Mothers Against Sensible Data

Elina Tetelbaum, a law student at Yale University and Jeff Miron, a senior lecturer in Harvard University's department of economics (and Reason contributor!) have a good piece in Forbes about the useless, backwards misplaced faith in having a minimum drinking age of 21. The commentary also includes a nice refresher on the history of juvenile prohibition. Choice bits below:

Recently, however, more than 100 college and university presidents signed the Amethyst Initiative, a public statement calling for "an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age."

The response to the Amethyst Initiative was predictable:..The president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving...accused the university heads of "not doing their homework" on the relationship between the drinking age and traffic fatalities....

Our research compares traffic fatality rates in states before and after they changed their MLDA from 18 to 21. In contrast to all earlier work, however, we examined separately the impact in states that adopted an MLDA21 on their own and those that were coerced by the FUDAA.

The results are striking. Virtually all the life-saving impact of the MLDA21 comes from the few early-adopting states, not from the larger number that resulted from federal pressure. Further, any life-saving effect in those states that first raised the drinking age was only temporary, occurring largely in the first year or two after switching to the MLDA21.

Our results thus challenge both the value of the MLDA21 and the value of coercive federalism. While we find limited evidence that the MLDA21 saves lives when states adopted it of their own volition, we find no evidence it saves lives when the federal government compels this policy.

This makes sense if a higher MLDA works only when state governments can set a drinking age that responds to local attitudes and concerns--and when states are energized to enforce such laws. A policy imposed from on high, especially one that is readily evaded and opposed by a large fraction of the citizenry, is virtually guaranteed to fail.

The major implication of these results is that the drinking age does not produce its main claimed benefit. Moreover, it plausibly generates side effects, like binge drinking and disrespect for the law--the very behavior that events planned for this month's alcohol awareness theme are designed to deter.

Whole thing here.

Senior Editor Radley Balko covered the initial Amethyst Initiative story. Contributor Ted Galen Carpenter praised the two poster children of ending the MLDA21. Last year, Steve Chapman wrote about the perils of a lower drinking age. Prohibition Propaganda here.

If you are going to drink, do it right by perfecting these awesome beer pong shots:

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.

  • ||

    That's not beer pong, that's Beiruit.

    Geez, kids these days.

  • ||

    Didn't one of the founders of MADD quit the group because she said that it had become just a prohibitionist group rather than being a anti-drunk driving group? They have long since ceased to perform any useful purpose and become a menace.

  • ||

    the Amethyst Initiative, a public statement calling for "an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age."
    The response to the Amethyst Initiative was predictable:..


    Predictably hysterical, that is.

  • robc||

    John,

    MADD had just one founder. And yes.

    Basically, she said MADD had completed its mission. Drunk driving laws were much stricter and taken seriously. Drunk driving is no longer a joke. Problem solved.

  • robc||

    Mo,

    Next your going to tell me that the generic word for Coca-Cola,Sprite,Pepsi,Dr Pepper, etc isnt "Coke".

    Regional diffences.

  • ||

    "Basically, she said MADD had completed its mission. Drunk driving laws were much stricter and taken seriously. Drunk driving is no longer a joke. Problem solved."

    Wow. A political activist who admitted her cause was over and quit and went back to private life. What a woman.

  • Paul||

    "an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age."



    Roll back the war on drugs? Even a little bit? Never.

  • ||

    Didn't one of the founders of MADD quit the group because she said that it had become just a prohibitionist group rather than being a anti-drunk driving group?

    Yes, none other than the founder of MADD left the organization: Candy Lightner

  • Jeff P||

    Didn't Robert Ludlum write the Amethyst Initiative?

  • ||

    I have real problems with anybody who thinks that that people old enought to join the military are too young to drink.

    Seriously, Fuck MADD and the brooms they rode in on.

  • ||

    "Mothers Against Sensible Data"

    I thought most were.

    kid: "But it's only a block away!"
    mom: "I DON'T CARE - YOU ARE NOT GOING."

  • ||

    "I have real problems with anybody who thinks that that people old enought to join the military are too young to drink."

    Seriously. You can die for your country or be executed by your country for your crimes but somehow you are not mature enough to drink. Fuck them.

    I have a real problem with any drinking age where parents are involved. If I want to let my kid have a beer in my own house or at my table in a restaurant, it is none of the government's business.

  • phalkor||

    campus alcohol stupidity could very well ruin my weekend.

    you see, this weekend is a huge alumni return weekend at my alma mater. my fraternity house has been hit with every single double secret penalty I can think of this spring. alumni will descend upon the house with the fury of an angry swarm of locusts. if the festivities are stymied by the student life office there will be hell to pay. it amazes me how assheaded people can be over 3 pallets of Natty.

    3 pallets between 40 brothers and about 60 alum, for three days. university be damned, THERE WILL BE QUARTERS!

  • Warty||

    it is none of the government's business.

    How quaint.

  • ||

    Get Chapman to write a rebuttal. He should at least be called upon for some comedy fodder.

  • ||

    Stills or it didn't happen.

  • Anonymous||

    Is it true that members of the military under drinking age can drink under some circumstances, or was that just a dumb idea that got floated around? Because if so, it would seem to send a message.

