Drinking Age

A Republican Congress Should Make Obama Lower the Drinking Age


White House

Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds has suggested six bills a Republican-controlled Congress should send to President Obama's desk. He's likely to veto many of them, but one bill that would stand a strong chance of survival would be a repeal of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act.

It's not an issue that generates a lot of attention, and neither Obama nor Republican Congressional leaders have talked about it. That's a mistake. The current policy is an unqualified failure that has contributed to reckless, binge-drinking culture on college campuses, Reynolds writes:

The limit was dreamed up in the 1980s as a bit of political posturing by then-secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole. It has been a disaster. College drinking hasn't been reduced; it has just moved out of bars and into dorm rooms, fraternities/sororities and house parties. The result has been a boom in alcohol problems on campus.

I include the sexual assault crisis on college campuses among those problems and have argued that lowering the drinking age is one way—perhaps the best way—to actually reduce rape. Instead of forcing colleges to expel incapacitated students for failing to properly interrogate each other during each and every moment of sexual interaction, lets abolish the policy that puts students in danger in the first place.

Certain legislating moralizers will likely complain that repealing the drinking age is akin to giving teens permission to drink. To them I would point out the obvious: Teens are already drinking (in unimaginable excess), and because the police can arrest them for it, they do their drinking as far away from public scrutiny as possible—in the very places where they are most likely to be in danger (i.e. stranger's basements). Other students who are willing and able to break the law and avoid the cops become the gatekeepers to teen drinking, rather than the local bartender. Which sounds preferable?

See the Instapundit's full list of suggestions here.

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  1. Certainly, there’s a more fundamental question: Why is there a federal regulation of this at all?

    1. Interstate commerce. Duh.

    2. There isn’t. There is just federal extortion in the form of threatening to withhold highway funds from any state that won’t comply.

      1. Here in Florida, it should be 45.

        1. That is the great thing about doing this. It is not by itself changing anything. It is just leaving the issue to the states. There is nothing about this that requires the states to do anything. All of them could leave the 21 year old drinking age in place if they chose to. So any changes will quickly become the responsibility of the states rather than the Congress. There really is only upside for Congress here.

          1. There really is only upside for Congress here.

            If you assume that Congress’s top priority isn’t heavy-handed nannying of adults.

          2. So CO can drop the age to 18 and put a stranglehold on the spring break crowd.

        2. And I should go to a karaoke bar here then because?

      2. Thanks (John) for that clarification.

      3. This is one of the many reasons I became a (small L) libertarian.
        This and 85 MPH speedometers if anyone can remember that.

        That and fucking HATE progtards.

    3. I’m not sure Robby’s headline is an accurate description of Reynolds’ proposal. What Reynolds actually says is:

      1 End the federally imposed 21-year-old drinking age.

      I interpreted that to mean “do away with it”, not “lower it”, although I suppose Reynolds’ working is a little ambiguous.

      1. That’s what I thought was meant–the headline here is a little off.

      2. That’s accurate as written.

        Get rid of the 21-y-o drinking age as a condition of getting federal highway funds.

        1. Come to think of it, federal hwy. funds should be a lot more limited than they are now on the basis of their contribution to maintenance & construction of roads having a major effect on interstate commerce. Why do so many little local projects get federal funding, when the overwhelming effect of the road’s existence & condition is local? Like that 1-lane br. over a creek in Colo. that was highlighted as a waste of money because it’d have to be redone because of some rule regarding the national mfr. of the materials to make it; I Googled & saw that its sole effect is to make it so the locals don’t have to drive around one fucking block to get from their residences to the same point on the main commercial drag of town. It’s not going to shorten the drive from anywhere to anywhere else except within that little town, yet federal aid!

  2. The last time the Republicans took Congress in a midterm landslide, they killed off the national speed limit. Using this landslide to get rid of the federal drinking age, would be a nice book end to that.

