John McCardell on the Drinking License

Choose Responsibility President emeritus John M. McCardell published an essay on the drinking age and a proposed drinking permit in the New York Times today. The essay evaulates the effectiveness of the current drinking age and provides a common sense solution for teaching young people to drink, and act, responsibly. McCardell writes,

We should prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol in the same way we prepare them to operate a motor vehicle: by first educating and then licensing and permitting them to exercise the full privileges of adulthood so long as they demonstrate their ability to observe the law.

If you infantilize someone, do not be surprised when infantile behavior — like binge drinking — results. Prohibition is not the answer, and never has been. Let us treat young people who turn 18 as the adults who the law, in every other respect, says they are.

You may read the entire article here.

3 Responses to “John McCardell on the Drinking License”

  1. Ajax the Great Says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. While I clearly support CR’s goal of lowering the drinking age to 18, the drinking license aspect of the proposal has got to go. There are several reasons why I respectfully disagree with it:

    1) It has become a lightning rod for criticism from both sides, especially the pro-21 groups like MADD and GHSA.

    2) It makes us look quixotic.

    3) It makes us look ambivalent about lowering the drinking age and about whether 18-20 year olds can be trusted with alcohol.

    4) It adds unnecessary complexity to the issue.

    5) It would be a bureaucratic nightmare to actually enforce.

    6) Other countries with a drinking age of 18 don’t have a drinking license rule.

    7) But most importantly, since it applies only to 18-20 year olds and not those over 21, it is just as ageist as the current 21 drinking age.

    In contrast, my proposal for Twenty-One Debunked would allow 18-20 year olds the same drinking rights as people over 21 currently enjoy, with the following safeguards:

    1) The age limit for the zero tolerance law for DUI will remain as it is now, at 21. That should alleviate any fears of increased DUI among 18-20 year olds.

    2) The purchase age for kegs, cases, and other large bulk quantities of alcohol will remain at 21 (or at least be no lower than 20). That should alleviate any fear of increased high school keggers.

    3) DUI laws would be tightened for all ages and enforcement would be significantly increased.

    4) Any person of ANY age who is convicted of DUI, drunk violence, drunk vandalism, furnishing to minors under 18, or repeated drunk and disorderly conduct would be blacklisted and banned from purchasing alcohol (or even entering a bar) for a year or until they turn 21, whatever is longer. And their ID would have to read “Do not serve alcohol under penalty of law” in big red letters. In addition, problem drinkers can also have themselves voluntarily added to the blacklist for a period of time, much like problem gamblers are currently allowed to do.

    5) Alcohol education would be increased for all students at all levels.

    6) In addition, the alcohol taxes should be raised and equalized to the inflation-adjusted 1991 spirits level ($21 per proof-gallon) for all alcoholic beverages, proportional to alcohol content.

    Do all or even some of these things and there will really be no need to have a drinking license.

    Let America be America again, and lower the drinking age to 18. If you’re old enough to go to war, you’re old enough to go to the bar. ‘Nuff said.

  2. Edwin Bonilla Says:

    I agree with Ajax the Great on the drinking age and related legislation, however, where others see 21 as a restriction, I see the age of 20. However, I applaud John McCardell for publishing an essay for his proposal, in which the drinking age would be lowered to 18 among other components. Many people who support the drinking age are crazy in their support for keeping the drinking age, if not wanting it higher. I have a question for Ajax the Great, is the licensing component of Choose Responsibility’s proposal controversial because we, including this organization, are serious about lowering the drinking age?

  3. Ajax the Great Says:

    Yes, the drinking license component is controversial in part because makes us look less serious and more ambivalent about lowering the drinking age. You don’t start out with a compromised position, because you will inevitably have to compromise further. If we are really serious about lowering the drinking age, we would DEMAND that 18-20 year olds have the same drinking rights as people over 21, period. Requiring a drinking license for 18-20 year olds but not people over 21 still keeps them second-class citizens under the law, albeit somewhat less so than now. And while the restrictions for 18-20 year olds (zero tolerance, quantity limits) I proposed would make the change to 18 more likely to pass, I would ideally like the drinking age to lowered to 18 WITHOUT any restrictions that don’t also apply to people over 21.