Time to Lower the Drinking Age

Law Prof Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, has a policy proposal for President Obama in the Wall St. Journal: lowering the drinking age to 18.

I will make one policy proposal. Some of my fellow libertarians hope that the Obama administration will put an end to the drug war. I hope so too, but I'm not too optimistic. Instead, I propose a smaller step toward freedom -- eliminating the federally mandated drinking age of 21. This mandate was a creature of Elizabeth Dole (who is no longer in the Senate to complain at its abolition), and it has unnecessarily limited the freedom of legal adults, old enough to fight for their country, to drink adult beverages.


What's more, as the 130 college presidents of the Amethyst Initiative have noted, rather than promoting safety, it has largely created furtive and less-safe drinking on campus. As a former professor of constitutional law, President Obama knows that the Constitution gives the federal government no legitimate role in setting drinking ages. Returning this decision to the states would be a step for freedom, a step toward honoring the Constitution, and a step away from nannyism. It would also be a particularly fitting act for this administration. Barack Obama received enormous support from voters aged 18-21. Who better to treat people that age as full adults again?

J.D. Tucille makes a similar argument in the Examiner.

Unfortunately, Obama said last March he won't move for a lowering of the drinking age.

More states have been considering reducing the legal drinking age this past year.

Here's a graphic of where the states stood before the passage of the National Drinking Act in 1984 that raised the age to 21.

As I wrote in 2005, I'm all in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18.

Here's a site with some myths about underage drinking and binge drinking. And an argument for a policy of moderation over prohibition.

As for MADD, I haven't changed my thoughts on them since 2002. Everyone knows their real agenda. How about teaching responsibility and moderation instead?

The U.S. has the highest drinking age in the world (along with Indonesia, Mongolia and Palau.)

The vast majority of the rest of the world sets the minimum age at 17 or 16 or has no minimum age at all.

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    Agree (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by koshembos on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 06:11:11 AM EST
    In the military, you can kill people at 18 and even at 17. The drug war is over and drugs won hands down. We live with lies, put millions of people in jail for no reason and insist on a drinking age set by people who never had kids.

    Let's grow up and eliminate any drinking age limit and make most drugs legal. I never understood why my kids cannot have a glass of wine for dinner (they have). I don't understand why we have to fight in Columbia and Afghanistan to sustain our outrageous primitive morality.

    The whole minimum age thing (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by reynwrap582 on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 06:20:50 AM EST
    is obnoxiously inconsistent.  At 16 you're old enough to be responsible for a 2-ton machine capable of well over 100mph.  At 18 you're old enough to die for your country, vote for its representatives, start on the path to lung cancer, buy a rifle (most states), sign a contract, and destroy your credit rating with massive debt.  At 21 you're finally old enough to drink alcohol, and buy a handgun (most states).  And of course, at any arbitrary age you can be considered an "adult" if you happen to commit a violent crime.

    The whole thing is incredibly illogical.  The concept of age as a determiner of mature adulthood is in itself flawed.  If we're going to use numbers to determine maturity, we're better off just sticking with one number.  18 seems the most logical to me.  Some people are frightened by the idea of 18 year olds legally drinking, but, uh, better to drink legally in the open than barricade yourself in a room and drink illegally where your behavior can't be monitored by peers or authorities.

    You need a license to drive a car.  In some places you need a license/permit to buy a gun. You need a special endorsement to drive a motorcycle, or a heavy vehicle.  Why not just require an alcohol education course with a short exam?  You're gonna get carded anyway, if you're young, so just stick a little symbol on the license/ID that denotes successful completion of the course, and lower the drinking age to 18.  At least you're still regulating it for young adults, but not unreasonably restricting their rights.  Charge a nominal fee for the course/exam and forward that money to further education/outreach programs and alcohol/drug treatment.

    The whole belief that the drinking age needs to be 21 because people under that age are irresponsible and engage in risky behaviors is backwards, because in the real world it just forces those same risky and irresponsible people to conceal their drinking from the people who can intervene if and when it becomes necessary.  My wife went to a small private college in MA, which over the past few years has decided to really crack down on underage drinking in the residence houses.  The only thing that has happened is that people drink in locked dorm rooms in small groups or even alone, rather than in the open where their peers could recognize if they were in danger.

    One young woman already died while mixing pills and alcohol alone (there was a depression factor there, though suicide was not intended...the school's mental health services have also been scaled back significantly, but that's another story...  Probably why a college shouldn't be run by someone with a PhD in English instead of a relavent background in education or at least a social science).  Another underage woman nearly died of alcohol poisoning because when she lost conciousness her friends hesitated about calling for help because they knew they'd get in serious trouble for drinking, and none of them could determine if it was actual alcohol poisoning or if she'd just "passed out"...  There were several other cases of students drinking alone or in small groups and suffering severe medical emergencies as a result.