    One of the things that Reason has missed in its constant polling of the Yutes is the split in the millennial generation. The older first part of the generation who were old enough to vote in 2008 are still generally stupid and unable to face up to the fact that Obama conned them. The younger half of the generation who were not old enough to vote in 08 and instead came of age under Obama are much more disillusioned with Obama and government in general. That part of the generation is much more open to voting Republican and they are the ones being affected by the drinking age. So killing it would be a very good move, which of course they won’t do.

    1. The older first part of the generation who were old enough to vote in 2008 are still generally stupid and unable to face up to the fact that Obama conned them.

      Oh, I don’t know. I think a lot of them feel conned, and the election seems to confirm that.

      1. Yeah, but John is right here. There is a big difference in polling (exits and otherwise) between 18-24 and 25-34.

        Past history has shown that that kind of stuff sticks with people for LIFE. One reason why Republicans are doing better with old people recently (last 10-20 years) is that FDR voters are being replaced with Eisenhower voters. Not the same old people.

        1. Maybe. It would certainly be good news if Obama caused an entire age cohort to feel totally burned by progressives and the Democratic Party.

  3. I liked Glenn’s whole list as a good mix of pragmatic nuts-and-bolts issues that wasn’t *purely* focused on “forcing Obama to take a stand on issues that we can run against in 2016”. I would love to see more people thinking like this.

    Having said that, I have a hard time agreeing with Reynolds’ comment that “it’s hard to imagine him (Obama) vetoing this.” It’s very easy to imagine him vetoing it, and grandstanding in exactly the “why do Republicans hate children?” way that Robby predicts. Do we really think the political philosophy that wants to ban sodas that are too large will be cornered into a principled stand on alcohol? Ha.

    Yes, you can make the argument that logically, the current law actually does more harm than good. I personally believe that argument. Since when has that stopped anyone from demagoguing?

    1. He can do that sure. And when he does, it is going to make it very difficult for the Democrats to appeal to young voters. And as far as older voters, they are unlikely to turn on Republicans over a law that never goes into effect. So there is no real downside for the Republicans in passing it.

      Indeed, lowering the drinking age is pretty popular in this country. If it were not, there would be no need for the feds to extort the states into keeping it at 21.

      1. I long for the day that a state just decides to say “Know what? Fuck you, keep the cash.”

        I know, it’ll never happen.

        1. I too would love to see this, but with as cash strapped as most states have made themselves, it’s nigh impossible. I can’t imagine that there haven’t been some states that have seriously considered it.

          That issue, federal extortion of states, is one of my go to issues that I bring up with left leaning types. I never get any real support for it, other than the alleged “race to the bottom”

        2. It would have to be more: “Know what? Fuck you, we’ll advertise ourself as the Spring Break and party capital of the world.”

  4. A Republican Congress Should Make Obama Lower the Drinking Age


    aw, I thought Bok was funny for once. Too bad it’s not Bok nor is it Friday. 🙁

    1. They once got rid of the national speed limit. Why not this?

      1. You’re asking the wrong question: Why *would* they do this?

        1. Same reason that they got rid of the national speed limit. Because voters might like it. Especially since young voters who have only lived in the Obama economy (18-24) were much more pro-GOP than the 25-34 demo this past election.

          1. And to counter-act the narrative that “Republicans have no idea and no agenda, all they want to do is shut everything down”.

      2. The pragmatic argument for it is counterintuitive and the issue is easily demagogued. Plus all the passion for this is on the prohibitionist side. It looks like a high risk, low reward play for the political capital the GOP now has. I agree with the policy recommendation but I don’t see it as a huge winner politically.

  5. “Why do you mean, horrible republicans want to kill our children?”

    -Mothers Against Drunk Driving

    1. If only the children would just fucking die already.

      1. They almost all died from lack of health insurance, but the light bringer saved them. I guess the Rethuglicans have another shot at killing them off again.

        1. It’s pronounced “TeathugliKKKans”

    2. This is the point, I think. I don’t think the origins of the federal drinking age were in college drinking issues. The combination of teenage drivers (who are notoriously dangerous in their own right) and teenage drinkers was the primary target. That math isn’t going to change.

