Our Proposal

One of my favorite parts of writing this blog is the opportunity to communicate with students who are directly affected by MLDA 21. Answering emails about term papers and speaking to people who express concern also provides the opportunity to challenge a student’s understanding of Choose Responsibility, American drinking culture, and MLDA 21.

To this end, I find that people really don’t always understand Choose Responsibility’s proposal. Sure, we aim to promote responsible consumption by lowering the drinking age in the United States. But our proposed changes do not stop with a quick drop from 21 to 18. Changing only the legal age would not likely provide the desired outcome.

The age at which people are allowed to drink is important, but the opportunity to learn to drink responsibly–especially from parents–is even more important. No one would dream of letting a 16 year old take the keys to the family car without ever having learned to drive with a learner’s permit. Yet, this is what we do with alcohol. Laws in the United States currently allow parents to teach their children to handle a car yet prevent parents from teaching their children to handle alcohol. Consequently, Choose Responsibility supports a series of changes to treat 18, 19, and 20 year-olds as the young adults the law otherwise says they are. Current drinking laws infantilize young adults. We should not be surprised, then, by infantile behavior from otherwise responsible adults. This series of changes would allow 18-20 year olds to purchase, consume, and process alcoholic beverages.

We propose a multi-faceted approach that combines education, certification, and provisional licensing for 18-20 year-old high school graduates who choose to consume alcohol. We envision an overarching program that combines appropriate incentive and reward for responsible, lawful behavior by adolescents, and punitive measures for illegal, irresponsible behavior. In creating a unique approach to alcohol in the United States, we hope to shift the culture towards one where education and responsible behavior are valued by young adults.

You can read more about our proposal, especially the  “drinking license” here.

3 Responses to “Our Proposal”

  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) 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, 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 respect Choose Responsibility’s proposal but I agree more with Ajax the Great. There is one disagreement with me regarding both proposals. Instead of using 21 as a minimum age regarding laws and rules, I would instead use 20 as a minimum age regarding alcohol, among other other things. For example, Ajax the Great’s first provision in the list would be 20 as the age for zero tolerance. When I was 20, I am 21 years old, I handled alcohol responsibly and had no temptation to abuse alcohol because responsibility is the right way to go. I was in Central America when I drank wine, by the way.

  3. Ajax the Great Says:

    You are right in principle that 20 would make more sense than 21 for zero tolerance and any other restrictions, but keeping those at 21 would make the lowering of the drinking age to 18 more likely to get passed. There is a strong status-quo bias, and making the zero tolerance age for DUI less than 21 would lead to even more losses of highway funding in addition the 10% loss from lowering the drinking age to 18, assuming the federal law is not changed.

    It would be even better if the zero tolerance law was based on the number of years of licensed driving rather than age, such the first 5 years or so after getting one’s license. Since the driving age is 16 in most states, the zero tolerance age would effectively be 21 or even higher. And with a drinking age of 18, it would allow at least three years of legal drinking experience (and five years of driving experience) before allowing drivers to mix driving with small amounts of alcohol. This is similar to what some Canadian provinces and other countries like Germany and the Netherlands do.

    Of course, there is no longer a scientific consensus (if there ever really was one) on the question of whether zero tolerance laws of any type even save any lives at all. Economist Darren Grant recently did a study and found that such laws most likely DON’T save any lives. While this is certain to make MADD even madder (lol), the facts speak for themselves:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1129509

    In other words, the use of 21 (as opposed to 20) as a minumum age for zero tolerance and keg/case restrictions is more for political reasons than anything else. I would be fine with either one.