Today in Supreme Court History

Today in Supreme Court History: June 23, 1987


6/23/1987: South Dakota v. Dole is decided.

NEXT: My Washington Times Article on the Need to Limit Government Power to Take Private Property

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  1. Something to fix when I build my time machine.

  2. A horrible decision. It rendered the 10th amendment moot, because “spending”.

    1. It did no such thing. States remain free to set their own speed limits, drinking ages, and anything else they want to do. They just can’t do it with federal money.

      1. I’m in between you.

        States CAN do that if they want to. But in practice, federal spending programs are pretty darned coercive.

        The reality is that the law at issue in Dole solved a real problem- “blood borders” where teenagers would cross state lines, get plastered, and drive (drunk) back across, causing accidents. If you are economically inclined, you might recognize this as a classic externality- the people in the state with the lower drinking age profit, while harm is done to residents in the state with the higher drinking age. So I am quite sympathetic of the effort to raise the drinking age.

        But conditional spending is a very problematic way to get states to do something. The Court recognized this and put limits on the practice in NFIB v. Sibelius, and was right to.

        1. And the blood borders issue is an example of why I’m not nearly as big a proponent of states rights as are some here. It fails to take into account that some problems really only can be fixed if the entire country is on board.

        2. “blood borders”?

          Let’s use some more hyperbolic emotional language, because it makes for a more logical, reasoned debate.

          1. When I was growing up, Washington State University (in a state with a 21-year-drinking age) was five miles from the Idaho border, which at the time was either 18 or 19, I forget which. Almost every weekend there would be accidents, some of them fatal, from university kids driving to Idaho, getting drunk, and then driving home again.

            Blood border may be a bit hyperbolic, but it’s not entirely inaccurate. Though an argument can be made that had Washington lowered its age, it at least would have reduced the amount of drunk driving since the kids wouldn’t have had to drive to the border and back.

            1. And in defense of “blood borders”, that was literally the terminology that was used in the 1980’s to describe the problem.

      2. “set their own speed limits, drinking ages”

        Build your own interstate highway system!

  3. Fun fact: In 1982, I was traveling to Greenland with the US Air Force and we were in an airport waiting for a flight to Dover AFB, DE, (where we would then take a military flight to Greenland), getting hammered.

    I was was around 20 at the time and the drinking age was still 18.

    However, when I got back from Greenland the drinking age had gone up to 21 in the states.

    No problem though since the 21-law was at the state(s) level and we could still drink on base.

    So even though the feds wanted the states to raise their drinking age to 21, they kept it at 18 on bases.

    IIRC, the feds eventually changed the rule to say each base had to follow the state laws where they were located.

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