Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Emperor Is Naked

We should have written about this last year, but we recently learned that MADD has severed all ties with the Century Council, and all of the reasons why.  For those who don't know, the Century Council (TCC) is an organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, that is funded entirely by America's leading distillers.  Cynics, however, would say that the organization is just a political ploy to deflect blame from the alcohol industry.  MADD's Dear John letter to them noted that the primary reason for the split was the Century Council's initial opposition to mandatory ignition interlocks for first offenders, a group MADD rightly referred to as "ticking time bombs" since they have already driven drunk 88 times on average before being caught.  For that particular issue, we at Twenty-One Debunked tend to agree with MADD.  Ignition interlocks are the mimimum that should be imposed on drunk drivers, and in fact we think the laws against DUI should be much tougher.  Usually only extremely die-hard libertines or those with vested interests would be opposed to that, and TCC has since officially switched to neutrality on the ignition interlock issue.

However, another less-publicized reason noted in the letter was that TCC allegedly condoned drinking before the age of 21, despite the organization's generally unequivocal stance supporting the 21 drinking age.  This was based solely on a quote by TCC's president, taken way out of context, concerning an ad campaign designed by college students through the American Advertising Federation's student competition to reduce excessive drinking.  The actual quote was, "[t]he behavior is taking place, the best thing we can do is reduce the harm." Despite the TCC reaffirming its support for the 21 drinking age, MADD still was not satisfied since their refusal to retract that specific quote (though clearly true) could somehow be perceived as "undermining" the drinking age or "condoning" underage drinking.   Now that's just lunacy--even the slightest hint that one can see cracks in the facade of prohibition is somehow bad?

Just go to any college campus (except perhaps Brigham Young or Bob Jones) and you will see that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes.  The 21 drinking age simply doesn't work--the majority of 18-20 year olds still drink.  And while fewer of them now drink regularly than they did back in the 1970s, which may or may not have anything to do with the drinking age, the more they do when they do.  And the problem of truly dangerous drinking, though always there, is arguably worse in colleges today.  Forcing alcohol underground only makes it that much more dangerous (and appealing), a lesson we should have learned in the 1920s but somehow conveniently forgot when it comes to today's young people.  We need better solutions, the kind that can only work with a lower drinking age.  What better time than now?

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