Alcohol

60 Minutes on Lowering the Drinking Age

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The video below aired a couple of weeks ago, but it's a pretty good look at the drinking age debate, with lots of camera time for Amethyst Initiative founder John McCardell.

(Note: If video isn't working below, you can watch it here.)

One quibble: At one point in the segment, Lesley Stahl suggests that the "conundrum" for policymakers is that raising the drinking age has reduced alcohol-related traffic fatalities, but may be contributing to fatalities associated with underage binge drinking.

But there may not be a conundrum at all. When I interviewed McCardell for the February issue of Reason, he explained why the argument that raising the drinking age is responsible for the 20-year drop in highway deaths doesn't hold water:

There has been a decline in traffic fatalities. But it began in 1982, two years before the law changed. It has basically been flat or inching upward for the last decade.

More interestingly, the decline has come in every age group, not just people between 18 and 21. And if you look at Canada, where the minimum drinking age is 18 or 19 [depending on the province], the trend in highway fatalities has almost exactly paralleled ours. It's far more likely that the reduction in deaths is due to seat belt use, airbags, and safer cars.

Not to mention the enormously successful public awareness campaign Mothers Against Drunk Driving began in the early 1980s. MADD today has veered off into neoprohibition. But there's no question their PR campaign changed attitudes about drunk driving.


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  1. The drinking age should be 19. That way it’s still illegal for high school kids but collegians can drink legally, since they are going to do it anyway.

  2. Thanks for the article. The decline in traffic fatalities is one of key lynchpin arguments that drinking age advocates have going for them. I always suspected that it was flawed, but they seemed to have the statistics behind them.

    I think a lot of people would change their mind on the drinking age if they knew that traffic accidents have declined for all age groups and regardless fo age limits.

  3. It should be 18 or just like Europe-any age with parents or something like 16 when alone and ordering food.

    Asch and Levy in the 1986 Journal of Policy Analysis and Management showed that the only effect of the drinking age was “Mortality Distribution” that is, the large reduction in deaths among 16-20 year olds was offset by the much smaller decrease increase in deaths in 21-25 year olds-both compared to control group of 25-49 year olds.

    Mike Males examined these studies and provided his own examples in his books “Framing Youth” and “Scapegoat Generation”. Dee and Evans also examined this in a 2001 American Economics Association paper.

    A simplistic example is:
    16-20 year olds go down 15 percent;
    21-24 year olds go down 3 percent.
    25-49 year old deaths go down 10 percent;

    The IIHS studies that provided the “600 deaths per year saved” quotes were essentially based on comparing nighttime alcohol related traffics deaths between the 16-20 and 21-24 groups. Using my #s, they would show a 12 percent reduction.

    If you use 25-49 as a control, you would see that more 21-24 year olds died than would have been expected.

    Neither Males, Asch and Levy, nor Dee and Evans could show any real savings of lives. So, at best, we’re left with a wash; at worst, a 1-3% increase in overall deaths.

    For all of the resources dumped into the 21 drinking age, a wash (0%) or even 1-2% reduction shows a severe cost-benefit disparity.

    When it suits their purposes, anti-alcohol (that’s really what they are) groups always like to pimp the drinking age as having saved 26,000 lives. When they need to push for a ratcheting up of the 21 MLDA related laws, they like to claim that teens have easy access to alcohol, underage possession laws aren’t being enforced, clerks don’t ID, cops/parents/schools don’t take it seriously, most states don’t have the “model 21 drinking age” laws, etc.

    So they get to have it both ways-the 21 drinking age is the most successful law ever YET easily evaded and unenforced. If we took them at their word, the 21 drinking age simply couldn’t have been responsible for any lives saved, as it had no effect on the behavior of people under 21.

    [Gun Control groups did this with the Assault Weapon Ban of 1994-on one hand, claiming it saved hundreds of lives yet also complaining that it was “skirted” within the first month when gun makers made “cosmetic changes”.]

    In the end, the states don’t have to completely abolish the 21 drinking age and lose highway funding. Federal law only requires they prohibit purchase and public consumption. Sale, possession, private consumption, presence in establishments, serving, etc. could all be legalized while public consumption and purchase could be made low priority minimal penalty ‘crimes’ with high barriers to arrest/citation.

  4. Old enough to pee, old enough for me.

  5. It’s a shame about MADD. Their initial premise: drunk driving is really irresponsible and badd, is right on the money. Once they established that, and established more reasonable (read: stronger) legal penalties for drunk driving, their mission was accomplished. At that point they were an interest group without a mission, so of course they went way off track rather than disbanding. It’s an all-to-common problem.
    p

  6. Fuck MADD… when the founder leaves and signs up with the liquor lobby… that should tell you that they’ve gone off the deep end.