  6. Yeah, no. They won’t be doing this.

    1. The Democrats would never sign on.

  7. “Rethuglitards greenlight death and destruction amongst nation’s youth!”

    I’ll be right here, holding my breath, waiting for that to happen.

  8. I can just hear the Dems if they even brought it up. ‘The Republicans want to give your children alcohol and guns, but no health care!’.

    Really, this shouldn’t be the first priority for the GOP. There are too many other things, like prosecuting some bureaucrats over fake scandals and getting the Keystone Pipeline approved.

    I wasn’t even aware that the drinking age was a federal law now. When I was in my twenties and living in Ohio, it was 18, even though across the river in KY it was 21.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to repealing that law. If a person is old enough to go off and get killed in a foreign war, they’re old enough to drink. They’re also old enough to get the hell out of my house. All of mine are out already, so no worries. But I feel sorry for all the parents now whose children are still living with them at 40 because that degree in gender studies didn’t result in a job.

    1. Keystone probably could happen. Bet it does pretty quickly, too.

      1. Was at a recent tax conference – the political correspondent speaker said that this was a primary concern in Republican congress.

    2. *Really, this shouldn’t be the first priority for the GOP. There are too many other things, like prosecuting some bureaucrats over fake scandals and getting the Keystone Pipeline approved.*

      No kidding, this shouldn’t be on their radar at all.

      Sometimes it seems like Reason’s computer was left unlocked and their kids got on and posted idiotic gibberish just for kicks.

      1. Yeah, probably their teens who are locked out of the liquor cabinet. But, I’m old enough to drink!

      2. I think some of these proposals would go a long way toward counter-acting the branding they’ve received for just being against the federal government doing ANYTHING, EVER, except increasing the military budget. Here, we made some proposals that most of you agree with, and that aren’t about “just shutting the government down”. And look, sometimes “doing something” means taking rules away, not adding to them, isn’t that interesting?

        I definitely won’t complain about ramping up some prosecutions while we’re at it, but that’s playing right into the stereotypes that the democrats have created for them.

      3. No kidding, this shouldn’t be on their radar at all.

        I’m pretty sure they can do both if they want, you know.

    3. I dont understand why keystone requires federal approval in the first place.

      Other than FYTW.

      1. something,something crossing a border. Honestly, they should just build the whole pipeline except the border crossing and set up a Berlin Airlift style trucking convoy for the crossing.

  9. It would be an interesting experiment to compare alcohol related problems, including sexual assault, between similarly sized US colleges and universities and Canadian colleges and universities. I went to the University of Alberta, in Alberta, Canada. The drinking age in Alberta is 18. I certainly remember (hazily) my share of binge drinking and alcohol related stupidity. But that’s an anecdote. Data would be more interesting.

    1. Look, in a lot of the world, there is no real drinking age, and that’s why those peoples have already raped each other to death.

    2. One thing I remember about drinking at 18 is not wanting to be anywhere near drunk 18 year olds.

    3. I’d argue the party lifestyle doesn’t slow down until one gets married, and then completely stops with kids.

      I’m 35, and pretty much anybody I know in the non-married/no kids crowd drinks like they’re still in college. It trails off with a serious girlfriend/marriage, and then goes away with kids.

      Otherwise I’m less responsible now then I was back in college since money (or lack of it) really isn’t a factor anymore.

  10. Repeal the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    Eh, the non-circumvention provision is toxic and should be eliminated but the ISP safe harbor provision is good. And while the fundamental infringement on liberty that it comprises is still present and bad, of course, in practice the non-circumvention provision doesn’t cause too much damage there are foreign jurisdictions that don’t give a fuck. The practical consequences of losing safe harbor would be much, much worse.

    The takedown process is a PITA that needs reform to stave off abuse, but it’s a manageable PITA.

    (IOW, you should selectively strike out anti-circumvention and reform takedown procedures, not repeal the whole thing)

    1. We still have one tiny piece of the CDA, for instance, which provides a limited safe harbor for service providers allowing the publication of stuff on their sites.

