Drunk Teenagers Don’t Melt the Ice Caps
:#A/".7#"1#&"00%A%#7/%()4%'*(#*,)'B#*,8*#0"+%/)'A#*,%#4/)'B)'A#8A%#+)00#$%'%3*#("&)%*By John Gee
about it too much. In fact, the right to drink is important, and teenagers are not the ones who made it so – adults are. A sophisticated party in today’s culture requires serving alcohol, which means those between the ages of 18 and 21 are effectively criminal ized if they want to behave like adults in a social setting. On the other hand, by raising the drink ing age, we prevent drunkdriving deaths. Drinking between the ages of 18 and 21 is illegal not because it is harmful to others in itself – and not even because it is harmful to the person drinking – but because many teenagers endanger others by driving while intoxicated. There are, of course, other arguments for the higher drinking age,
ver the summer, a group of more than one hundred college presi dents formed The Amethyst Initia tive and suggested that we should allow 18 yearolds to drink alcohol. There was some thing of a debate at the time, but, given the state of the election season, concerns such as the economy naturally overshadowed their proposal. Yet the discussion over the drinking age is still of great interest. Aside from my obvious personal stake in the issue as a college freshman, I see in it the secu rityversusfreedom line of thinking that (%'# $+5-+$# 3)/(# 07# 8(+# /0)-8+28+2202,'3# and environmental policy debates. At what point should a government sus pend its citizens’ rights in order to maintain their security? #C,2'8:"4#9#@+:,+1+#8(%8#:+*%:# adults do have the right, in principle at least, to possess and consume alcohol, and that raising the drinking age takes something consequential away
neither would this debate. Therefore, drunk driving is more or less the only danger a higher drinking age protects us from.
“Drinking between the ages of 18 and 21 is illegal not because it is harmful to others in itself – and not even because it is harmful to the person drinking – but because many teenagers endanger others by driving while intoxicated.” The protection of life is certainly worth the right to drink when the word “life” is illdefined. We bargain lives away all the time by driving cars (even sober), skydiving, licensing guns to people, fight ing wars, and that most doomed of enterprises, having life in the first place. Being alive is quite risky, and we’ve decided that we’re not all that concerned with a statistically small chance of death. So, the question is really whether or not the right to drink is worth the protec tion of a specific number of lives. More than that, it should be worth the time, money, and effort necessary to enforce a drinking age of 21 effectively , which we don’t do now. Given the ubiquity of alcohol on col lege campuses, and even at high school parties, I doubt we can. Moreover, I have to believe that there are more nuanced meth ods of controlling drunk driving – education, a graduated drink ing age, etc. Simply establish ing a drinking age higher than any other in the world is a very crude tool. As out of fashion as it may be in economic circles, I think this attitude of default libertarianism makes the issue much clearer. Government must intervene in many things – that’s its job – but there is no less effective government than a habitually paternal nanny state.
“Legal adults do have the right, in principle at least, to possess and consume alcohol, and that raising the drinking age takes something conse quential away from them.” 7203# 8(+3=# >$):8'4# @"# $+5-, tion, should be allowed to make decisions freely so long as they do not harm others. If we don’t think people of a certain age are mature enough to make those decisions, they shouldn’t be considered adults. But creating a separate age to drink, one higher than the legal age of majority, causes the de facto social disenfranchisement of thousands of individuals otherwise considered adults – over half the college population. I hear fairly often that the drinking age is too trivial an issue to worry over, and that teenagers care
The Soapbox, March 2009
Art by Chiyel Hayles such as alcoholpoisoning deaths and the detrimental effects of alcohol dependence. However, alcohol has tremendous potential for abuse even by those over 21. If we deter mine alcohol is too dangerous or its effects too negative, it should be illegal for every 0-+=#C)28(+2302+4#,7#!=>=S=S=#$,$#-08#+<,'84#
Published on Feb 18, 2010
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