It has been over two decades since the last two states (South Dakota and Wyoming) raised the drinking age to 21 in 1988, and a quarter century since the federal highway funding power grab of 1984 began. Initiated by MADD, spurred on by disgruntled members of Congress, reluctantly signed into law by Reagan, bowed down to by sellout state governors and legislators, and upheld by the highest court in the land, it appears to be all but cast in stone. But a relatively quiet movement to reverse this failed (ig)noble experiment is gaining momentum with each passing year.
And what has depriving more than 12 million legal adults of sovereignty over their own bodies and minds given us after more than two decades? Not much good it seems. And unfortunately a lot of unintended consequences such as loss of social cohesion, an increase in truly dangerous drinking, and even more ancillary laws to prop up the failed policy. Arbitrary and coercive imposition of order eventually and inevitably leads to escalation of chaos. The Law of Eristic Escalation in action.
Nevermind that 21-24 year olds are significantly more likely to cause alcohol-related traffic fatalities, are the most overrepresented in such fatalities, and are more likely to drive drunk, than 18-20 year olds. And this was true even when 18-20 year olds were allowed to drink legally, and remains true in countries like Canada where they still are. But tyranny is always whimsical.
There is a lot of junk science and misinformation out there about the drinking age, and this blog is designed to debunk it all. Take a look at the studies the pro-21 crowd doesn't want you to see, discussed here on this blog for your convenience. You'll find that the idea that there was a net lifesaving effect of raising the drinking age to 21 is questionable at best and most likely spurious.
We do not have a "teen drinking problem," we have an American drinking problem. And we need an American solution to solve it. A solution based on sound science and civil rights, not junk science, scapegoating, and tyranny.
The True Spirit of America Party (TSAP) believes that the drinking age should be lowered to 18, with 18 year olds having the same rights that 21 year olds have now, period. This would best be combined with a hike in the beer tax to $2.00/gallon, and the increased revenue used to fund alcohol education, treatment, and DUI enforcement. In addition, laws against drunk driving would be strengthened and enforced better, and licenses would be easier to lose at any age for misbehavior on the road.
TOP 21 REASONS WHY WE SHOULD LOWER THE DRINKING AGE, PREFERABLY TO 18:
21) Legal age 21 simply doesn't work. The odds of being busted are about 1 in 500. The majority of 18-20 year olds currently drink, and 90% of the population will drink at least once before turning 21. It simply cannot be consistently enforced, only arbitrarily. Even 8th graders (13 year olds!) can get their hands on alcohol, and more easily than even cigarettes, which have an age limit 18 in 46 states (and often poorly enforced). And the average age at first drink actually dropped from 16.6 in 1980 to 16.2 in 2002.
20) Legal age 21 is such a failure that it requires more and more ancillary laws (e.g. dram shop, social host liability, use and lose, keg registration, etc.) to prop it up, creating their own set of problems.
19) Legal age 21 is a distraction from the irresponsible drinking of older adults, and helps foster denial of such problems.
18) Legal age 21 requires violation of the Constitution (warrantless searches, internal possession laws, forced chemical tests, and even entrapment) in order to enforce it sufficiently.
17) Legal age 21 creates excessive liability for both adults and "minors" alike.
16) Legal age 21 breeds disrespect for law and authority.
15) Legal age 21 creates 12 million second-class citizens.
14) Legal age 21 unjustly punishes all under 21 for the actions of the few.
13) The USA is the only developed, non-Muslim country with a drinking age that high.
12) Legal age 21 is interpreted and enforced so pharisaically in some places that many underage drinkers are afraid to get medical help for alcohol overdoses, and too many people die that way.
11) Legal age 21 is the Law of Eristic escalation in action. Imposition of order eventually leads to escalation of chaos.
10) You don't swat a fly with a sledgehammer.
9) Legal age 21 creates "forbidden fruit."
8) Legal age 21 turns alcohol into a "gateway" drug.
7) Legal age 21 creates big profits for the fake ID industry, which supports organized crime and even terrorism.