    Nephilium

  7. I think we should let local communities decide their alcohol laws. If I could, I’d live in a drugs/drink dry area — there are fewer idiots, since it’s harder to live sober than not.

  8. Am I the only college guy with absolutely no interest in drinking, ever? Though I do agree the minimum age should be lowered/abolished, whichever is most legally feasible (like that’s a tough choice).

  9. From McCardel:

    “It’s far more likely that the reduction in deaths is due to seat belt use, airbags, and safer cars.”

    Good thing the invisible hand of the market led to safer vehicles and ubiquitous seatbelts and airbags. If those things had been the result of government mandates against the will of the auto industry and its market-absolutist supporters, that sort of hypothesis might not sit well with libertarians.

  10. Didn’t most luxury car makers beat the government by years, if not decades, with things like energy absorbing crash zones, air bags (early/mid 80s Mercedes come to mind), shoulder seat belts, side air bags, head air bags, etc.?

    My 2000 Infiniti G20 had side air bags, yet those weren’t required until 2007 model year. My 1991 Eagle Talon and my Brother’s Lincoln 1991 Town Car each had driver air bags yet those didn’t become mandatory until 1996 for drivers and 1997 for passengers.

    Nearly all cars now have head and/or rear side air bags yet they aren’t mandatory.

    The market does what it’s told. If people want safer cars, automakers will out-safety each other the same way they do with power, comfort, gadgets, handling, gas mileage etc.

  11. Am I the only college guy with absolutely no interest in drinking, ever?

    How’s that virginity treating you?

  12. First of all, the “lack” of advances in auto safety prior to government intervention does not necessarily strike a death blow to libertarians. The market responds to people’s wishes – if people aren’t willing to pay more for safer cars, it’s not in the interest of auto manufacturers to make them.

    It’s the same phenomenon as when people complain about “products being manufactured overseas,” but they usually don’t want to pay more for American goods.

    Interesting point about MADD – the original case that motivated the creation of the organization involved a drunk driver…who was well over the age of 18 (in his 40s, I believe). So, misusing statistics to support a point fits in well with the organization’s tactics.

  13. If those things had been the result of government mandates against the will of the auto industry and its market-absolutist supporters, that sort of hypothesis might not sit well with libertarians.

    You’re arguments might seem sensible to you, but some of use WERE AROUND BEFORE SEATBELT LAWS AND REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS LIKE! My parents bought seatbelts as an addon. I remember them buying a Rambler from the dealer, and then going to a store (as in “the market) and buying seatbelts for the front and back seats. I can’t remember what the next car was, but I remember it had front belts but no back belts, so my parents but belts from a store (as in “the market) for the back seat.

    I also remember what the world was like before mandatory helmet laws. We had helmets for motorcycles. Even when I went off to college, where my parents weren’t around to nag me, I still wore my helmet. Oh, and I remember what the world was like before mandatory child safety seats. People were buckling their kids into child safety seats. Airbags and anti-lock brakes were standard in many automobiles before they were mandated.

    Face it, government safety regulation tends to follow the market, not lead it.

  14. Am I the only college guy with absolutely no interest in drinking, ever?

    How’s that virginity treating you?

    To be fair, the guy on my dorm floor freshman year who got the most play was a complete teetotaler.

  15. the “lack” of advances in auto safety prior to government intervention does not necessarily strike a death blow to libertarians. The market responds to people’s wishes – if people aren’t willing to pay more for safer cars, it’s not in the interest of auto manufacturers to make them.

    I couldn’t agree more, except in my opinion you left out a salient point. Namely, once the public gets on board a particular meme, such as airbags, it is *only* then that government gets going and enacts mandatory laws.

    In other words, at best government can be seen as accelerating trends that were already in place. Of course, at worst government does all kinds of things that weren’t desired by large segments of the population in the first place, such as taxing the crap out of people to “reduce the deficit” instead of cutting government spending.

  16. p mac-

    You are right on target. In a former life, I was a high school teacher and sponsored our MADD chapter. The school looked forward to our assembly because MADD had interesting speakers who really laid it out to the kids in an conversational manner that treated them as adults. Now I don’t even know that organization anymore.

  17. I don’t know about this. If you look at all the binge drinking that goes on in colleges, I think it would be irresponsible to allow children under 21 to have legal access to alcohol.

  18. OK, Fred. I’m gonna tell you one more time. No one gives a shit about your opinion. Binge drinking occurs when kids can’t drink legally. You see, they score alcohol in large quanities out of the danger of acquisition rather than making it a consistent part of their diet like people do once they reach legal age. If it were just legal at 18, they’d binge occasionally like at parties but be able to handle it better because they might have a drink or two every other day and build up some sort of tolerance.

