A Debate on Lowering the Legal Drinking Age

Here’s a 60 Minutes story about the debate to reduce the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. I found the story rather interesting. John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont started a campaign to lower the legal drinking age. While I don’t endorse his position, I find portions of his educational initiative beneficial. Teaching both chemical and consequential results of alcohol intake might help students understand the seriousness of their choice.

While I think the discussion is warranted, I do find McCardell’s rationalization approach weak. Enlistment age and legal drinking age are unrelated positions. Just because someone is old enough to enlist, should not automatically qualify one to purchase alcohol. I think positions of this magnitude should be debated by higher arguments.

The bulk of this story is really defined by choice. College students as well as other adults have a choice. You’ll find “inappropriate” choices and behavior demonstrated throughout this clip. Choice often determines behavior. I do find it interesting that abstinence is so easily dismissed as an option in this story. Abstinence is discarded along with prohibition. These are two very different positions. Prohibition entails someone else making the decision for you. Abstinence is about you making the decision for yourself. We need more students (and adults) in my opinion, making better lifestyle decisions. Perhaps an education regimine promoting abstinence isn’t too bad of an idea when it comes to drinking.

2 thoughts on “A Debate on Lowering the Legal Drinking Age

  1. eric.paine

    Most states in the nation adopted a minimum drinking age of 21 soon after federal passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which required states to maintain a minimum drinking age of 21 in order to avoid a reduction in federal highway funds. The original intention of the law was to reduce the incidents of alcohol-related accidents among people under 21. But since passage of this legislation, and the raising of the drinking age in many states, the percentage of people who drink between the ages of 18 to 20 has skyrocketed. Many say the prohibitions have actually encouraged secretive binge drinking, more dangerous behavior, and less educational programming targeting this age group. Respected law enforcement officials and university presidents have recently called for changes in the federal law to permit states to lower the drinking age.

    At age 18, people are legal adults. As much as their parents may think otherwise, they are no longer children. They have the right to vote and help choose the President of the United States. They can go to war to defend our country, and they can legally purchase guns and cigarettes. It is absolutely absurd that they cannot have a beer or glass of wine without fear of possible arrest and prosecution.

    It’s time for the nation to repeal these Prohibition-era laws and adopt a more intelligent, progressive, and educational approach to drinking among younger adults. These laws simply don’t work, they aren’t enforceable any longer, and if anything they are counterproductive. Literally millions of responsible young adults are already consuming alcohol and that’s not going to change. What we need to do is stop wasting the taxpayers money chasing, charging and prosecuting responsible young adults who want to have a beer, and start putting the money where it ought to be, in promoting smart education about responsible drinking, and in pursuing far more serious criminals, including those at all ages who drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

    Eric Paine
    President & Founder
    Drink At 18

  2. Brad Hoffmann

    Hey Eric,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. While this debate centers more on personal opinion and preferences, you make some assertions indicating drinking behavior has skyrocketed among those 18-20? Would you mind linking any “serious” or scientific studies (good sampling practices, etc.) that would validate your claim.

    The second thought that comes to mind is whole idea of rationalized arguments. Even if drinking among 18-20 year olds has skyrocketed, does that make a case to legalize the behavior. Just because a segment of the population exhibits the behavior, is that cause to legalize. While those in this age bracket are considered legal adults, they can vote for the a president, but that can’t serve as the president (age requirement).

    Does the legal age at 21 really promote binge drinking? Did it not go on before 1984? Are there legitimate studies that would validate these assertions, or are these just individual’s opinions.

    I appreciate your effort. Checked out your website for a moment, too.

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