Archive for April, 2007

It’s More Than Just Dying For Your Country

Monday, April 30th, 2007

The right to fight for your country, to enlist, serve, and potentially die, is an oft-cited justification for an 18 year-old drinking age. “If you are old enough to die for your country,” so the maxim goes, “then you are old enough to sit down and buy a beer.” It’s a powerful argument, and a common one at that. But it is only a part of something far greater that is often over-looked when used to rationalize an 18 year-old drinking age argument. There is great injustice in the fact that you can die for a country against your will (to be drafted) that doesn’t grant you with the fullest privileges of adulthood. But in some way I think it means more that you can voluntarily join the military and risk your life, yet still be denied a mug of beer.

It’s about justice. For better or worse, the United States has determined that at age 18 you become an adult. By the widest of definitions, this means that you are now legally responsible for your actions. You can buy and smoke cigarettes even though you know that, with time, they’ll probably give you lung cancer. You may even purchase property, strike binding legal contracts, or go into debt. But most importantly (for the sake of this argument), is the fact that, at 18, you can vote and hold office. 18 is the age of majority, the age at which one finally becomes part of the ruling faction, the democracy’s people. Sure, you can die for your country and not be allowed to buy a beer, and that is a travesty, but it is the over-arching disenfranchisement of responsibility for those who are in all respects legally responsible that is abhorrent.

Critics are quick to point out that 18 is not an Age of Majority, but one age amongst many that together mark the gradual path to adulthood. This argument notes that young adults cannot drink until 21, rent cars until 25, run for the U.S. Senate until they are 30, and run for President until 35. This is evidence of a graduated adulthood. But this argument is simply not sound. First and foremost, rental car companies are not legally kept from renting cars to those under 25, it is a decision made by insurance companies. In fact, some rental companies do rent to those under 25, and higher rates compensate for the potential liability. In short, 25 is not an age of increased adultness.

Neither is 30. Article II Section 3 of the US Constitution mandates that: “No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years.” But strangely enough this clause has not preemptively kept individuals from running for Senate. Indeed, the man who John F. Kennedy called one of the 5 best senators in the history of the Republic, Henry Clay, was first elected to the Senate at age 28. While no one has yet to challenge the legitimacy of the Presidential Age Requirement, it is clear that the Constitutional age requirements are something quite different than graduated adulthood markers. As the lone mentions of age in all of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the are requirements are more appropriately seen as exceptions to full adulthood, rather than benchmarks of adulthood.

So as it stands now when you turn 18 you are legal to engage in all things other adults do except drink alcohol and run for President. It’s bizarre but accurate. Somewhere along the line, our society failed to remember that individuals, by becoming an adult, become responsible for their actions. Whether you are 18, 19, 20, 38, 39, or 40, you are an adult, and when you drink and drive, just as when you smoke in public areas or ignore traffic laws, you are responsible . By maintaining a drinking age different than 18, our society sends a signal that drinking and driving (the original target of the 21 MLDA) is worse in consequence for young adults than it is for older adults. This opens up a Pandora’s box when it comes to expanding the logic against real and perceived public health threats. Targeting groups by age beyond some measure of adulthood validates the fears raised in the Federalist Papers that a democratic system of government offers too little protection for the rights of minority factions against the will of the masses. Above and beyond its deleterious consequences, the 21 year-old drinking age threatens the integrity of egalitarianism in an otherwise representative democracy. 18 year-old drinking age is an act of justice.

[CR] finds headlines again

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Choose Responsibility found itself in the headlines again today. Two interviews with Choose Responsibility’s John McCardell, one in print in US News and World Report and one on air on NPR’s Here and Now, emphasize the reality of the 21 year-old drinking age’s failure to prevent young adults from consuming alcohol in irresponsible ways.

An editorial by Columnist Radley Balko also appeared online where he discusses at length what has changed in the 20 years since the drinking age was raised to 21. He writes, “But after 20 years, perhaps it’s time to take a second look — a sound, sober (pardon the pun), science-based look — at the law’s costs and benefits. McCardell provides a welcome voice in a debate too often dominated by hysterics. But beyond McCardell, Congress should really consider abandoning the federal minimum altogether or at least the federal funding blackmail that gives it teeth.”

News articles in college newspapers continued to roll in as well: The Middlebury Campus, The Kent Stater.

The First Wave

Monday, April 9th, 2007

The argument for an 18 year-old drinking age is beginning to spread. Choose Responsibility was featured in the student newspaper Indiana University. Promisingly, the chief of campus police Jerry Minger was quoted as saying “I am not a big advocate of anything that would create more drinking, but I applaud the fact that (the proposal) has (alcohol) education built in.”

While we would question whether this would actually create any more binge drinking than is actually occurring, we believe that the when looking at the full proposal, the benefits outweigh the possible detriments.

While the Indiana Article is in hard copy, look forward to two more articles in the Vermont Cynic and the Daily Free Press of Boston University later this week.

If you see other recent news articles let us know!

Online Forum

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Choose Responsibility Director, John McCardell answered questions concerning the proposal to license and educate young adult drinkers. The transcript is here. The forum, I think, was informative for all the parties involved.

We’re live!

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

As of today, Choose Responsibility’s full website is up and functioning. Check it out! We hope it will be your go-to place for information on the drinking age and alcohol use in America.

Contact Scott or me if you have any questions, would like more information about [CR], or are looking for a way to get involved.

[CR] in Chronicle of Higher Education

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported today on the recently launched non-profit Choose Responsibility. Chronicle Reporter Paula Wasley writes,

John M. McCardell Jr., president emeritus of Middlebury College, is a respected Civil War scholar. His lectures on the Gettysburg Address command large audiences at alumni meetings, and his seminars on the war always attract eager undergraduates.

Recently the genteel academic threw himself into another conflict. Call it the Battle of the Binge.

The article reviews the basic fronts of the battle between advocates for and against the current 21 year-old legal drinking age. Letting the arguments of the scholars stand for themselves and against one another, Ms. Paula Wasley provides an objective look at how the opposing sides of the drinking age cast their rhetorical planks to construct their own platform on the issue. Though the self-evidence of one particular argument over the other might, or even ought (in my own opinion), to serve one side over the other, Wasley resists the temptation to gloss over the cracks in each side’s argument.

On reading the article one quote, made by MADD Executive Chuck Hurleyr, stands out in light of recent events: “The fact is, legal-age 21 is working better in blue-collar America than in Ivy League America.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Fact IS, a freshman at Rider University died when Frat members persuaded him to try and drink a bottle of Absolut Citron Vodka. Rider University isn’t an Ivy League school, and nor is University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Virginia Tech University, San Diego State University, University of Oklahoma or University of Arkansas, all of which experienced fatal alcohol poisonings in recent years.