Recently at 21: Is it time to lower the drinking age?


The drinking age in the US has been 21 for more than 20 years.

Today, we all take the drinking age for granted, but should we? In fact, the US is one of only four countries in the world with a drinking age as high as 21—the other three are Indonesia, Mongolia and Palau.

Is the policy working to reduce health and safety issues related to youthful alchohol abuse? Is enforcing the drinking age the best use of scarce public resources? What are the unintended consequences of alcohol prohibition for 18-20 year olds?

Organizations such as Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD) argue that the drinking age is an effective policy and that the answer to ongoing alcohol related problems for 18-20 year olds is more education and better enforcement.

John McCardell, president of Choose Responsibility, and 135 university presidents and chancellors across the country believe it's time to take a fresh look at the drinking age. The former president of Middlebury College and the new head of Sewanee/University of the South, McCardell says our current system encourages unsupervised binge drinking. went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin to get a first-hand look at the war on underage drinking.

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  1. It seems the current belief regarding social vices is that stricter regulation is the only answer until said vice gets a sufficient public constituency. It’s about politics, not anything as quaint as actual public safety or liberty.

  2. And when you wake up on your 21st birthday you will magically possess the ability to drink in moderation.

    I can remember when drinking laws and social mores were too lax. Reevaluating attitudes towards alcohol was a major step forward in our cultural progress. But demonizing it is totally counterproductive. Children should be taught to drink responsible. They should be introduced to it in their teenage years and above all, parents should lead by example.

    The pendulum has swung too far and we’re moving the wrong way.

    1. The sad thing is that MADD originally served a very good purpose — strengthening drunk driving laws and raising public awareness that drunk driving was not a subject for comedy, as it was treated not too long ago. (Of course, several so-called libertarians around these parts think that it should be OK to drive with a BAC of 0.25%, but that’s a discussion for another place.)

      Unfortunately, MADD has essentially been hijacked by alcohol prohibitionists at this point, and are using the well-deserved repute the organization built up over the decades to advance a very different agenda.

  3. Drugs are bad, mmkay? Shouldn’t do drugs.

    Drinking? Well, drinking is bad, mmmkay? You shouldn’t drink, mmkay?

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