    If Fred it one of you regulars trolling for whiny comments like mine, forget I said anything. Otherwise, Fuck You Fred.

  19. If it were just legal at 18, they’d binge occasionally like at parties but be able to handle it better because they might have a drink or two every other day and build up some sort of tolerance.

    That is absolute nonsense. I’ve heard a lot of things but that is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. The mere fact that they binge drink the way they do just proves that children under 21 can’t handle alcohol. No one under 21 should touch a drop of alcohol, that is what the law says. Also, it really is irresponsible to drink in front of children or have alcohol advertising that children under 21 can see.

  20. OK, like I said, sorry. Fred apparently must be a regular just trolling. No one can be that puritanical. My bad.

  21. Sorry, by trolling I meant spoofing. It’s Monday and my team just signed T.O. I can’t be held responsible for my actions on this day.

  22. I was in college when the drinking age was 18 in New York State. Some binge drinking, but nowhere near as much as there is now. And it was predominantly limited to frosh.

    Legal activities tend to be self-regulating because they are done in the open, but illegal activities are not because they are hidden.

    So do what my college did: ban frosh from having cars on campus. If it’s a rural campus, that means that frosh won’t have any cars around, and if it’s an urban campus, there are plenty of alternative means fo transportation.

    Because upperclassmen tend to be more responsible in drinking, they can still drive.

  23. “The mere fact that they binge drink the way they do just proves that children under 21 can’t handle alcohol. ”

    Now we’re defining children as 20 year olds? What does that say about who we send off to war? This is ridiculous, you could pick any arbitrary number. This is supposed to be a nation of constitutional law, and equal protection would seem to indicate you can’t tell an 18 year old they are a citizen but they can’t have a drink like a 22 year old. You let somebody behind the wheel of a 2000 pound machine that reaches speeds in excess of 100mph with no problem, you allow them to buy high powered rifles, they can join the military and fly F-18s or man a nuclear launch tube, but they can’t have a drink? Thats just silly, as well as vastly hypocritical.

  24. Another issue on the reduction in traffic incidents is that the 78 million Boomers are aging and no longer going to keggers and out and about.

    So pulling out of circulation a 78 million bunch will lower totals.

  25. Lower the drinking age to 18 and raise the voting age to 35. The best of both worlds!

  26. Oh, and have we looked at what CASA and Califano have defined as a “binge”. They say if a Male drinks 4 beers, he is on a binge. And a Female drinks 3 beers…she is on a binge.

    So every time I watch the game at home…we are all on a “binge”. What patent nonsense. So you need to watch these stats from their group.

    When I grew up a binge was when the guy next door was gone from home for 3-4 days.

    Thats a binge, not 3 or 4 beers.

  27. Oh, and have we looked at what CASA and Califano have defined as a “binge”. They say if a Male drinks 4 beers, he is on a binge. And a Female drinks 3 beers…she is on a binge.

    They define heavy drinking as six or more drinks per week. You should only drink for the taste, anyone who drinks enougth to feel intoxicated at all has a problem and needs treatment.

  28. Sorry, by trolling I meant spoofing. It’s Monday and my team just signed T.O.

    As a lifelong Cowboy fan, all I have to say is

    AH HA HA HA HA ha ha ha ha!

    They define heavy drinking as six or more drinks per week.

    So if I have one (1) beer with dinner every night except Sunday, I am a binge drinker. Got it.

  29. As long as I can drink, I don’t care 🙂

  30. bill | March 8, 2009, 8:58pm

    Why wipe your ass if your going to have to wipe it again anyway. Bill what kind of reasoning is that, to change the law because everyones breaking it?

  31. Two points.

    First, tying the “binge drinking” phenomena to the age restriction on drinking is just ridiculous. What evidence suggests that if we move the drinking age to 18 that today’s youth will not simply move their “Big Party” up three years?

    A big part of the push from this movement is being done by college administrators and they appear to to be trying to push the problem onto someone else. I fear we are making a big mistake in policy that will impact millions of people because of some bad publicity some colleges have received in isolated incidents.

    Second, the real reason to have a 21 year old drinking age is not to prevent 18-20 year olds from drinking. It is to try to reduce 13-17 year olds from drinking. The rational is that fewer young teens will know someone in their early 20’s who would provide them with alchohol. However, with the drinking age at 18 more teens would know someone, a classmate for example, who would be able to purchase alchohol for them.

    Most high school seniors turn 18 during the school year. What we do not need is to create many new sources for young people’s alchohol needs.

