Should 18 year-olds be allowed to drink (legally)?

A large group of college presidents have launched an initiative to lower the legal drinking age from 21 to18. Their argument is that 18 to 21 year olds are mature enough (they can vote and serve in the military), want to drink, and despite the law, do anyway. Because of the law, however, students hide their drinking habits, resulting in binge drinking and unsafe behavior.

The Patriot News has a story on this debate, and the Opposing Views website has both pro and con arguments.

Cato-at-Liberty presents evidence that the higher drinking age has not reduced traffic fatalities. Richard Vedder argues that the drinking age should be set at the state and local level, not by the federal government – and that universities should end grade inflation so that students will take college seriously instead of partying.

Tony Phyrillas presents the MADD view, that drinking is bad, that anyone under 21 is irresponsible, and that the drinking age reduces drunk driving incidents.

Phyrillas attempt to use an analogy by asking, rhetorically, whether we should raise the speed limit on highways because no one obeys them. It didn’t occur to him that someone like me would answer – of course we should eliminate speed limits on highways. Many drivers can drive well over the speed limit safely (it seems to me that slower drivers are the dangerous one), the cost of enforcing the speed limit exceeds the benefit, and fast drivers slowing dramatically when they see state troopers probably cause more accidents (and are a pet peeve of mine) than fast driving would.

But above all, a law which is arbitrarily and inconsistently enforced – and the speed limit certainly is, as drivers are given a leeway – and takes away personal liberties while failing to offer any greater protection of our persons or our rights in a unjust law. It detracts from the legitimate functions of law enforcement, and undermines the relationship between citizens and public safety officers.