      1. Wasn’t most of the other CDA stuff struck down?

        1. Everything but the safe harbor, I believe. It’s actually deeply ironic, as the rest of the law was a big infringement on free speech, with just this tiny little piece that protected speech rights.

  11. Speaking of recent topics, why don’t the GOP pass a bill outlawing asset forfeiture?

    1. Or at least ending “equitable sharing,” which is absolutely terrible and destroys federalism.

      The short explanation: Even if a state passes strong laws restricting forfeiture, a local PD can petition for the feds to “take over” a case, and in exchange for a ~15-20% cut the Feds return all the money to the local PD with none of the strings attached that the state put on.

      1. Some lefties (correctly) point out that most actual civil forfeiture is done at the local level– but they ignore that the Supremacy Clause and equitable sharing make it impossible to actually restrict at the local or state level.

    2. And replace it with what, Hyperion? All you peanuts want to do is repeal, but you have no alternate plan!

      1. Replace it with a gay rodeo that is mandatory for all the cops to participate in at least twice a month.

  12. I’m just curious, when SCOTUS killed the part of Obamacare that enabled the Feds to coerce Medicaid expansion by threatening funding, could that be used to fight the threatened withholding of highway funds?

    Also, fuck MADD.

    1. with a chainsaw.

  13. John|11.10.14 @ 3:28PM|#

    There isn’t [a federal law]. There is just federal extortion in the form of threatening to withhold highway funds from any state that won’t comply.

    I would love it even more if they made THAT the spearhead of their argument — i.e., that it’s absolute bullshit to create de facto laws through attaching completely unrelated strings to federal highway funding (and similar of course). You want to show me that you’re even a little bit serious about “limited government”, that would be a very respectable first step.

  14. Unfortunately, the Republicans will never move to lower the drinking age. The Republicans played a large role in raising the drinking age to 21, it was signed by Reagan and the Christian right would have a cow.

    1. Then again, both Republicans and Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus and Reagan played a role in the crack-powder cocaine sentence disparity, all approving of it. (Hell, you can find an article in Esquire where Charlie Rangel talks about how Reagan is racist for not increasing the penalties on crack enough.) And yet views change.

    2. Not sure about the drinking age, but the silly .08 BAC was signed by Clinton.

    3. The Xtian right had practically nothing to do with it per se, and it was bipartisan. It’d been only a little over a decade since most states had lowered drinking ages from 21 to 18. To the extent it was partisan, it was Republicans trying to stave off Naderite air bag and/or passive seat belt requirements by reducing road accidents in some other way.

  15. Make birth-control pills available over the counter. Cory Gardner made this a part of his winning platform in Colorado’s Senate race. Let women choose. If Obama vetoed this, Republicans could accuse him of waging “war on women.”

    The Democratic line on this already is that by making birth control OTC, Republicans are waging war on women.

    You see, with birth control prescription only, part of the cost is paid through insurance and you only have to pay the copay. With it OTC, you have to pay for the whole thing.

    Of course, if the Democrats weren’t so eager to kill of health savings account and such, you could use that money to pay for it…

    1. I’m sure that argument is getting made, but I wonder whether it gets any real traction among anyone other than partisan hack bloggers. I think even the low-information voting public probably has a strong grasp that over the counter drugs are way easier to get and cheaper than prescription drugs. This isn’t something that requires a nuanced understanding, it’s day-to-day real world stuff.

      I’ve seen some pretty liberal females who correctly diagnose that it’s complete BS that they can’t get their BC scrips refilled without paying for a doctor visit. I’m guessing that sentiment is pretty common.

      1. Not to mention that male BC is freely available OTC. That in itself would seem like all the counter-argument you would need to the “war on women” angle. I think everyone can see which gender has it easier here.

        1. Do you mean condoms by “male birth control”? Because that is a silly argument. Is it surprising that a piece of latex might be considered differently than something that mucks around with your body chemistry?

      2. It only gets traction among idiots and the uninformed. For one thing, you can get a prescription for an OTC medicine. Many insurance companies, including Medicaid, will cover OTC medicines with a prescription just like prescription drugs that aren’t available OTC. There’s even a special exemption with HSAs for getting insulin OTC without a prescription, when the Dems cut off HSAs from OTC drugs (without prescriptions).

