Friday, August 22, 2008

University Presidents on the Drinking Age

This issue, and the recent position taken by one hundred university presidents, begs the question of how effectively we can legislate behavior and whether legalizing a behavior makes it less dangerous. It is our culture's unhealthy attitude toward alcohol that encourages binge drinking, not current laws. In fact, the drinking age has worked quite well for many years; though there has been an increase in binge drinking in the last ten years, the percentage of underage drinking has gone down. I concur that some students "load up" with alcohol before going out, but a lower drinking age will not suddenly create a society where college students are drinking casually (and in less quantity) in bars under the watchful eyes of police and university administrators. Additionally a majority of Americans favor maintaining the current drinking age.

While there is a legitimate argument that an individual who is a "legal adult" at the age of eighteen should have access to full rights and privileges, it is a bit of a non sequiter to associate military service with alcohol consumption. The argument that if a young man/woman is going to fight and die for his/her country, he should be able to legally get drunk before he goes is not exactly a sound argument. What does one have to do with the other? Additionally, though I know it is not the primary reason for the law, there is significant research that shows considerably greater damage to brain development in consumption before the age of about twenty-one. That may not have been the original intent of the current age restriction, its benefit shouldn't be discounted. Finally, while MADD activists may be hyperbolic, they are accurate in their assertions about decreased drunk driving statistics.

The argument that "everybody's doing it anyway" has never been a valid position for legalizing behavior. To paraphrase Rush Limbaugh on handing out condoms to kids: "If kids are going to do it anyway why doesn't the state provide a dorm full of in-house, disease-free hookers, with ample supplies of drugs and alcohol, for students to have safe relations with under the watchful eye of government nurses and administrators."

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