    What I suggest is a simple two phase approach. We should leave the minimum age to PURCHASE OFF SALE liquor at 21, but reduce the age were alchohol can be consumed, on and off premise, to 18. Whatever law that is passed reducing the age limit should be temporary, expiring in less than five years so that the impact on traffic safety can be evaluated. If lawmakers then find an increase in auto accidents they can simply let the lower drinking age expire.

  32. Remember the movie Topper in which Cary Grant drives down the road, drunk as a saint, steering with his feet and later dies while driving sober.

    Ah, Hollywood before it got all self righteous!

    I vote beer or wine with parents and food at any age, anyplace… as long as the kid is not driving.

  33. Second, the real reason to have a 21 year old drinking age is not to prevent 18-20 year olds from drinking. It is to try to reduce 13-17 year olds from drinking.

    Your nanny state in action, folks – prohibiting you from doing something to make it harder for a third party to do it.

    Whatever law that is passed reducing the age limit should be temporary, expiring in less than five years so that the impact on traffic safety can be evaluated.

    The statist mind at work. Laws restricting rights need no sunset period, apparently, but laws expanding rights do.

  34. I grew up in Belgium. I don’t think it was illegal for me to drink alcohol at any age, but I do think I had to be 16 to buy any (not 100% sure about that, though).

    Anyway, my mom tried and tried to get me to *like* alcohol. As in: enjoy the taste, the texture, savor it, etc. It was never a question of getting drunk. I think most people there are more into the taste of it than they are about getting drunk.

    Having said that, however, in my first year of college, we had keg parties in the basement of the medicine college (all authorized by the school). Each Thursday, a different student organization would host it. And sure enough, tons of students would come out of there drunk and puke on the pavement. But then, I don’t think it’s very different in the US, even when it’s illegal to drink. I transferred to a US university as a sophomore and saw the same things happen. There was a big difference though: the knowledge that you were doing something illegal just made it all the more exciting. There was that extra little bit of adrenaline.

    I think we need to trust parents to teach their kids how to drink alcohol. If I can teach my kids how to drink it properly WHILE THEY’RE LIVING IN MY HOUSE, I think I’ll be much more successful than when they’re off in college in the company of other drunk college students. If I do try to teach them that while they’re still in high school, how can I? I could go to jail just for letting them have a beer or a glass of wine.

  35. Your nanny state in action, folks – prohibiting you from doing something to make it harder for a third party to do it.

    When your ‘rights’ cause harm to others or have negative downstream effects on society they may be restricted. The way the 18-21 year olds binge, it is obvious the law needs to stay at 21 to prevent them from drinking. Just increase the penalties, anyone under 21 caught intoxicated or with alcohol goes to jail for 25 years and the problem is solved.

  36. “Good thing the invisible hand of the market led to safer vehicles and ubiquitous seatbelts and airbags. If those things had been the result of government mandates against the will of the auto industry and its market-absolutist supporters, that sort of hypothesis might not sit well with libertarians.”

    Right. That’s why I think it should be mandated that your car is wrapped in bubble wrap and the speed limit reduced to 5mph.

    “They define heavy drinking as six or more drinks per week. You should only drink for the taste, anyone who drinks enougth to feel intoxicated at all has a problem and needs treatment.”

    Huh. Back in the day, I could put down a ton of beer and not feel intoxicated. Now I get loopy after 1 or 2 bottles. So NOW I need treatment. Good to know.

  37. Bill sez (obviously without thinking):

    “The way the 18-21 year olds binge, it is obvious the law needs to stay at 21 to prevent them from drinking.”

    Er, yea.

    So becuase 18-21 y.o.s drink so much the present laws are necessary to keep them from drinking so much.

    Brilliant.

  38. If you can get drafted, pay taxes, vote, and get your own passport you should be able to get a beer in a bar. Granted they call the draft Selective Service these days, but it is the same thing. Drinking age should be 18 full stop.

  39. “Just increase the penalties, anyone under 21 caught intoxicated or with alcohol goes to jail for 25 years and the problem is solved.”

    Right. Or maybe we could just shoot them in the head if we catch a 20 year old with a can of bud in his possession. Good call, Bill.
    Oh, but wait. I work at a bar during the summer and many people over 21 also drink a lot. Maybe we should raise the age to 40. Or ban it altogether. I don’t know why no one thought of that before. What could possibly go wrong?

  40. “Your nanny state in action, folks – prohibiting you from doing something to make it harder for a third party to do it.”

    Another reason why unadultered libertarianism cannot be taken seriously. The basics of the philosophy are very important, but they make complete fools of themselves when they take their “party line” to its extremes.

    In this case, the “third party” are children. Apparently the “Libertarians” do not care about children.

