Junk Science and the Drinking Age

Here’s a short article about some of the junk science behind the drinking age policy of the US. Here’s the gist:

Yet the federal bureaucracy has never served as a neutral moderator when it comes to alcohol policies. Rather than conduct reasoned, impartial scientific inquiry, agencies such as the DOJ, the Department of Transportation, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism throw all their weight squarely on one side of the debate. Indeed, they have created a drinking age industry. Research designed to promote the current drinking age gets federal funding, a stamp of approval, and widespread dissemination, regardless of its scientific merit.

Personally, I think our drinking age policy (which the article says is the highest in the world) is extremely inconsistent and stupid. It makes no sense to me that my little brother, who’s 19, can decide who is President, decide to fight in a war, and decide what he’s going to do with his life, but he isn’t allowed to make the decision on whether to have a beer or not. This inconsistency can only be eliminated by either lowering the drinking age to 18 or raising the age of majority to 21. Both solutions have merits. The former increases liberty. The latter would protect society from the harmful decisions and actions that immature, unwise sub-21 year olds are bound to make (not that 23 year olds are always better), though it will deprive our military of recruits entering their physical prime.

9 thoughts on “Junk Science and the Drinking Age

  1. There is a big difference between drinking and smoking, voting, porn, etc. With drinking, there is a direct danger of killing another person (or yourself) or destroying relationships. With the other things, you can argue that they may endanger other people, but cannot directly link them like a kid drinking and driving or drinking himself to a coma and dying. I can easily trust a kid with activities that may remotely endanger others (or maybe even endanger himself), but i would rather withhold his right to engage in behaviors that are risky to the health and relationships of other people as long as possible. I just finished the Addictions rotation at the hospital, and the destruction that alcohol is causing is much beyond smoking/driving/porn etc.

    To be consistant, I think the age for owning guns should also be 21 or higher.

    These days, with college and student loans being so prevalent (thank God), the youth of today can put off becoming a mature, responsible person to later in life. In the past, a drinking age maybe could have been lower (like 18), when people had jobs and families at a younger age.

    As to driving, it is dangerous for other people on the road, but it is a kind of necessary evil.

  2. as i continue to ponder the issue…

    imagine what it would be like if kids left their homes for college or whatever and started drinking at the same time…

  3. But Drew, many kids DO leave home and start drinking. Nearly every kid under 21 who wants to drink can easily get alcohol.

    It seems to me the only people that abide by this law are kids who are predisposed to drink responsibly anyway; thus, the law isn’t so effective when it comes to stopping the behavior our social policies discourage (e.g. alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, illegal activity).

    Your point about raising the legal age for a gun is a good one though. I cannot for the life of me imagine how it’s okay for an 18 year old to have a gun but he can’t have a Mike’s Hard. So maybe the legal gun age should be raised.

    It’s all very tricky. How do we balance personal freedom, which in this situation is often extremely destructive, with governmental interference, which is something to be minimized? When is a kid really “mature” enough to make decisions like these on his own? Who decides that? etc.

  4. Stiffer penalties for law breaking and greater personal freedom to allow people to drink and so forth at a younger age. So, allow 17 or 18 year old kids to drink, but one or two DUIs means you lose your license forever. Death penalty for vehicular homicide.

    Who decides these things? We do, collectively as a society decide them in the way we vote, the lawmakers we elect and the attention we pay (or don’t) to issues. If changing the drinking limit was important enough, it would happen.

  5. I think that even if you raised the penalties, the drinking age should still be kept up high. kids (young men and women) still don’t realize that choices they make today can affect the rest of their lives. In a way, you have to protect them from themselves. Like tattoos. they don’t actively realize that they are permanent, so they would just end up painting themselves all over if we didn’t protect them from themselves. And drinking is similar, but also different in that it is more dangerous, thus the choice should be delayed even more.

    Even though the underage don’t always obey the drinking law, it doesn’t make sense to drop the law or the age, kinda like that oakland roadblock case on the blog. We have to at least make an attempt to discourage risky behavior.

    On the otherhand, europe seems to be doing well with their system. But that is europe. You can’t truely compare. Their culture isn’t as rebelious as ours. I’d like to see a comparison between states that have differing drinking ages (or is that federally mandated to be 21?)

  6. Sorry, but I gotta make another point. Take as an example countries where the drinking age is lower , arbitrary, or nonexistant (like in Europe). Many of the statistics from these places do not reflect a higher percentage of impared drivers than stats from our own country. And many have much stricter penalties in place for drivers caught under the influence. Australia will print your name in the paper under the banner “He’s Drunk and in Jail”, Norway sentences first-time offenders to three weeks hard labor, Sweden will give you a year’s hard labor, South Africa will throw you in jail for up to 10 years, and in El Salvador you will be executed by firing squad (source-http://www.topgundui.com/newslet.htm). Anyways, our 72 hour jail-time, lose your car the third time you do it, slap-on-the-wrist policies are obviously insufficient to thwart a drinking population OVER the age of 21. I think we should impose stricter penalties, then lower the drinking age to 18.

    Like Steve made mention of somewhere in here, the people who are doing the drunken-driving are going to drink anyways, regardless if they are of legal age. I think age and responsibility are less related than many people give them credit for (especially when we are talking about three measley years). I think the responsibility will come when people stop considering our current system of punishment a joke and start thinking about the possibility of more gravitous penalties for their actions.

    Another interesting tidbit, Saab, in some prototype european models, has started to include a breathalyzer with the car keys. In order to start your car, you have to blow into the device, and it won’t let you start your car unless your BAC is low enough. Of course there are some easy ways to beat this, but its kinda a funky-cool ideer.

  7. not just dringing age, it also involve driving
    young people drink, they drive.the country i come from (New Zealand) we can have license in age 15 😯

    i have a research and i found out nearly 10 percent student drink( 60 percent asian student)

    and they all drive after drinking. And they all crash(once again they all crazy asian driver from china not Taiwan). I have seen a car crash nearlly onece a two month most are caouse by yough drivers drink and drive

    not just car crash alcohol also damage yough guys body therefore i think drinking age should be increase

    by the way taiwan and china are different country

    taiwan are a indepentent country:mrgreen:

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