6) Legal age 21 forces drinking underground, leading to more dangerous and/or deadly drinking.
5) Attempting to enforce legal age 21 is a huge waste of resources that could be better spent on education, treatment, and DUI enforcement, which are currently under-resourced.
4) Legal age 21 blurs the line between responsible and irresponsible drinking, and even encourages the latter at the expense of the former. Stupid drinking is common partly because intelligent drinking is illegal.
3) Legal age 21 makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
2) Because 18-20 year olds are adults. And adults are sovereign in body and mind, and shouldn't have to protected from themselves. That alone is reason enough.
1) It's a cliche, but if you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to go to the bar. Anything else is un-American.
Many of these are the same reasons America decided to repeal Prohibition in 1933. How quickly we forget the hard lessons of that unfortunate era. When you criminalize normative drinking, you inevitably normalize dangerous drinking. And we are all paying a heavy price for it.
WHAT CAN YOU DO LEGALLY AT 18 IN AMERICA?
- Go to war and die for your country
- Vote for the most powerful person in the world
- Run for some political offices in some states
- Drive a car, truck, or motorcycle
- Drive a nuclear-powered submarine (in the Navy)
- Get married without parental consent
- Have custody of a child
- Consent to sex in all 50 states and DC
- Have an abortion without parental consent
- Enter into legally binding contracts
- Work in almost any hazardous occupation
- Pay income taxes
- Get a credit card and borrow money
- Get piercings and tattoos
- Be tried as an adult for all crimes in all 50 states and DC
- Go to adult prison in all states
- Be executed in states that have the death penalty
- Serve on a jury
- Sue and be sued
- Live on one's own
- Be evicted by one's parents in most states
- Get one's plug pulled in most states
- Commit assisted suicide (in Oregon)
- Join a cult
- Skydive, hang-glide, and engage in other extreme sports
- Hunt with dangerous weapons, even unsupervised
- Carry concealed weapons in some states
- Buy shotguns and rifles
- Sell guns at gun shows in states that have them
- Buy and sell chainsaws, knives, boxcutters, razorblades, and swords
- Buy and sell fireworks in some states
- Buy and sell toxic chemicals
- Buy and sell cigarettes and other tobacco products
- Buy and sell questionable "dietary supplements"
- Buy, sell, and star in pornography (most states)
- Buy and sell Robitussin, Sudafed, Benadryl, and other potentially hazardous drugs without a prescription
- Gamble in many states (lottery, bingo, stock market, and even casinos in some states)
- Sell your body (in Nevada) or soul (anywhere)
- Be a human guinea pig
- Own real estate in most states
- Sell alcoholic beverages
- You can even own a bar in some states...
THE TOBACCO MODEL WORKS
A quiet revolution has occurred in America in the last 40 years or so. Since 1969, adult smoking has plummeted by more that 50%, and the same happened for teen smoking since 1976. The exact year it peaked was accurately predicted by the tobacco companies. Smoking rates of all ages are now at an all-time low since they began being accurately measured. Even the brief increase in teen smoking in the first half of 1990s was in 30-day prevalence surveys, and heavy daily smoking had dropped even faster over the years than smoking in general. Now that's a great American success story!
What were the factors that caused this monumental change? Americans became more health conscious since the 1970s, of course, as also reflected in the decline in per capita alcohol consumption since 1980. The only major public policy measures done were education, taxation, and advertising restrictions. Most notably, America did not raise the smoking age to 21, not even in a single state. The age limit for cigarettes is 18 in 46 states, and is often poorly enforced. Yet alcohol is easier for 13-16 year olds to get than cigarettes, go figure. And for high school seniors, the decline in smoking at all in the past 30 days was somewhat faster (in the long run) than the decline in "binge" drinking (5 or more drinks in an occasion).
We clearly have a lot to learn from this model of regulation. It seems that both hard (e.g. taxation) and soft (e.g. education) policy measures that target all ages work a lot better than scapegoating young people for adult problems.