Government: Kill, but don’t drink

Our view

Vermont state representative Richard C. Marron has introduced a bill to his state’s legislature that would lower the drinking age from 21 to 18. His reasoning is quite sound and such a proposal deserves honest consideration and critique before it is inevitably cast aside.

Marron has stayed considerably level-headed in his discussion of the bill, saying he does not consider it unconstitutional, but he does claim that the law banning drinking until 21 is a form of age discrimination. He also makes the regular, though valuable, points that at 18, a citizen is granted every other legal right, including the right to vote and the right to serve in armed conflict in defense of one’s nation (or, as so often been the case, in offense of another’s nation). Yet, somehow alcohol has been prohibited until 21.

The debate centers around public safety, which is a fine point to argue, and the two sides both desire this safety. However, one side, the side with which this editorial board agrees, believes the current prohibitions on alcohol only create a “forbidden fruit” mentality among its users, which subsequently results in more binge drinking. It also pushes illegal drinking further underground, where safety regulations, such as drink limits at bars, do not exist. All in all, the higher the drinking age, the more likely the binge drinking of those below it.

It should be noted that the above forbidden fruit argument’s logic could be extended to say that no age limit should exist. This, however, is not the case. Rather, alcohol is unique because it is the one prohibited piece of culture that remains prohibited after the average young adult has left the care of her parents. As far as tobacco and gambling go, most people affected by the prohibitions on these institutions are equally hindered by the prohibitions of their parents. Alcohol is prohibited without the benefit of parental support of the law, thus more binge drinking and drinking-related crimes occur.

With all this logical support for a change in drinking age, why then is this bill doomed to fail? Because the federal government raised the drinking age to 21 in 1984 and with the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act, also linked a certain percentage of federal highway money to all states that maintained the same drinking age. If Vermont were to enact the proposed bill, the state would lose $7.9 million dollars per year. That money would need to be made up elsewhere and is such a cost that it doesn’t justify lowering the drinking age.

What the federal government has done infringes upon state rights. Infringed because it has created conditions with the above act that necessitate state adherence to the act, even though the federal government doesn’t pay to help prosecute alcohol offense or police the states. The federal government merely creates laws (in this case, in a very passive aggressive manner) and then leaves the states to enforce the laws. It is unfair to the states and unjust to the citizens.

Vermont will not see a lowering of the drinking age. Nor will Ohio. Nor will any other state, because the federal government has made a backdoor policy that hurts every state. The best we can hope for is a revolution in legislation that reinstates the rights a state naturally has back to the state, without fear of consequence from the federal government.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.