Here in the US there is a national drinking age of twenty-one. This is a rather higher limit than in most other countries and it wasn’t always this high. It also wasn’t national.
The drinking age limit is actually set by states. But in a questionable move the Federal government, bowing to pressure from the won’t-someone-think-of-the-children groups, tacked a requirement to highway funds money forcing states to change their age limits or face a 10% cut. In this round-about way the government effective Federalized drinking age limits and 21 has been the national standard for over two decades.
And it has been a whopping failure.
Having such a high age limit creates another problem. Eighteen is generally the age of adulthood in the US. At eighteen young adults can vote, join the military and serve on juries. Many move out of their parents’ house in their eighteenth year. They’ve graduated high-school and either join the workforce or head for college. In almost every way they are treated as and expected to be adults. But at eighteen it is still three years before these adults can have a legal beer.
Instead of gradually learning to enjoy alcohol responsibly many have their first drink illegally and therefore under variously clandestine circumstances. While alcohol can be a very pleasurable part of life it must also be respected and these are exactly the wrong environs for such an education. No wonder binge drinking is a problem on college campuses.
Two related organizations seek to correct this problem. Choosing Responsibility and The Amethyst Initiative advocate a drinking age of 18. If we’re going to call these people adults shouldn’t we treat them as such?
These movements deserve our support.