    Anyway, this rant is going nowhere.  The minimum age didn't matter to me because I didn't touch my first drink until I was 23, which also happened to be my last drink (tasted like fancy listerine, and I'm a big enough guy that I didn't feel anything whatsoever).  As someone who has no personal investment in lowering the drinking age, it seems to be a pretty simple problem to solve.

    "Why not just require (5.00 / 1) (#78)
    by weltec2 on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:26:09 PM EST
    an alcohol education course with a short exam?"

    Actually that sounds like a good idea to me, but not a full year course. Maybe just a series of seminars that are part of a special program. When I was a high school student in California in the early mid sixties, Driver's Education was one day a week for six weeks, if memory serves. Perhaps it could be something like that where experts come in from the outside and handle it.  


    Dumb (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 06:22:40 AM EST
    I'm old enough to have been drafted. I remember how ridiculous it was that I was old enough to go to Viet Nam but not old enough to have a drink with friends before I left.

    It's also absurd that society feels your old enough to take on the responsibility of marriage and parenthood but not responsible enough to drink.

    I agree (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 07:44:43 AM EST
    lets keep our attention on the subject at hand. Our duty as citiznes is to demand investigations and prosecutions where warranted.

    Reynolds is on a snipe hunt.

    Scribe's comment was deleted (none / 0) (#38)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:14:01 AM EST
    for namecalling. The topic here is the drinking age. If you want to discuss something else, go to another thread.

    the law (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by OldCity on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 07:53:31 AM EST
    has infantalized young people and in many ways created a culture of excess consumption, which I assume the law was designed to avoid.  Having spent a great deal of time since my teens in Europe and the British Isles, it's clear to me that allowing people to drink at a younger age and, rather than demonizing the substance, teach about responsible use is the way to go.  Further, there is consistency regarding DUI in Europe that our Federalist system doesn't allow...federalizing the alcohol and dui laws would go a long way.

    Simply put, it's insane to put a gun in an 18 year old's hands, or send him off to be killed, or allow him to vote, but then to turn around and tell him he's not mature enough to drink.  Not just insane, but insulting and hypocritical.  I can undestand how those who have lost relatives to DUI have made it a mission to reduce alcohol consumption, particularly when operating a vehicle, but if we're not gonna let them drink on the grounds of maturity, we shouldn't allow them to defend us, either.

    It would absolutely be the right (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:06:32 AM EST
    policy decision. But it's never going to happen, because raising the drinking age in the first place was a bipartisan endeavor, and MADD has everyone terrorized.

    Add to that (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by ricosuave on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:39:17 AM EST
    the fact that there is no political gain for any politician to sign on to this.  Yes it is the right policy and it will please the youngsters, but politicians who are not brave enough to demand oversight of bank handouts are certainly not brave enough to weather the attacks this would bring.

    between MADD and the insurance lobby ... (none / 0) (#25)
    by wystler on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 09:52:56 AM EST
    ... there's really no positive political ground. There are huge dollars lined up to fight relaxing the age restriction.

    Anybody else wonder what InstaPundit's realmotivation is here?


    In the Czech Republic (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by BernieO on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:08:58 AM EST
    you cannot drive with any alcohol in your system from what my son (who lives there) tells me. We have provisional drivers' licenses, maybe we could have this restriction for 18 to 21 year olds?
    If you drink you can't drive at all.
    Ohio used to allow 18 year olds to drink 3.2 beer. It took a lot more alcoholand money to get drunk. Not that the beer tasted great, but then a lot of younger people I know drink Bud Lite. Yuck.

    My experience with the Czech Republic (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by sj on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 09:17:46 AM EST
    is limited to Prague, but in Prague, that prohibition is not a hardship.  They have an excellent public transportation system.  

    As for the more rural areas, I assume their towns outside of Prague are similar to towns in Poland and Germany which have pubs within walking distance to one's home.

    We are not nearly as fortunate here (except for a very few major cities).  A car is required to get around increasing the probability of driving after drinking.  

    Designing our communities around car ownership was seriously shortsighted in so many ways.


    Two-faced (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by rea on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 09:10:33 AM EST
    For 8 years, the presidency was held by someone strongly supported by Prof. Reynolds.  During most of that time, Congresss was also controlled by Prof. Reynold's party.  Now, however, both the presidency and Congress are controlled by the Democrats--and Reynolds suddenly realizes it is time for the President and Congress to enact sound but politically controversial legislation, which Prof. Reynold's party will oppose.  Funny how that worked out.

