no harm in general to anyone. I found it strange that USA never tries to learn anything from other country's experiences...

  • Alberta Blue||

    Didn't the founder of MADD leave the organization and later repudiated it. I believe the reason why was because it had become a "prohibitionist" organization instead of one which focused on decreasing the amount of drunk driving deaths.

  • Hayekian Dreamer||

    It's probably fair game to point out in this thread that Vaune Dillmann won his case to market Beer with the bottle caps "try legal weed"

  • YoungLib||

    This sets a bad precedent. Once we re-introduce alcohol to those whom it has previsouly been forbidden, do we run the risk of letting anyone make these foolish decisions to harm their bodies? What's next? Cigarettes? Trans-fat? Foie gras?

  • ||

    Can any of the fans of the 21 year old age limit tell me where the Federal Government or the States derive the legal authority to deny legal adults the right to buy a legal beverage?

    Because, in my view, a government that exceeds its brief to "do good" is a far greater threat to life and limb than drunk driving teens.

  • ||

    YoungLib: so they are not allowed to harm their body at 18 years old (not to mention that they can go to war) but they are allowed to do it at 21? That makes no sense.

    Beside is their body, not yours. On what basis are you allowed to tell others what can they do with themselves?

  • Jordan||

    I don't recall describing a "hellhole". It was simply a shitload of teenagers holding keggers and avoiding cops. A fair share of 14 year olds in the mix, but I'm pretty sure they didn't even understand the concept of a drinking age, so they're moot.



    Which is exactly what still occurs, even with the magical minimum age of 21.

  • ||

    I don't think we need an age of majority. When parents think their kids are ready to become adults they send them out in to the woods with nothing but a knife and some string. If the kid finds their way home, tada adult!

    In all seriousness the 21yr drinking age is...how should I put this....Full of Shit. Adults are responsible for their choices and shouldn't have people with guns telling them how to run THEIR lives. Any thing else is....well...evil.

  • ||

    How about a compromise?

    Leave the drinking age at 21, BUT give out a waiver to any 18 year old who has a high school diploma and passes some sort of standardized test?

    Theoretically it would keep the real dummies from drinking too young and motivate the other kids to finish school and do well on the test.

    Or you could have a sliding scale of taxation on booze. At 18 the tax on a case of beer would be twice what it is when you are 21 or above, at 19 it would be 50% higher, etc. etc. That way you would allow kids to pay the higher costs they impose on society with their irresponsible drinking.

    The best option, though, would be just to do away with the notion of outlawing drinking altogether. Come down with a hammer on any offenders and let the majority of the citizens go on with their business in any manner that they might want to.

  • ||

    One casualty of MADD that was not mentioned in this article is that of live music, up close and personal. (Bands cannot make a serious living by only playing in Austin Texas over and over). There is a reason the our musical culture has been stuck on electronic rap for the last 25 years.

  • ||

    I'm with bill 19 is the way to go. But even then, countries like Great Britian, Russia, and even Germany have problems relating to drink of the their own. what should be done, is not sending people to prison over drinking or charging kids out the wahzoo for underage fines in order to line the pockets of cops in the towns that these colleges are in.

  • ||

    In countries with a low or no national minimum drinking age, teens are introduced to alcohol gradually, moderately, and under the supervision of their parents.

    In the early 1980's my family and I lived in Santo Domingo, RD. We hosted a High School party at our house. It included beer and rum, which was typical at Dominican inter-generational parties - yet no one got plastered. The next year I came to the US for college and was disgusted by the gross binge drinking hijinks at all the frat parties - yuck!

  • DAMM: Drunks Against Mad Mothe||

    "The alcohol industry won't touch the federal minimum drinking age, having been sufficiently scolded by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and federal regulators."

    If that's the case, then it's illogical. Do they think most 21+ consumers of alcohol are going to boycott manufacturers and sellers of alcoholic beverages for lobbying to lower the drinking age? I have always been baffled why those industries haven't sponsored state ballot initiatives in states that allow them to lower the drinking age in those states. They would easily pass, especially if the liquor lobby targeted 18-to-20-year-old voters outside of high school and college campuses and other common places where that age group gathers.

    States and counties that border Mexico and Canada are losing millions in revenue each year to border towns in those countries where American 18-to-20-year olds go and spend their money to drink legally.

  • Famous Mortimer||

    European countries experience "binge" drinking as well. It's just not fixated on like it is here. I'm all for lowering the drinking age, but these arguments that the U.S. experiences binge drinking because of the legal age are absurd.

    Lowering the age will likely have no effect on the way a College students treat drinking. It occurs in College communities across Europe. Getting shit faced is what you do at that age because you can afford to do so.

    Great Britian is a perfect example.

    "Binge" drinking is an issue in the U.S because it has been defined that way by our obsessive, self-help culture.

    The definition of binge drinking is completely arbitrary.

  • ||

    How is it that a person between 18 and 20 is not old enough to drink, but they are old enough to be arrested for drinking and have a life long criminal record because of it?

    Shouldn't all criminal charges and records be expunged at 21, like a juvinile record?

    It simply makes no sense to say they are old enough to go to JAIL or die in the ARMY, but they are not responsible enough to drink.

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