This Bud's for you, youngsters
I have long been of the opinion that the decision by the federal government to force states to raise their drinking ages to 21 was a mistake. People can get married, vote for our president and get their asses shot off in Iraq at age 18, but they can't legally buy a six-pack of beer. This all grew out of the hysteria whipped up in the 1980s by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, with the complicity of lawmakers who saw this as a can't-lose issue, and while I feel for anyone who has lost someone close to them to a drunken driver, I think we've gone overboard. In the vast majority of other countries, the legal drinking age is 18, even 16 in some places, and they don't seem to have any more problems with alcohol than we do. In fact, in my visits to foreign lands, I've observed that the young people, when allowed to have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner, seem to have a much better grip on dealing with drinking. It isn't made into some sort of taboo, and they learn at home how to drink responsibly. A group called Choose Responsibility, led by former Middlebury College president John M. McCardell Jr., is advocating a return to a legal drinking age of 18. The group contends that setting the drinking age at 21 has "failed utterly at its goal of protecting young people from the dangers of excessive alcohol use." The organization says fewer young people are drinking, but those who do imbibe are binge drinking. Choose Responsibility also debunks the frequent claim of supporters of the 21 drinking age who suggest the change is the primary factor in the decline in alcohol-related traffic deaths. The group points to social disapproval of drunken driving, safer vehicles, air bags in cars, the use of designated drivers and the huge increase in seat-belt use as other significant developments that have cut the death rate. Changing the drinking age to 21 was like what happened to a lot of us in kindergarten when one child misbehaved and the entire class got punished. Instead of coming down hard on those who drink to excess and drive or otherwise misbehave while overindulging in alcohol, we punished all people between the ages of 18 and 20, including millions and millions who would responsibly have a few beers in their homes or a glass of wine with dinner in a restaurant. We do nothing about the threat posed by people jabbering on cell phones while they drive and very little about people driving under the influence of prescription drugs, but God forbid we let a 20-year-old have a beer.