Underage Drinking and Pointless Laws

Riding the PATH this morning on my early morning commute back to Princeton, I saw this sign from a new Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey campaign to maintain our current drinking age. While I am as drug-free as they come and no fan of alcohol, the sign struck me as classic, meaningless political rhetoric.

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What I found remarkable about this sign was that all of the reasons put forth for maintaining our current age limit on drinking are plainly reasons for the total prohibition of alcohol — not reasons for the selective prohibition of alcohol based on age discrimination. To make their case, the PDNJ would need to demonstrate that the reduction in car accidents attributable to prohibiting the sale of alcohol to those under twenty-one is not in any way comparable to the reduction we would see after prohibiting the sale of alcohol to all Americans irrespective of age.

That said, clearly prohibition was more trouble than it was worth, so I think we need to ask: is prohibiting minors from drinking more trouble than its worth? Perhaps lowering the drinking limit is a good idea.

After all, there were certainly girls drinking at last night’s Dredg show that could not have been even eighteen, let alone twenty-one. Here, as in so many other places, needlessly restrictive laws lead to a society with no respect for laws.