    As the other poster points out, the problem with the libertarian philosophy is that they do not recognize that in many cases the rights of individuals conflict. When individual rights conflict these conflicts can only be handled by government, either by legislative statute or judicial decision.

    A simple example is the person who wants to listen to their music loud and the person who wants to have peace and tranquility. Each of these individuals desires is their “right”. However, these rights conflict. The resolution to this conflict is local noise ordinances.

  41. “Good thing the invisible hand of the market led to safer vehicles and ubiquitous seatbelts and airbags. If those things had been the result of government mandates against the will of the auto industry and its market-absolutist supporters, that sort of hypothesis might not sit well with libertarians.”

    Who, exactly, invented all those safety devices?

    It wasn’t “the government”, it was the auto industry. All government did was push these safety devices to be put into vehicles, sometimes before they were properly tested.

    Who remembers Ralph Nader pushing the industry to install air bags, even though engineers warned they needed more testing? Of course, “the government” won, and many children and small adults literally lost their heads as the result of improperly designed air bags.

    Nader demonstrating the proper technique to decapitate a little girl

  42. “If you can get drafted”

    But, there is no draft and a 2 year old can pay taxes. Do you advocate reducing the drinking age to 2?

    Drinking is a major problem for young people today. Even with the drinking age of 21, access to alchohol is a major problem. Reducing the legal age for purchase of alchohol is clearly not a solution.

  43. Mark, how about this, if you are old enough to take up arms for your country, you are old enough to buy a beer?

    And since even with the drinking age at 21 underage drinking is such a problem, what age do you suppose is the “right” one?

  44. Mark, your last post is all over the place.

    You’re trying to morph ‘not caring about children’ into violating their rights. Too different things. You seem to fall into the group that thinks that the “right” of a 13-17 year old to be forcibly made alcohol-free is violated by allowing someone older then them to drink. This is a bizarre perversion of the concept of rights.

    Gun control groups engage in this same type of third party nonsense. One gun rights group parodies their push for a 21 firearm ownership age by saying something along the lines “The age to own a firearm needs to be raised from 18 to 21 in order to stop 16 year olds from getting guns.”

    It’s not a violation of the rights of 13-17 year olds to allow 18-20 year olds to drink anymore then it’s violation of 18-20 year olds right now that 21-24 year olds can drink. It is a violation of the rights of 18-20 year olds to deny them something simply to make sure that 13-17 year olds can’t do it.

  45. Our rigid absolutist attitude towards alcohol IS the problem. The drinking age has to come down AND become more flexible. Teens have to be able to drink a beer/glass of wine/shot of Scotch with their parents in public even if they’re under 18; they should be able to buy for on premises consumption (with food, maybe) at 14/16 just like in most European countries.

    As long as our system has a rigid age, that age will be where the problems happen. When the drinking age is a rigid 18, 18 year olds have the highest # of alcohol related mishaps; when it’s 19, 19 year olds do, etc.

    Dee and Evans in their 2001 AEA paper noted something else interesting.

    In states where the drinking age was 18, there was a spike at 18 for various alcohol related problems that declined each year after. When states went 21, there was a similar spike at 18, then another spike at 21 that leveled off over the next few years just like it did with 18 year olds in ’18’ states.

    You can find a copy of the study here:
    http://www.youthrights.org/forums/downloads.php?do=file&id=108

  46. There should be a single age of majority. At age X, you are an adult and assume all the rights and responsibilites thereof. If you are below age X, you are legally considered a child, your parents are held legally responsible for your actions, and you can be legally subject to restrictions such as not being able to drink, smoke, drive, vote, buy a gun, join the army, etc. I’m not advocating that any of these restrictions, or even a particular age of majority. I’m just arguing that the law should recognize only one age of majority. You are an adult, or you are a child, with no gray area.

  47. “At age X, you are an adult and assume all the rights and responsibilites thereof.”

    Again, that is all fine and dandy in theory, but reality is a different matter. In the real world there is “gray area”.

    Lets put it this way, if we could create a world were you were totally independent from other people, then maybe these libertarian “do whatever you want” ideas would be plausible. But we do not live in such a world. Other people’s action impact me directly or indirectly. THeir irresponsible behaviour increases my risk and expenses.

    “It’s not a violation of the rights of 13-17 year olds to allow 18-20 year olds to drink anymore then it’s violation of 18-20 year olds right now that 21-24 year olds can drink. It is a violation of the rights of 18-20 year olds to deny them something simply to make sure that 13-17 year olds can’t do it”

    Whatever this means. Again, this is a problem of reality overcoming theorectical arguments. Anyone who thinks that it is possible to “simply make sure” that 13-17 year olds wont drink or do drugs is a complete fool that really has no place in this discussion. In the real world this is a difficult proposition.