    It's not Reynold's party (none / 0) (#40)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:16:51 AM EST
    he is a libertarian and has been since I've known him. He and I have both been writing on this topic since 2002 and have had the same positions we expressed this week. Please don't state as facts things you don't know to be true.

    Don't each of us think that we are (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by Anne on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 09:30:52 AM EST
    the best judge of when we - or our children - are mature and responsible enough to do the things that have some specific age as the dividing line between legal and illegal?  And didn't we all think that when we were 15, 16, 17?  I mean, do you know a teenager who would agree that he or she is not mature enough to handle alcohol?  Did anyone here reach that conclusion as a teenager and abstain from alcohol consumption until the age of 21?  

    It doesn't matter how old we are - once we get to those magic ages, we still think we are better able to judge whether we need to obey some laws.  Everyone thinks he or she is a great driver, with NASCAR-level driving skills and abilities, and so we exempt ourselves from speed-limits and prohibitions on drinking and driving.  Me be distracted by talking on the cell and driving?  Texting and driving being a problem for me?  Wear a seat belt or a helmet - what could happen to me that I would need them?  What an insult!  

    But, clearly, if we were all so mature and responsible, so wise and temperate, so endowed with powers that protect us from harm, we wouldn't have so many accidents and deaths and problems, would we?  

    I think my favorite argument for lowering the drinking age is the one about being old enough to die for your country entitling you to drink at the same age.  But is that the right argument?  Maybe the argument should be that you can't wear the uniform of the US military until you're 21 - maybe that should be the age-related change we'd be better off making.

    You can lower the drinking age to 18, and then you can start arguing about making it 17 or 16 or eliminating it altogether.  What fun it would be if your 11 year old could have a sleepover party with a keg!  And those parties at Chuck E. Cheese?  So much more fun if you could have wine with your fries - and the games would be so much funnier!

    We might be able to trust our skills as parents to foster the right kinds of attitudes about drinking, within the protective sphere of our homes, but as any parent can tell you, the difficulty isn't within the home itself (for the most part) - it's in fighting the constant messages that bombard kids from the outside - and that includes those fun parents who love to host those big parties for the high school kids.  Not to mention the sector of society that just wants to make money and doesn't care who really pays or the effect it has on people.  

    As for teaching moderation, if you think for one minute that the loudest voice will be the one trying to teach it, I guess you haven't been paying attention to the campaign to teach kids about responsible sex and birth control.  

    But, hey, I'm sure the alcohol manufacturers and the alcohol lobby will work really, really hard to make sure all kids know how important it is to be responsible drinkers.

    The one way to guarantee people (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 09:42:00 AM EST
    will learn bad drinking habits is to prohibit the consumption of alcohol under almost any circumstances for those younger than 21.

    In my home state of Pennsylvania, parents could be arrested for serving their 16 year old wine with dinner. That's outrageous.


    Except the data doesn't bear your theory out (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 10:14:03 AM EST

    In recent years European countries have sometimes been cited as an example in the argument to loosen restrictions the United States imposes on the sale and consumption of alcohol. Proponents of loosening restrictions claim that doing so would reduce the appeal of the "forbidden" substance and thus translate into reductions in underage drinking and its consequences. They claim that because of looser controls in most countries in Europe, European youth "grow up around alcohol" and therefore learn to drink more responsibly at earlier ages than do American youth.

    Not so, according to the data released by the justice department. The OJP comparison looked at data collected in 1995 from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), which targeted 15- to 16-year-old students in 26 European countries.

    The CDC doesn't support raising the limit.

    The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism doesn't want to see the age limit raised.

    The Surgeon General doesn't agree.

    And, the American Medical Association also supports leaving the legal age at 21.


    This is a (none / 0) (#41)
    by eric on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:21:01 AM EST
    ridiculous slipper-slope argument.  The argument to set the age at 18 is sound - it is the age at which we put full legal responsibility on a person.  Nobody wants 11 year old drinking.  That is silly.

    disagree (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by jedimom on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 10:28:06 AM EST
    as someone who was nearly killed by an underage drunk driver back in the 80s, I disagree. And as the mother of a 19 y/o I also disagree. Impulse control is just not there at 18...Raise the draft age to 21.

    I don't support lowering the drinking age. (5.00 / 0) (#50)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 01:38:13 PM EST
    I accept that the studies are correct in that any reduction in auto fatalities among the 18-20 y/o cannot be isolated to the raising of the drinking age.

    iow, it's likely that raising the drinking age did not lower drunk driving rates among the 18-20 y/o.

    However, regardless, I think common sense says that if you lower the drinking age you will, in the short term at least, significantly increase the 18-20 auto fatalities. "Yee-haw! We can drink legally now! Partaaay!"

    iow, there is no upside in less lives lost by lowering the drinking age, but plenty of more lives lost downside.

    I think (5.00 / 0) (#59)
    by Fabian on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 02:29:22 PM EST
    given the evidence that the combination of immaturity & alcohol & driving increase accidents and fatalities, that the only fair thing to do is to give young people a choice.  Two out of three - be young and drive or be young and drink.

    If someone asked me to choose, I'd take the driving license over the license to drink every time.  


    I think the evidence is that (none / 0) (#65)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:05:43 PM EST
    raising the drinking age did not, in and of itself, reduce 18-20 driving deaths.

    But common sense suggests if you drop the drinking age you will very likely, in the short term at least, increase the 18-20 driving deaths - and increase the deaths of others, regardless of age, that the 18-20 hit with their cars.

    Therefor, I do not support dropping the drinking age.

    I'm sure the owners of bars and pubs, etc., would like the driking age dropped.


    You're missing the upside Sarc... (none / 0) (#72)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:43:44 PM EST
    the restored liberty to pursue happiness for 18-20 year olds.  

    Just saying...yeah, drunk driving deaths might increase, and that's bad.  But the restored liberty is good.

    I guess it boils down too what you value more..liberty or safety.


    I value life, first and foremost. (5.00 / 0) (#73)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:51:42 PM EST
    You tend to miss (none / 0) (#81)
    by Fabian on Sat Jan 24, 2009 at 12:21:23 PM EST
    the primary effect of the law.

    It's not the young'uns who don't drink for fear of breaking the law.

    It's the businesses who won't want to sell to them.  Not for fear of breaking the law and getting fined.  That hurts but it doesn't hurt nearly as much as losing their permit/license to sell alcohol.  Losing profits is a huge motivation.  Business owners may not be swayed by public health arguments, but they'll sit up and pay attention when it is their profits at risk.

    Capitalism is good for something.


    "Yee-haw! We can drink legally now!..." (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 01:49:19 PM EST
    My experiece was the exact opposite of that.

    Part of the allure of underage drinking was the thrill of doing something that you weren't supposed to be doing.  The danger, the excitement.  Once I reached legal age--and that factor was removed from the equation--the appeal was diminished.  

    Absolutely (5.00 / 2) (#55)
    by CST on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 02:07:21 PM EST
    Additionally - I lived abroad at 16 where the legal drinking age for beer+wine was 16.  Guess what I drank?  Beer and wine.  I came home and had to wait to drink legally for 5 years.  Guess what I drank?  Hard liquor.  It is easier to hide, easier to get drunk off of, and one bottle can work for a lot of people.  Needless to say, I was much more responsible when drinking beer and wine.

    Riiiight. (none / 0) (#57)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 02:14:03 PM EST
    Kinda like getting your driver's license. Once you reached the legal age to drive it's appeal was diminished. Or like sex, once you found a willing partner, you didn't want it anymore. Give me a break.

    Ah, I see... (none / 0) (#60)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 02:37:27 PM EST
    ...we're in a rather cantankerous mood today.  I'll play anyway...

    1) The prospect of getting a license to drive was more exciting than actually obtaining one--and the responsibilities and costs that went along with it.  

    The appeal to drive decreases for me each and every day.  After 30 some years of it, I could do without it.  

    2) Often, the anticipation of one's first sexual experience far outpaces the actual act.  Your "don't want it anymore" statement is just silly when one considers that for most people the instances of intercourse does in fact decline between couples as their relationship matures.  


    All of which has nothing to do with: (none / 0) (#62)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 02:56:43 PM EST
    However, regardless, I think common sense says that if you lower the drinking age you will, in the short term at least, significantly increase the 18-20 auto fatalities. "Yee-haw! We can drink legally now! Partaaay!"
    Sorry, didn't mean to be so cranky. Today's the day I do my invoicing and pay bills. Guess which pile is bigger?

    I guess the good thing... (none / 0) (#66)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:10:44 PM EST
    ...is that you still have two piles and not just one?

    To your other point, when my friends and I turned 16 (i.e., not of legal age to drink), an average evenings entertainment revolved around a trunk full of beer and driving around.  A different time and attitude, for sure--but I honestly don't know that lowering the drinking age is necessarily going to lead to an increase alcohol related fatalities.  There are more factors involved than just chronological age, IMO.


    I think if you drop the drinking age, (none / 0) (#69)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:16:19 PM EST
    among other things, there will be a bunch of 18-20 y/o who, all of a sudden, get to go to bars and clubs and stuff that they were prohibited from being able to do before, and that would increase drunk driving and driving deaths among 18-29 y/o. In the short term at least.

    The AMA (none / 0) (#70)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:23:16 PM EST
    among numerous studies, back you up

    Research findings

        * A higher minimum legal drinking age is effective in preventing alcohol-related deaths and injuries among youth. When the MLDA has been lowered, injury and death rates increase, and when the MLDA is increased, death and injury rates decline (Wagenaar, 1993).
        * A higher MLDA results in fewer alcohol-related problems among youth, and the 21-year-old MLDA saves the lives of well over 1,000 youth each year (Jones et al, 1992; NHTSA, 1989). Conversely, when the MLDA is lowered, motor vehicle crashes and deaths among youth increase. At least 50 studies have evaluated this correlation (Wagenaar, 1993).
        * A common argument among opponents of a higher MLDA is that because many minors still drink and purchase alcohol, the policy doesn't work. The evidence shows, however, that although many youth still consume alcohol, they drink less and experience fewer alcohol-related injuries and deaths (Wagenaar, 1993).
        * Research shows that when the MLDA is 21, people under age 21 drink less overall and continue to do so through their early twenties (O'Malley & Wagenaar, 1991).
        * The effect of the higher MLDA occurs with little or no enforcement. Historically, enforcement has focused primarily on penalizing underage drinkers for illegal alcohol possession and/or consumption. For every 1,000 minors arrested for alcohol possession, only 130 merchants have actions taken against them, and only 88 adults who supply alcohol to minors face criminal penalties (Wagenaar & Wolfson, 1995).
        * Researchers conducted an in-depth review of enforcement actions in 295 counties in Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Oregon. The review showed that in a three-year period, 27 percent of the counties took no action against licensed establishments that sold alcohol to minors, and 41 percent of those counties made no arrests of adults who supplied alcohol to minors. Although the majority of the counties took at least one action against alcohol establishments and/or adults who provided alcohol to minors, many did not take such actions frequently (Wagenaar & Wolfson, 1995).
        * Regarding Europeans and alcohol use among youth, research confirms that Europeans have rates of alcohol-related diseases (such as cirrhosis of the liver) similar to or higher than those in the U.S. population (Single, 1984). However, drinking and driving among youth may not be as great a problem in Europe as in the U.S. Compared to their American counterparts, European youth must be older to obtain their drivers' licenses, are less likely to have a car, and are more inclined to use public transportation (Wagenaar, 1993).

    Simple Math (5.00 / 0) (#77)
    by Lora on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 07:47:33 PM EST
    It's very simple.

    If you lower the drinking age, more 18-21 year-olds and their innocent victims will die.

    Do you really want to do that?  I do not.

    NHTSA estimates that the 21-year-old minimum drinking age laws have reduced traffic fatalities involving drivers 18 to 20 years old by 13 percent and have saved an estimated 26,333 lives since 1975. In 2007, an estimated 826 lives were saved by minimum-drinking-age laws.

    I remember one problem being (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 07:22:49 AM EST
    when Michigan had a drinking age of 18 (in the 70's), high school seniors who were 18, were going out at lunch time and getting bombed and (maybe) coming back to school, or at least were driving drunk in the middle of the day.  They would also bring alcohol into school for underclassmen. Now, I realize they can still bring it in, but it is a little more complicated, as they just can't ride out to a party store at noon and buy a fifth and bring it back in time for English class.

    Then there might also be the issue of liability - if a kid buys vodka at lunch and comes back and injures themselves or someone else in gym class, or sets something on fire in chemistry class, or cuts themself in wood shop  - all because they legally bought booze - who are you going to hold responsible?

    How does the legal purchase (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by ricosuave on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:40:39 AM EST
    absolve the kid of responsibility any more than an illegal purchase would?  Total red herring.

    No, it's not (none / 0) (#15)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:47:52 AM EST
    Because now you get the school involved.

    Don't see how the school is involved (none / 0) (#20)
    by sj on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 09:21:36 AM EST
    unless they're selling it. It seems to me that they are "involved" the same way a business is involved when an employee takes a 3 martini lunch.  May have to deal with the fallout but are not responsible for what happens off-premisis.

    I agree that this is a red herring.


    But (none / 0) (#24)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 09:44:37 AM EST
    your argument is faulty, as it DOES become (at least partially) the school's problem if the kid comes back drunk (as I said earlier) and something happens at school - just as a business can be held liable if an employee drinks during lunch and then is driving to a business meeting and crashes their car.

    Schools deal with substance abuse problems (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by BernieO on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:29:49 AM EST
    all the time.

    This is the first time I have ever heard of this problem and I was around when the drinking age was 18. Any school that has that problem has a problem with discipline in general.

    My high school principal used to go to the local pool hall and flush out the kids who were playing hookey. They would run out the back where the vice principle or a cop would be waiting. My kids school contacted the parents when kids were absent without a note and would randomly call even when there was in case of forgery. It cut way down on absenteeism.


    A business might be liable ... (none / 0) (#27)
    by sj on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 10:15:39 AM EST
    ...if they provide the alcohol, but seriously?

    if, if, if, if.  Why not just keep every on in a padded cell where they can't get hurt?

    It is also the school's problem if a child is being bullied.  There are lots of situations a school or business may have to deal with.  

    But this?

    just as a business can be held liable if an employee drinks during lunch and then is driving to a business meeting and crashes their car.

    Okay, I'm no attorney or law enforcement officer, but that sounds like a bogus claim to me.


    I am an attorney (none / 0) (#33)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 10:41:07 AM EST
    And under the theory of respondeat superior (a "master/servant" relationship), an employer can be liable for negligence caused by an employee while on the job (for example, if a delivery truck driver is drunk and hits someone and injures or kills them).

    A school would not necessarily be in the same position as a business (having a "master/servant" relationship), but they are acting in loco parentis (and parents are certainly held responsible for their kids actions while drunk).  And in fact, a school principal was recently held liable in an alcohol-related death of a student who was drinking off campus and after school hours because he knew about the party and did nothing to stop it.

    It, of course, depends on state law.  Schools have also been held liable in cases where a student sexually assaulted another, and other cases of student on student crime.


    Okay (none / 0) (#36)
    by sj on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:09:46 AM EST
    But even within these confines, your arguments are still a stretch

    Actually I meant (none / 0) (#39)
    by sj on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:15:42 AM EST
    that your worries are a stretch.

    Good lord (none / 0) (#42)
    by eric on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:25:58 AM EST
    what a stretch.  And again, what is with this driving concern?  Do you people automatically assume that there is some kind of irresistible force to drive after drinking?

    I would have to estimate that the 18-20 crowd is actually the LEAST likely to drive drunk because they are the less likely than the rest of us to have a car.


    If you read the above comments (none / 0) (#45)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:50:52 AM EST
    it's not just drunk driving - although, according to the experts, oh everywhere, that is a big concern - especially with teens.  But, drunk kids can also have science class misshaps, they can get injured (or injure someone else) in gym class, they can fall off risers in choir, they can get hurt in art class (and as someone who saw many people in college drunk on our last day of marching band practice, I can tell you the opportunity for injury to self or others is great).

    Why take the chance by allowing seniors come to class bombed because it would be legal for them to drink at lunch?


    Ah... (none / 0) (#68)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:15:57 PM EST
    But if people here are arguing that 18 year-olds should be allowed to drink legally because they are "adults" in some other ways, then their parents should and would not be responsible if they came to school drunk and hurt themselves or, more importantly, if they hurt someone else.

    Lower expectations? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jacob Freeze on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 07:47:48 AM EST
    If Obama continues the ridiculous "war on drugs," hundreds of thousands of lives will be destroyed by long prison terms for non-violent crimes.

    Why should the Left, such as it is, a weak, pitiful thing already, give up on this issue and substitute a relatively insignificant revision of the drinking age?

    Obama should be confronted with kids who were infected with AIDS in prison, every day, every time he steps out of the Oval Office, until he moves to abolish this ludicrously ineffective "war" that continues to enrich drug-lords and destroy the lives of so many young adults.


    Lower it (none / 0) (#14)
    by ricosuave on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:42:27 AM EST
    These kids have massive amounts of homework, school shootings, dress codes, school uniforms, and bullies to contend with.  Anyone facing all of that desperately needs a drink!

    I agree (none / 0) (#16)
    by flyerhawk on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:50:05 AM EST
    that the drinking age should be, at most, 18.  I honestly don't understand how it is Constitutionally permissable to have a drinking age over 18.  

