Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Adults Have the Right to Drink Alcohol

A group of 100 college presidents called the Amethyst Initiative has publicly declared its support for lowering the drinking age to 18. I agree with its statement and objective.

The legal principle of "age of majority" establishes when a child legally assumes the responsibilities and obligations of adulthood. Although children vary in their rates of maturation -- some children at 12 are more mature than others at 17 -- the law must establish a general norm at which children are recognized as adults. That age is 18 in the United States. At 18, a child legally becomes an adult and can enter into legally binding contracts governing property, money, and their bodies. Despite this legal recognition of responsibility to enter into contracts, be subject to criminal laws, and to have complete freedom to use their own bodies as they choose, our government infantilizes young adults by banning the drinking of alcohol.

In comparison to the awesome, legally-recognized freedom that comes with adulthood, the drinking of alcohol is a minor matter. To ban it is to insult the very concept of adulthood.

The signers of the Amethyst Initiative observe that the young 18-20 year-old adults routinely violate the 21-years drinking age. Young adults sense the contradiction that they have a legally-sanctioned freedom of action in every matter except one trivial area, the drinking of alcohol. On college campuses, they seek to violate this law, as they should.

The 21-years drinking age should be abolished. It is a contradiction to recognize the greater part of the freedom of adulthood and to deny adults the minor part of that freedom. The ban on under-21 drinking has done that; it infantilizes adulthood. Legally permit the drinking of alcohol and recognize that adults are responsible for their own lives.

Minor edit 8/20/08: Changed to "recognize" from "bestow" second sentence, last paragraph.