    But, it is clear, that lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 will make this “less simple” and much more difficult. With a drinking age of 18, most high school seniors will be able to buy alchohol and distribute it to their friends. This is obviously a step in the wrong direction.

  48. “You should only drink for the taste, anyone who drinks enougth [sic] to feel intoxicated at all has a problem and needs treatment.”

    By that definition, anyone who can’t function in the morning without a cup of coffee is the moral equivalent of a crack addict.

    Seriously, what kind of idiot (or liar) drinks “only for the taste”?

  49. Mark-

    You know what would make 13-17 drinking alcohol almost impossible.

    Banning it entirely? I mean, that’s the correct extension of your logic, right? It would make it “less simple” for this vulnerable age group to obtain alcohol.

    And, as for violation of rights, what about the 13-17-year-olds? Do they have rights?

  50. 1. But not all logic is meant to be “extended”. And, frankly, when someone’s counter is an absurd extension of your “logic” it means that they simply have no counter to your argument.

    The fact is, when making public policy choices we weigh the cost and benefits. We then make a choice, clearcut or not, on how to procede.

    In this decision, the “rights” of the 18-20 year olds to drink alchohol simply do not measure up against the “rights” of others to reduce the amount of alchohol available to kids under 18. In my view, this is a consensus agreement on how best to measure the drinking rights of the majority versus the very real public safety concerns of the same.

    2. If you review my posts, I think that the best solution is my two step approach which makes the legal age to consume alchohol 18 but the legal age to purchase alchohol off-sale 21.

    3. In addressing the rights of a 13-17 year old we must realize that there are many different categories of rights. People under the age of 18 do not possess the entire array of “rights” that people over this age do. The original constitution created even more categories (i.e. women, free blacks, and slaves) than exist in the modern era.

    So, minors are citizens of the United States and possess the “rights” of citizenship. But, citizenship is actually the lowest level of rights that an natural person can have in the United States. A citizen does not have the inherent “right” to vote, possess firearms, or drink beer. These rights are reserved for a higher level of rightsholders, which in the old language of the Constitution is known as “The People” (i.e. “We the People”).

  51. Actually, extending someone’s argument is itself a valid counterargument. By doing so, you can: (1) obtain further clarification as to the exact logic being used by the other person and (2) emphasize any discrepancies or potential problems with simply applying a logical rule without qualifications/conditions.

    In this situation, I understand that you think the risks outweigh the rights of 18-20 y.o.s. I fail to see why you so strongly object to others who might lower that age to 18, 16. If you have specific reasons for why these ages would be objectionable, I would be happy to hear them. I sincerely apologize if you have discussed these reasons before as it is tired, and I am enjoying this debate too much to go to sleep quite yet.

    In this case, your original decision seems to be based on the idea that we should pursue legislation that would limit 13-17-year-old’s access to alcohol. You have yet to provide a reason why my counter-plan of banning alcohol would not also provide solvency for your problem.

    On the other hand, if you admit that at some point people’s rights outweigh the risk of 13 to 17-year-old’s getting access to alcohol (as you seem to be doing by rejecting prohibition), then why can’t I make a different determination that the risks don’t outweigh depriving 18-20-year-old’s of that right?

    If you admit that at some point, parents/the kids themselves have to step up and be responsible, then why can’t that point be 18?

    Next, your purchase/consume distinction is once again unfair to 18-20 year-old’s. Why should it be illegal for them to purchase something that is legal for them to possess? Again, an 18-20 year-old drinking does NOT cause a direct harm to anyone. Now, if they do something stupid (DUI, etc.), then this new harmful act can and should be legislated.

    The point you’re missing is that legislating indirect harms is a risky proposition. Most actions I take have some impact on others. Leaving a light on, not buying American-made products, etc. It is difficult for me to limit someone’s rights in favor of protecting others from some indirect harm. For example, should it be illegal to buy non-American-made products? By buying other products, I am indirectly causing others to lose their jobs.

    I recognize that this is not your original point, but I am trying to flesh out your thinking by applying your logic of legislating indirect harms to different situations. Again, I apologize if I am misrepresenting your position, and I welcome any clarifications you might have.

    As to the minors are citizens argument. I am interested (as I was not previously aware) that “We, the People” included only a certain class of Americans.

    Additionally, I am saddened that your interpretation of constitutional rights seems to follow the pattern of “if it was not expressly granted, it does not exist.” Perhaps this is where you and I differ – I believe that the government only has the authority to curtail your rights when your actions directly harm others (I punch you or steal your stuff).