  • ||

    "Is it true that members of the military under drinking age can drink under some circumstances, or was that just a dumb idea that got floated around? Because if so, it would seem to send a message."

    They drink overseas with no problem even on post. Back in the days before the federally mandated drinking age, military members could drink on post at 18. Since the post is federal property, the fact that some states had a drinking age of 21

  • Anne Keckler | ACSM Certified ||

    Members of the military used to be able to drink on base, at the enlisted and officers' clubs. My friends tell me that is no longer the case.

  • Anonymous||

    Back in the days before the federally mandated drinking age

    Ah, that must have been what I was thinking of.

    Now, let me get my pocket Constitution out and see where it says the federal government should be regulating this type of th ...TRANSMISSION ERROR: USER WAS BITTEN BY A SNARK...

  • ||

    What's even worse is the retarded pro-drinking-age propaganda they teach kids in high school.

    Not satisfied with having raised the drinking age, they have to try to squash opposition by spreading notions like the idea that "the teenage brain isn't well developed enough" to handle alcohol. Seriously, they tell kids that drinking in high school will cause brain damage cause their brains aren't finished growing until they are 21.

    It's the same anti-drug message, only applied to something that isn't even illegal, it's just restricted for an extra few years.

    I'm not kidding, when I argue drinking age with freshemen college kids a lot of them will repeat this crap. They've all been taught to internalize the restrictions as "for their own good". And it works, too, cause teenagers and college kids are the natural age group for opposing it. Once they hit 21 and can drink the impetus to do anything about it is gone.

  • ||

    They've all been taught to internalize the restrictions as "for their own good".

    And when you tell them that anyone who believes this crap would be free to refrain from drinking to protect their own immature brain, even though it was legal, their response is . . .?

  • Anonymous||

    And it works, too, cause teenagers and college kids are the natural age group for opposing it. Once they hit 21 and can drink the impetus to do anything about it is gone.



    So what you're saying is that "the teenage brain isn't well developed enough" to critically handle anti-drug propaganda, right?

    I'm grinning at the thought that I sort of agree with both arguments, yet what happens at home is none of their business.

  • ||

    I think the teenage brain is far too developed to accept anti-anything propaganda.

    Its drug war 101; make outrageous claims of what drugs can and will do to you, while the actual experience of those who observe and partake in the real world is so far removed from the bullshit that it is laughable.

  • ||

    "Its drug war 101; make outrageous claims of what drugs can and will do to you, while the actual experience of those who observe and partake in the real world is so far removed from the bullshit that it is laughable."

    If anything the drug war creates addicts by over hyping the effects of drugs. Kids are told rediculous things about drugs killing you and making your crazy and addicting you after the first use. Then the kids who do try drugs see that none of that is true and assume it is all bullshit and that drugs are totally safe. We would be better off telling kids the truth which is that drugs when not abused are not necessarily unsafe but that it is very easy and tempting to abuse them once you start using.

  • Harrison Bergeron||

    We would be better off telling kids the truth which is that drugs when not abused are not necessarily unsafe but that it is very easy and tempting to abuse them once you start using.

    It's a good thing we don't have to deal with such demanding critical reasoning. Government exists to eliminate such risks.

  • ||

    So what you're saying is that "the teenage brain isn't well developed enough" to critically handle anti-drug propaganda, right?

    It takes a few years for it to wear off. But by that time, they've turned 21.
    In the meantime, there's plenty of campus "educational" "social" groups reinforcing the message. Ya know, stop underage drinking campaigns and such. Freshman orientation bullshit.
    Plus any campus club that might encounter drinking at it's activities is subject to scrutiny by the university. They are all so terrified of having their charters revolked that they shove the anti-drinking propaganda even harder.

    I've personally encountered this phenomenon. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the law, so they parrot the same crap even if they will privately tell you they think it's stupid. They just don't want to risk drawing the campus cops attention.

  • ||

    I have to add that this climate of fear makes it hard to organize opposition to the drinking age. People get used to parroting the notion that "underage drinking" is harmful, just to stay in line with the law. It's an enforced dogma.

  • Anonymous||

    That's why it has to be attacked orthogonally. It doesn't matter whether the substance is problematic. Regulation is not appropriate.

    Penn & Teller are pretty effective with this message. (I believe they've put all their shows up on Google Video.)

  • jtuf||

    My grandma gave me a sip of her beer when I was 4. It tasted so bad I didn't try my next sip for 17 years. I'm all for lowing the drinking age to 18 and letting parents teach their kids moderation before that.

  • ||

    They drink overseas with no problem even on post.

    And it's doubly true off-post*.


    *Which is why you have to have olders servicemembers looking out for some of these guys. Some of them can't handle their alcohol very well.

  • ||

    Want to stop drunk driving, make it 6 months minimum jail time for a DUI. Problem solved.

  • economist||

    "I'm not kidding, when I argue drinking age with freshemen college kids a lot of them will repeat this crap."

    Kids these days. At my school we worked our asses off, and if we wanted to get wasted over the weekend, then by gawd we would get wasted! I'm not sure if college kids at other schools were such little pansies at the time as they are now, but I highly doubt it. And they wonder why I drink so much.

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement