Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why The Drinking Age Should Be 18

Slate has a new article denouncing the current efforts by a coalition of university Presidents to curb binge drinking by lobbying for the national legal age for consuming alcohol to 18.

The article argues that lowering the drinking age won't be effective, and will actually do more harm and cost more lives, pointing to evidence from other countries who lowered their drinking ages. I wouldn't expect anything other than a spike in drinking once a given demographic gets new legal access. Long-term statistics are more meaningful, but we don't get those.

But even if the higher drinking age saved more lives and led to more binging and not less, there's a very simple, powerful reason why it's stupid and should be changed: It's not consistent and it's not just.

In every other facet of life, our country designates 18 as the age when a citizen becomes an adult. When you reach 18 you can buy porn and cigarettes. You can marry. You can vote. And if you are male, you are required by law to register with the Selective Service, which means you're put into the draft pool for war. There is a fundamental absurdity with saying that someone is old enough to operate a multi-million dollar piece of military hardware, kill others for their country, and die for their country, but is not mature enough to buy and drink a can of beer.

So the drinking age needs to be lowered to 18. Either that, or we need to unilaterally recognize a higher age (like 21) as the threshold for adulthood. The mismatch just doesn't make any sense.


Rob said...

You're right, it should be more consistent. I think everything should be moved to 21. There are exceptions to all the rules but generally I do not believe an 18 year hold has sufficient maturity to responsibly perform any of the aforementioned rights. Then again, neither do some 40 year old people I know.

Kenny Wyland said...

I don't think it should be raised to 21. I agree that an 18 year old still has a ridiculous amount of lessons to learn, but if that were the determining factor then I'd still be living at home at 32.

The analogy of the home being a nest and pushing the kids out of the nest and force them to spread their wings is apt. At 18, almost no one is really ready to make the hardest choices in life, but they are ready to start trying and sometimes failing. They'll continue to try and sometimes fail for the rest of their lives, but waiting until 21 for a person to leave home and be an adult is much.. MUCH too late.