Monday, April 24, 2017

Lowering the Drinking Age: It's Not Just for the Left Anymore

Twenty-One Debunked, a subsidiary of the True Spirit of America Party, is generally on the political left, or more accurately, at the intersection of progressivism and libertarianism.  Or as we prefer to call ourselves, "progressive libertarian".  Thus, we are certainly not a right-wing organization.

But did you know that one can easily make a conservative case as well for lowering the drinking age, or even abolishing it entirely?  That is what British author Wayland Ellis argues in his new provocatively-titled book:  Abolish the Drinking Age:  The Conservative Case Against Alcohol Regulation.   His old-school conservative argument centers on the idea that the 21 drinking age is in fact a form of paternalism, as is alcohol regulation more generally as well.  And that paternalism is actually not right-wing, but rather left-wing or even socialist.  (Progressivism and even socialism need not be paternalistic, of course, but I digress.)  He certainly does not believe that the federal government has any business dictating to the states what the drinking age should be, and indeed his position does in fact jibe with old-school Republicans (not to be confused with the radical right, neocons, theocons, etc. that now control the party).  As for letting the states decide, he realizes the political infeasibility of abolishing the drinking age overnight, and would be fine with first lowering the drinking age to 18, then 16, and so on as pragmatism shall dictate.  As for other alcohol regulations, he is generally against them, with the notable exception of taxation--like us, he believes alcohol taxes should in fact be raised significantly.  But otherwise, he feels regulation does more harm than good for the most part.

Twenty-One Debunked, on the other hand, argues from a progressive libertarian and youth-rights perspective, that the 21 drinking age violates the guarantee of equal protection of the law.  There is no good reason for the legal drinking to be any higher than the age of majority, period. And while we are not actually opposed to lowering the drinking age further (say, to 16, or abolishing it entirely) after it has been successfully lowered to 18, we no longer consider such a goal to be worthwhile at least for the near-term.  It would be a LONG time before it would be politically possible to do, and doing it too quickly could indeed have unintended consequences.  But lower it to 18 we must, yesterday.  As for other alcohol regulations, we (unlike Ellis) generally do not oppose them as long as they are reasonable and not ageist or otherwise discriminatory.

Anyone reading this needs to show this to their conservative friends and family.   As unpalatable as it may be to form a "big-tent" coalition with conservatives over the issue of lowering the drinking age, it will most likely be our only hope in succeeding.   Even if we have to hold our noses.  For the same reason, we need to rely not just on libertarian or individualistic arguments for lowering the drinking age, but also on communitarian arguments as well.  Even "law and order" arguments can work in our favor as well, in fact.

So what are we waiting for?


  1. I have long known that liberals were more paternalistic than conservatives are. In places that have unfortunately raised the smoking age to 21, those places were places that are liberal Democratic, such as New York, Chicago, Columbia, Jersey City and Boston. It is liberals who have the instinct to be paternalistic which has caused and will cause the erosion of civil rights in this country. I believe there was always a conservative case for lowering the drinking age to 18. Most bills to partially lower the drinking age have come from Republican legislators. I think that the movement to lowering the drinking age to 18 is a movement that fits more with conservatism than with liberalism. I'm not a conservative but I realize that the movement to lower the drinking age to 18 is inherently a conservative or libertarian movement. I think that if the movement to lower the drinking age to 18 ever accomplishes its mission, it would be the conservatives who have would done the most.

  2. Indeed, that is unfortunately true about many self-proclaimed progressives these days. In fact, the Conservative Party of New York was one of the most ardent opponents of NY raising its drinking age to 21 in 1985 under federal duress. They remained opposed to it for some time, but no longer consider it worthwhile to fight it anymore, which is a shame.

  3. They're called authoritarian leftists. Castro, Stalin, and Kim Jong Un are examples. They are certainly not true progressives.

  4. Indeed. Whether on the left or right, authoritarians all have in common that they fear chaos and desire strong leadership, to the point where they are willing to remove individual rights to one degree or another in order to achieve their utopian goals (which ultimately end up being dystopian).

    In contrast, in a free society, the only acts that a just government should prohibit are those that objectively harm (or endanger more than the minimum) the person or property of non-consenting others, or otherwise violate the legitimate rights of others. If not, the state needs to MYOB, full stop. Anyone who fails to grasp that concept, whether left or right, is an authoritarian.

  5. Of course, an authoritarian would argue that people like us are selfishly putting personal gratification ahead lf the common good. Or something. But their idea of the "common good" is typically little more than a chimera, a thinly-veiled excuse to remove individual rights.

  6. Additionally, authoritarians' fear of chaos leads them to take restrictive measures that are notorious for backfiring. As per the Law of Eristic Escalation, "Imposition of Order = Escalation of Chaos", at least in the long run. "Order" in this context refers to any arbitrarily and/or coercively imposed order.