Thursday, April 12, 2007

Legal Drinking Age

There is a good article on the issue of the federal legal drinking age. There are too many parts of if that I would like to quote, so I'll have to resort to a bullet list. You should definitely read the entire article just to get a lay of the land with regard to the issue.

  1. "The first is that the age set by the legislation is basically arbitrary."
  2. "The U.S. has the highest drinking age in the world (a title it shares with Indonesia, Mongolia, Palau). The vast majority of the rest of the world sets the minimum age at 17 or 16 or has no minimum age at all."
  3. "It makes little sense that America considers an 18-year-old mature enough to marry, to sign a contract, to vote and to fight and die for his country, but not mature enough to decide whether or not to have a beer."
  4. "The drop [in alcohol related highway deaths since the minimum age first passed Congress in 1984] is better explained by safer and better built cars, increased seat belt use and increasing awareness of the dangers of drunken driving than in a federal standard [than by the legal drinking age]."
  5. "The age at highest risk for an alcohol-related auto fatality is 21, followed by 22 and 23, an indication that delaying first exposure to alcohol until young adults are away from home may not be the best way to introduce them to drink."
I have always been particularly hung up on points 1 and 3. I once saw an ad on television that was trying to convince under-agers not to drink. The narrator said - and I quote - "It's not just wrong, it's illegal." Being of a philosophical bent, my head almost exploded when I heard that piece of logical fallacy being broadcast on behalf of some government sponsored public awareness commercial. There is nothing essential to the age of 21 nor to alcohol that makes drinking underage "wrong". Rather, it is precisely because it is illegal that it is wrong.

This touches on another point made in the article regarding the fact that "thou shalt not drink before the age of 21" has become something of a sacrosanct moral principle in the American mind to the point where parents - even in states that have home exceptions - won't allow their 20.5 year old children to have a sip of wine with a celebratory dinner "because it is wrong".

This whole issue and the blind acceptance of an arbitrary (regardless of how prudent the exact age is) limit as a moral or ethical principle is one of the most obvious signs that people simply do not engage in critical thinking - a phenomenon which I personally consider to be one of the most profound social evils.

1 Comment:

Maarek said...

Two reasons I can see for why the US has such ridiculous drinking laws.
1. The majority of our founders were Calvinists, who hate fun because God hates it.
2. We have a rising tide of Nanny mentality, which means if there is a perceived problem of any kind, regardless of its nature, the solution is government intervention. The fact that regulation does not help, and may cause great net harm, is irrelevant. The government must DO SOMETHING!

Many people are trying to draw attention to the Neo-Prohibition movement growing in this country. It is kind of scary stuff. When they start talking about how much alcohol costs us in medical and legal expenses, be ready for the same arguments now used against smoking. What pleasure of yours will they come for next?

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