    But as with most noxious discriminatory laws, they exist because there is no political will to remove them.  And I see little chance of the legislature changing this.  The only way it will be changed is if SCOTUS gets involved.

    the drinking age(s) (none / 0) (#17)
    by cpinva on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 08:52:46 AM EST
    have far more to do with religion, than with "safety", in this country. up until the 20th century, there were no minimum drinking or smoking ages, it's a function of the temperance movement.

    scribe, last time i checked, the president's job is one of multi-tasking. using your approach, only one issue would get addressed at a time, until it was completed. that may work for cleaning a house, not for running a country. i feel certain he's got enough aides, that one of them can handle the drinking age issue, while focus maintains on torture investigation, etc.

    while he's at it, he can lower the age to legally purchase securities, which is currently 21, a rule mandated by the SEC, not congress. again, if you're old enough to fight/die for your country, clearly you're old enough to buy stock.

    One of the many reasons... (none / 0) (#22)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 09:31:53 AM EST
    the law is a big fat joke.

    It's a shame too, the law should be worthy of respect...but with laws like the drinking age and drug laws, you literally have to turn off your mind to be in a position to respect the law aka be a moron.

    He also wrote (none / 0) (#28)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 10:19:14 AM EST
    about stem cell research yesterday.  How drippingly evil!  Hopefully the gov't will be able to tell people what to write about in their blogs here in the near future.  Common Good and all.

    This is one of two areas... (none / 0) (#29)
    by Thanin on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 10:26:35 AM EST
    I can think of where Im not what I'd define as being liberal.  Despite it not working at all, part of me wants to bring back prohibition and make it the only law punishable by death with no appeals.  

    I hate alcohol.

    Why? (none / 0) (#35)
    by eric on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:06:42 AM EST
    Also, if you hate it, that's fine, but why the need to impose your temperance upon others?

    I wouldnt impose it on otheres... (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by Thanin on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 12:29:03 PM EST
    its just a part of how I feel, but I know its irrational and therefore wouldnt act on it.

    fair enough (5.00 / 0) (#48)
    by eric on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 12:44:34 PM EST
    Based on your ratings... (none / 0) (#37)
    by sj on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:13:19 AM EST
    ... of the comments of others, this may be only one of two areas where you might not self-identify as a liberal, but I would say your views on this issue aren't a huge stretch.



    I won't begrudge your criticism... (none / 0) (#46)
    by Thanin on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 12:28:12 PM EST
    but Id love to hear about some examples.  Theres probably some miscommunication there, since in rating something theres no explanation.

    Very true. (5.00 / 0) (#74)
    by sj on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 04:01:01 PM EST
    There may indeed be some miscommunication.  But on the other hand that's usually fairly easily managed by engaging via responding comment rather than a downrating.

    And sorry.  I'm making a bigger deal of this than even I think it is.  

    It was a "just saying" observation more than a criticism, actually.


    I'll toast to that. (5.00 / 1) (#75)
    by Thanin on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 06:29:16 PM EST
    my dad (none / 0) (#31)
    by jedimom on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 10:31:26 AM EST
    God Bless him was clearly NOT someone who should have been serving his country as a Marine in Viet Nam at age 17..I would suggest raising the draft age not lowering the drinking age..and frankly I think voting, drinking, serving in the military and gambling should all be age 21....impulse control development....

    driving locks (none / 0) (#32)
    by jedimom on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 10:34:29 AM EST
    betcha anything if they did succeed in lowering the drinking age we would wind up with breathlizer locks on all cars shortly afterward..for our protection..just raise the draft age...

    and yeah decriminalize marijuana for gawds sake it is a hell of a lot less dangerous than alcohol...

    and as a person who knows a mom who lost both her children to a drunken under age driver, it is tragic that this MADD founder had issues, another reason for alcohol age being upped and mental counseling /health care having parity with medical care....

    Why does (none / 0) (#34)
    by eric on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:01:08 AM EST
    this have anything to do with driving?  If the kids are going to get drunk, illegally or legally, they may or may not drive.  Who knows?   How is it relevant?  Is there some special risk of a 18-20 year old drinker that I am unaware of?  I know the chances of me driving drunk when I was 19-20 was zero because I didn't have a car.

    If anything, the argument for lowering the drinking age actually is consistent with safe driving - teach the kids to be responsible in their driving and in their drinking.

    Remember, MADD ties drinking to driving because they know that best suits its ultimate goal - a new prohibition.  They can't argue directly for this, so they use drunk driving as their bogey man.

    Drunk driving is a serious issue (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by nyjets on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 11:27:48 AM EST
    "they use drunk driving as their bogey man. "

    I always hate when serious issues are described in this way.
    THe fact is that drunk drivers are a danger on the road and every attempt should be made to keep drunks off the road. Refering to drunking driving as a 'bogey man' cheapens a very valid concern.


