David Harsanyi was good enough to e-mail me his latest, and once again, I gotta say I’m with him:
What happens when presidents from more than 100 of the nation’s best-known colleges call on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18? Well, a brigade of hyperbolic mommies start screaming at them, that’s what.
In the Amethyst Initiative, college presidents have offered a rational, if counterintuitive, plan. Let’s stop treating young adults like wards of the state. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (naturally) replied: No debate allowed.
There is plenty of empirical evidence suggesting that the drinking age of 21 is counterproductive. To begin with, it bars parents from educating their own children about alcohol and, like all prohibitions, it fosters criminality.
“Kids are going to drink whether it’s legal or illegal,” explains Johns Hopkins President William R. Brody. “We’d at least be able to have a more open dialogue with students about drinking as opposed to this sham, where people don’t want to talk about it because it’s a violation of the law.”
Sham, indeed. It begins with the demonization of alcohol. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving once compared alcohol to heroin.) Imbibing is a satisfying and highly pleasurable way to spend a couple of hours. It is completely harmless for the majority of adults. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
And by outlawing even the moderate use of alcohol among young adults, society creates a forbidden fruit. It drives students off campus and underground. It creates an incentive to drink as much as possible in the shortest amount of time possible.
Some people, in their eagerness to lecture, moralize, and control, share a certain unworthy trait with liberals: they refuse to learn from the failure of Prohibition and instead insist on more of the same “solution” to what really ought not be a problem in the first place.
And here’s a funny related story: years ago, several of us drove down to Atlanta to see Iggy Pop at the old 688 Club, I think it was. NC had already upped its drinking age to 21 under threat of federal blackmail, which is another thing conservatives are supposed to be against. Anyway, we arrived, and made our way through the line to the entrance, where IDs were being checked pre-admittance. Last we’d heard, the drinking age in Georgia was still 18, as it had been when we’d driven down to see the Ramones at the Agora not long before.
My cousin Mark had just turned 18, and was looking forward to seeing a show legally for the first time since NC raised the drinking age. So you can imagine his dire chagrin when he presented his driver’s license to the door ward, all smiles, and had the guy hand it back to him with a snippy, “Sorry, you can’t get in.” Mark was stupefied by the injustice of it all, and stood there slack-jawed and goggle-eyed for a moment before attempting to hand the card back to him for another look, as if the guy had somehow misread it or was incapable of doing the necessary math. It was only then that we learned of Georgia’s sad capitulation to the iron hand of the Federal G.
Poor old Mark ended up going back to the hotel and watching Johnny Carson while the rest of us enjoyed a damned amazing show. Harsanyi makes what for me, and anyone else opposed to the encroachment of the Nanny State on American liberty, will always be the crucial point:
to There is no politician who has the audacity to take on MADD, anyway. No one wants to be accused of willfully hurting children.
Yet, even if MADD were right, the safety of the “children” should never be the sole basis for public policy. Call them naïve or idealistic, but there are still people in this country who believe the word “freedom” matters as well.
Indeed it does. Or should, anyway.
Update! Good stuff from Goldstein:
There is much to dislike about European culture — resentment of the US and ungodly techno music figuring prominently in that litany of evils — but for all its soft socialist ways, in certain spheres of personal freedom European social planners, along with their policy-making handmaidens, remain maddeningly more concerned with individual autonomy and the role of the family in the lives of children than our own do-gooder nannystatists, who routinely invent “crises” in order to justify encroaching on what should be private concerns.
After the Orioles won the World Series in 1983, Storm Davis, a then-20-year-old starting pitcher for the Birds, who played an integral role in Baltimore’s success, could not partake in the post series champagne and beer celebration.
Mother Against Drunk Driving would likely counter such a seemingly arbitrary and incongruous segregation among teammates by noting that the ritual of celebrating with alcohol “glorifies” drinking, and so should itself be eliminated.
– And at that point, it should become clear that MADD is no longer worried about drunk driving per se, but is rather become a neoprohibitionist organization trafficking in emotional arguments to convince cowardly politicians to force change upon the culture — “change” that has the effect of taking away individual freedom and responsibility, along with the role of parents in teaching young adults how to handle certain freedoms, in exchange for a government run mandate, complete with police powers of the state or municipality, that presumes to usurp those responsibilities by a kind of 3/5 rule on adulthood.
Oh, that’s long been clear, Jeff. Clear enough that even one of MADD’s founders, Candy Lightner (who, by the way, still thinks of 18 year olds as “children” and appears to be pretty anti-military to boot) cited that very mission-creep a while back as a reason for leaving the group:
She left MADD in 1985. She has since stated that MADD “has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned…I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving”.
Ahh, but ironically enough, that’s the way it works with the freedom-robbers: they never know when to say when.