Thursday, August 30, 2012

Victory in New Zealand

Last night, the New Zealand Parliament apparently listened to reason and voted to keep the drinking age unchanged at 18.  This is the second time since 2006 that any attempt to raise the drinking age over there has failed.  While the rest of the Alcohol Reform Bill is still being hammered out, we can thankfully rest assured that the NZ drinking age will remain 18 for the foreseeable future.  As a result, we at Twenty-One Debunked hereby honor all of those who voted to keep it 18, especially Nikki Kaye (National) and all of the Greens.
To be honest, we at Twenty-One Debunked were a bit worried that New Zealand would actually go through with raising the drinking age to 20, and in doing so ruin any chances that we in the USA could lower our drinking age to 18.   After all, a good 3/4 of the adult population in NZ supported raising the drinking age to 20 or even 21, which is roughly the same percentage over here that favors keeping the American drinking age at 21.  That is, 18-20 year olds are an outvoted minority who would have been subject to tyranny of the majority had it been up to a popular vote alone.  But that's precisely why all modern democracies, even relatively direct ones like Switzerland and several US states, still have legislatures to make laws (and courts to interpret them) rather than literally put everything up to a popular vote.  Remember, what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.  Albert Einsten knew that quite well.

And it's not like raising the drinking age would have actually done much good.  Next time someone claims that lowering the drinking age to 18 in 1999 created a "crisis" in problematic drinking among teens and young adults that wasn't there before, be sure to show them this link to set them straight. Long story short: from 1996/1997 to 2006/2007 it did not significantly increase among 15-24 year olds, but did increase among people over 25. But I guess it's easier to scapegoat young people for adult problems rather than actually try to solve them.  Fortunately, the NZ Parliament was smart enough to see through the lies and do the right thing, at least as far as the drinking age is concerned.

As for the rest of the Alcohol Reform Bill still being debated, we at Twenty-One Debunked generally support those provisions, even though they may be rather weak.  There is still no definite provision for minimum pricing of alcohol, which according to international evidence would likely have had the largest impact on New Zealand's legendary drinking problem.  But some provisions, such as giving communities more say over alcohol outlets and reducing trading hours (currently 24/7), are clearly a step in the right direction.  Ultimately, New Zealand's drinking culture needs to change, and Parliament needs to step up to the plate and pass sensible laws that encourage that to happen, but without violating the civil rights of any individual or demographic group.  But will they have the intestinal fortitude to do so?

1 comment:

  1. It's good that New Zealand's Parliament did not vote to raise the drinking age to 20 because the drinking age should be 18. Of all political parties in the U.S., the Green party has my most positive opinion. It's also good that Greens in Parliament did the right thing by keeping the drinking age at 18. As Ajax the Great said, minimum pricing for alcohol will be important in creating a culture of alcohol responsibility in New Zealand and in the U.S. I support most of the Alcohol Reform bill because it goes in the right direction.