  52. One amendment to my previous post – 18-20 year old’s might cause a direct harm to someone – themselves.

    You may think this is justification for legislation. However, I don’t think that the government has the ability (nor the duty) to protect you from harming yourself.

  53. @ random college student:

    You aren’t the only one. I’ve met a few others here who simply aren’t interested, or who are unwilling to kill off their brain cells.

    Me, I just can’t stand the taste of alcohol. I suspect I’m unusually sensitive to the taste, unfortunately. I’ve tried a lot of things and could even taste the alcohol in homemade root beer.

    *shrug* Don’t think badly of yourself for being a teetotaler. A fair number of MIT folks decline to drink, and we aren’t precisely stupid.

  54. “One amendment to my previous post – 18-20 year old’s might cause a direct harm to someone – themselves.”

    And, as I have stated before, if it was simply harming themselves it might be a different story. That is, if we could completely indemnify society from the propblems created when we “harm ourselves” then maybe I would agree with you. But, that is not the case. Even if the only person directly harmed is the individual, the indirect costs such as increased insurance cost and even fear are borne by society as a whole.

    “extending someone’s argument is itself a valid counterargument”

    Not really, and you know it. In your extension, you knowingly “extended” the argument to a point you knew that I never intended it to “extend”. BY doing this you reveal a weakness in your own argument.

    Basically, you follow the simple pattern that outright libertarians employ when they are discussing these issues, and that is what the objectives are.

    For example, their argument about drug legalization is that drug laws “do not work” because we have people who use drugs. Since we have people who use drugs the laws are failures. SInce the laws are failures we must get rid of the laws.

    But, the fact is, no law is meant to totally prevent something. Our laws regarding homicide, by the same argument above, are also failures because they fail to prevent murders. Speed limits do not “prevent” people from speeding. But, these laws are not meant for absolute prevention, but rather, changing the distributions of actions.

    When we have a speed limit of 55 we expect a certain distribution of driving speeds. If the limit is changed to 65, then we will expect another distribution.

    The real argument is then, in the absence of the law, what would be the result. In this argument the only issue is what would be the result of lowering the drinking age. And, any objective view would indicate that this would only increase underage drinking because the availability of supply would only increase. Since, the momentum for the idea of lowering drinking age is to prevent “binge” drinking, it is an easy choice for me. It is doubtful that “binges” by young people will be stopped and it will increase harm to kids who are 13-17 year old. It is lose-lose. Again, the people who are pushing this idea (besides the out and out whacko libertarians) are college administrators who have had bad publicity because of a few incidents on their campuses. They simply do not want the binge “turning 21” parties happening on their watch and have proposed terrible policy changes simply to cover their asses.

    “Additionally, I am saddened that your interpretation of constitutional rights seems to follow the pattern of “if it was not expressly granted, it does not exist.” ”

    I am not sure why you make this claim. However, what you are missing is the fact that the “constitution” is a federal constitution. The structure of the United States did not limit the government organization to just the national government. The concept of government of the Framers was of a limited national government but strong local government. The States assumed very broad police powers that not only included direct, but “indirect” harms.

    So, you may believe that the states should only use that power for direct harms, but you are very incorrect in your view that government only has the AUTHORITY to legislate direct harms.

    Further, you are overstating the distinction between a “direct” and “indirect” harm as a cause for government action. I see very little. As I alluded to earlier, fear is an “indirect” harm. Public safety is an almost pure indirect issue. I have the “right” to public safety, not only to have a physical safety but also a lessened fear of walking or driving the streets from various dangers.

  55. Even if the only person directly harmed is the individual, the indirect costs such as increased insurance cost and even fear are borne by society as a whole.

    There are negative downstream effects of a lot of things, that is why the government has a right and in fact an obligation to ban anything that might be harmful to us, i.e. illegal underage drinking, drugs, fatty foods, etc.

    I have the “right” to public safety, not only to have a physical safety but also a lessened fear of walking or driving the streets from various dangers.

    You also have a right to live in a drug, tobacco and perhaps alcohol free society.

    “A drug free world, we can do it!”

  56. “You also have a right to live in a drug, tobacco and perhaps alcohol free society.”

    I agree with that to a certain extent. However, sometimes your rights cannot coincide with your expectations. Further, reasonable accomodations need to be made for others who do not share your views.

  57. Juanita wrote:

    “…the government has a right…”

    No, the government has no rights. Only the people have rights.

    “You also have a right to live in a drug, tobacco and perhaps alcohol free society.”

    No, you have the right to choose not to use drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, not to impose your beliefs on others.

  58. Mark wrote:

    “The concept of government of the Framers was of a limited national government but strong local government. The States assumed very broad police powers that not only included direct, but ‘indirect’ harms.”