        Making it OTC would only add options, not eliminate them. It would be great for when people forget their pills on vacation, accidentally run out, etc. (The frequent argument about women who need a special type of Pill only helps OTC– because really, if you need something special then maybe you shouldn’t rely on Plan B as your alternative.)

        The only sort of real argument against it is pure paternalism– women won’t get enough Pap smears, etc. if we don’t force them to see a doctor to get their pills, they’ll take some brand and have awful side effects and be too dumb to ask a doctor about it, etc.

        1. Condoms are covered by hsas too.

  16. Most of these ideas seem like good ones. But most don’t strike me as being very Republican. It be interesting to see them focus on some new issues but I’m not holding my breath.

    1. Well, they did just elect 3 or 4 senators that explicitly ran on OTC birth control.

      1. That is one, along with public sector unions, that seems to be gaining momentum among mainstream Republicans.

  17. It amazes me that 18 to 20 year olds are mature enough to vote,sign a contract,sign up for selective services and join the military but they just aren’t mature enough to have a beer. Here in the peoples bureaucracy of Massachusetts they are also not eligible for a pistol permit.

    1. hey are also not eligible for a pistol permit

      See, see, I was right. The rat tucking bea faggers want to kill the childins with guns and alcohol. It’s better when we send them overseas to get killed in some 3rd world crap hole for no good reason. Because patriotism or something like that.

    2. What swung a lot of support to raising it to 21 were statistics that showed a disproportionate share of driving accidents by the younger. Of course that’d’ve been an argument as well to raise the driving age, and some did make that, but driving was considered a necessity and booze not. Still, a large part of the effect was simply inexperience rather than maturity, which means the primary effect is to shift the dangerous age to whatever you make the minimum.

  18. Instead of forcing colleges to expel incapacitated students for failing to properly interrogate each other during each and every moment of sexual interaction

    I have consistently found the interrogations to be the most fulfilling of my sexual exploits. Though they wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if they weren’t spontaneous.

    And you’d have better luck convincing people to ditch the minimum wage in this brain-dead, pedophile-around-every-corner, worrywart political environment. In what world is the federal Congress composed mainly of socons on the right and technocratic fascists on the left going to sign off on letting more people do anything?

    1. I would agree that this isn’t going to happen. The media nighty anecdotal evidence of teenage death and destruction wrought by the booze alone would be enough to kill it before it got off the ground.

  19. What we need to do is study how they managed to get the “drinking age” (a convenient shorthand re laws regarding restrictions on personal transfer of liquor, not on drinking it per se) lowered in so many states from 21 to 18, which occurred just a few years before it got put back to 21. I think it had something to do with the Vietnamese war and the fact that 18 YOs had been drafted for it, as well as that voting ages were also lowered to 18.

    1. In Ohio we could only buy 3.2 beer. Well legally I should add.

  20. Mr. Soave appears to not even read his own work. In the article above he writes,

    “I include the sexual assault crisis on college campuses among those problems and have argued that lowering the drinking age is one way?perhaps the best way?to actually reduce rape.”

    Crisis? What crisis, Mr. Soave asks in his long-ago column of December 9, 2014:

    Being young does make people more vulnerable to serious violent crime, including sexual assault; according to government statistics those aged 18 to 24 have the highest rates of such victimization. But most studies don’t compare the victimization rates of students to nonstudents of the same age. One recent paper that does make that comparison, “Violence Against College Women” by Callie Marie Rennison and Lynn Addington, compares the crime experienced by college students and their peers who are not in college, using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey. What the researchers found was the opposite of what Gillibrand says about the dangers of campuses: “Non-student females are victims of violence at rates 1.7 times greater than are college females,” the authors wrote, and this greater victimization holds true for sex crimes: “Even if the definition of violence were limited to sexual assaults, these crimes are more pervasive for young adult women who are not in college.”


    Figure it out, Robby.

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