The drinking age should be lowered

Let’s get it out of the way: there is, undeniably, a certain hypocrisy in the legal US drinking age of twenty-one.

Asking a young man or woman to fight and risk life and limb for their country, then telling them upon their return home that they aren’t mature enough to decide whether or not they can handle a cold beer or glass of wine, is just not quite fair.

The truth is, laws are not always entirely “fair” by common standards. They don’t have to be, and in many cases cannot be. They should, however, operate for the greatest good possible. Make no mistake, in the United States today, keeping the drinking age at twenty-one is for the greatest good.
Of course, proponents of lowering the drinking age will always point to that utopia of alcoholic moderation: Europe.

They’ll suggest, correctly, that lower drinking ages overseas have contributed to a culture in which binge drinking is not seen as the peak of entertainment on a Friday night.

Those ideal societal attitudes, however, are just that: a culture, and one that does not, and will not, thrive in the United States.

The idea that the best way to have a good time is to imbibe and imbibe heartily is one that is ingrained in American minds from youth well into adulthood.

Allowing teens to legally partake at a younger age will not make the situation any better anywhere in the near future.

If anything, it will make it worse, as the alcohol will just be much easier to get. Agreeing that an eighteen-year-old should be mature enough to know how much is too much will not automatically make him or her a more responsible drinker.

For the most part, it’s a simple fact of life, and of growing up, that a twenty-one-year-old will be more mature than an eighteen-year-old.

That brings us back to that most important quality in determining what should and should not be law, the greatest good. Granted, it’s not always easy to determine exactly what the greatest good is.

One circumstance, however, makes it simple: when a decision produces one known outcome that will be directly detrimental to the safety of the people, it is always wrong. This is the case when it comes to the drinking age.

Statistics from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System show that federal laws forcing all 50 states to raise their drinking ages to 21 have resulted
in alcohol related deaths in people aged 16 to 20 being cut nearly in half, from more
than 4,000 in 1988, the year that all states adopted the 21 law, to 2,121 in 2006.

The conclusion here is impossible to ignore: making it illegal for young drivers to obtain alcohol before their twenty-first birthdays has made American roads safer. In the simplest terms, the law has saved lives.

Finally, an argument that will bring no solace to those under the age of 21, but which most of us over that age can agree on: frankly, bars are better off the way
they are.

Most St. John’s resident students know where a drink can be had without a valid ID, and most students that I know over the age of 21 would rather spend time at an establishment that enforces the law more strictly. It’s just more enjoyable.

So yes, perhaps in a more just world, an 18-year-old would be considered an adult in every sense of the word, and the right to drink would not be held back for those three additional years.

In practical reality, though, the fact is that ingesting alcohol is no more an inalienable right than shooting heroin is, and in the pursuit of more mature drinkers, better bars and, most importantly, a truly safer America, the lawmakers made the right choice on this one.