    It’s not clear on what your statement is based. There were no legal restrictions (other than excise taxes) on alcohol, tobacco or drugs at the time of the Constitution was written.

    “For example, their argument about drug legalization is that drug laws “do not work” because we have people who use drugs. Since we have people who use drugs the laws are failures. SInce the laws are failures we must get rid of the laws.

    But, the fact is, no law is meant to totally prevent something.”

    A very sad little straw man.

    Can you honestly say that the situation with regard to opiates is better than it was in 1914, before they were outlawed and/or sales severely restricted?

    Can you honestly say that the situation with regard marijuana is better than it was in 1937, when marijuana was outlawed?

    Can you honestly say that the situation with regard to amphetamines is better than it before 1965, when sales were severely restricted?

    Finally…

    “college administrators who have had bad publicity because of a few incidents on their campuses. They simply do not want the binge “turning 21″ parties happening on their watch and have proposed terrible policy changes simply to cover their asses.”

    I’m wondering if you live on the same planet as the rest of us. Do you really think it’s just “turning 21 parties”?

  59. “Can you honestly say that the situation with regard to opiates is better than it was in 1914, before they were outlawed and/or sales severely restricted?

    Can you honestly say that the situation with regard marijuana is better than it was in 1937, when marijuana was outlawed?

    Can you honestly say that the situation with regard to amphetamines is better than it before 1965, when sales were severely restricted?”

    Talk about straw men. What I can honestly say, in answer to all of these questions is that the “situation” is much better with these drugs being illegal and restricted than if they were made to be “legal”.

    There is no possible scenario that legalization will make the “drug situation” better. THere are several possible outcomes if drugs were made legal.

    One, the price of drugs would be reduced. Then drug users would increase their demand for drugs. THere would be many more drug addicts and drug deaths.

    Two, the price of drugs would remain the same. THen the level of drug use and addiction would also remain the same, as well as the related crime as users commit crimes to fund their habit. An “advantage” to this would be that certain revenues could potentially come to the government in taxes, but what this means is that the government is now the pusher of highly addictive and behaviour modifying drugs and that most likely the government would be forced to literally subsidize drug purchases to prevent crime.

    Three, drug prices could be increased. THis does nothing to the problem because the drugs would just be pushed into the country at the current market prices and bought in the black market.

    As demonstrated above, there is absolutely no sane argument to demonstrate how legalizing drugs will improve the drug problems in this country.

    THe only real remedy to the issue is incarceration. The direct correlation to the decrease in crime to the increase in incarceration rates, particularly for drug crimes is impossible to deny. People arrested for drug possession are, in almost all cases, common criminals that commit property and other crimes to support their habit or enforce their drug market. Locking them up reduces crime at a minimum for the period they are incarcerated.

    It is sad that after more than 40 years of the “SUmmer of Love” that the liberal healing professions have not developed effective drug rehabilitation programs for the drugs that they advocated. This is a major failing of liberalism that is often overlooked.

    “I’m wondering if you live on the same planet as the rest of us. Do you really think it’s just “turning 21 parties”?”

    Actually, yes because this current drive to lower the drinking age is being driven by several college presidents. I have heard them interviewed and all they talk about is the binge drinking issue of when a person turns 21.

  60. Anecdotal observation, take it or leave it:

    I grew up in New Orleans and turned 16 in 1990. The drinking age was 18, but we all knew which bars wouldn’t card us. There was rarely drinking to excess because if we went home drunk we’d get busted. My father told me when I started driving (also 16), “I know you guys go out and drink. I don’t care about that. However, if you get behind the wheel of that car after you’ve been drinking, I’ll make you wish you’d never been born.” It was made absolutely clear to me that I would NOT be in trouble if I called someone to pick me up because I was drunk. If we wanted to have a party, the only rule was that keys were deposited with my parents and you could either stay until THEY said you were ok to drive or you could be driven home.

    Fast forward to college. I had been drinking (mostly) responsibly for two years, so being away from my parents with access to alcohol meant very little to me. Those of us from New Orleans didn’t get trashed all the time like those who weren’t. Did I ever get smashed? Of course I did; I just didn’t make a habit of it. I knew my limits and, most importantly, I knew at what point I was no longer able to operate a vehicle. I was able to learn these things because I was able to safely make mistakes while still under the protection and guidance of my parents.

  61. Mark wrote: “Actually, yes because this current drive to lower the drinking age is being driven by several college presidents. I have heard them interviewed and all they talk about is the binge drinking issue of when a person turns 21.”

    Do you need to have your hearing checked, or are you just blatantly dishonest?

  62. Hey I’m 16 and drink weekly. I am considered a binge drinker 🙂 21 is a joke.

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