    Right. Penalties for drunk (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 01:39:27 PM EST
    driving are WAY too low. I'm ok with lowering the drinking age if drunk driving penalties go up, as a trade off.

    Doesn't matter what the legal age is... (none / 0) (#49)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 01:24:15 PM EST
    ...if you're underage and have a strong enough desire to obtain alcohol, one way or another, you're going to find a way to do so.

    From the old stealing from your parent's stash and putting water back in trick to getting a fake ID--where there's a will, there's a way.  

    You simply can't legislate a way around human desire.

    Yes... (none / 0) (#54)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 01:53:34 PM EST
    ...I'm obviously advocating all-out anarchy and lawlessness.  

    Ahh. So whether you can or can't (none / 0) (#56)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 02:09:37 PM EST
    "legislate a way around human desire" has nothing to do with anything. Got it.

    So, do the laws... (none / 0) (#63)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 02:58:30 PM EST
    ...prevent any of those things you listed from occuring?  

    Seems to me the answer to that is no.  But, you go right ahead being contrary and missing the point.  


    on TL sees a drinking or drug law or something that they don't like, they like to repeat something like "you can't legislate away human desire" as if that's an actual reason to not have a law.

    Human desire is... (none / 0) (#71)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:40:56 PM EST
    something that should be considered before passing a law though, especially the quality of life/nuisance type law without an immediate victim.  

    Yes, some humans desire to murder and pillage, and the presence of a victim makes it an instance where a law is needed against murdering and pillaging.  Drinking age, drugs, prostitution, gambling, immigration...not so sure any victimization is severe or immediate enough in those areas to warrant a law that does not jive with human nature and human desire...not to mention liberty and freedom.  

    I guess it is a fine line...too many laws and the law is not respected and is broken on the regular, making it unenforceable as well as making us all less free.  Not enough laws and society becomes too unpleasant for too many.  You know where my opinion lies...too many laws.


    twice in a month? (none / 0) (#76)
    by diogenes on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 07:32:17 PM EST
    I'm starting to worry when I agree with Jeralyn twice in a month.

    we still have a week left (5.00 / 1) (#79)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 24, 2009 at 12:00:10 AM EST
    let's try for three.

    Drinking v. Marijuana (none / 0) (#80)
    by as00maximus on Sat Jan 24, 2009 at 01:58:51 AM EST
    I did just a little research, and well there have been well over 1000, well for that matter well over 2000 alcohol related deaths in 2005. From what I can find in 2001 there were about 60 marijuana/cannabis related deaths.
    Government needs to get smart an legalize marijuana and outlaw drinking.

    I dont know, im not a politician so i guess im not smart enough for input. Wait i forgot doesnt take brains to be a politician, all you have to do is learn how to say Yes sir, will that be all.

    Brit here (none / 0) (#82)
    by rporter75 on Sat Feb 14, 2009 at 10:01:52 AM EST
    hey I'm from England and we have a legal drinking age of 18, and do not have significantly higher levels of drink driving in our 18-20 class. In fact that is probably one of our lowest drink driving groups, and I think there are many reasons for this:

    1. we are unable to get a drivers license until the age of 17, but before we are capable of getting that license we have strict teaching and testing criteria. and all through this process we are taught never to drink drive.

    2. From a young age in school we are educated about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, especially as refers to driving.

    3. we have extremely strict laws regarding drink driving (hefty fines, loss of drivers license, and depending upon the severity the length of jail sentence is determined).

    4. All alcohol adverts are now legally bound to mention responsible drinking, as well as government promoted drink driving, driving safety and alcohol/drug abuse awareness advertisements:


    18-20 year olds are not stupid, and are totally aware of the implications of drunk driving, the age gap between 20 and 21 will not make any difference on how an individual will first behave under the influence of alcohol. And I've got to say, if drinking is legal and a parent knows their child is going to a bar, why the hell are you letting your child drive there?!? when drinking under the age of 21 becomes legal it is not necessary do drive into the middle of nowhere so as not to get caught drinking under age, you could sit at home with your friends and/or family enjoying a few drinks.

    Oh and I've got to say the school idea is ridiculous I'm at university at the moment and I somehow have failed to see all the drunken students staggering about the science labs and falling off of things, for the general reason that when you're drunk who can honestly be bothered going to class?

    seriously the drinking age restriction being lowered would not cause you any severe issues, maybe educating people as to the dangers more thoroughly is better than hiking up the age limits. I just find it amusing that you call America the land of the free yet you seem to have a government that does not want any of you to be free! but then this is just my opinion so feel FREE to ignore it!