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Am I missing something here?
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apparently so:
College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth, and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age to 18 from 21, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began quietly recruiting presidents more than a year ago to provoke national debate about the drinking age.

"This is a law that is routinely evaded," a former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization, John McCardell, said. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."
So the logic being presented here, by college presidents no less, is that by making drinking legal for 18 year olds there will be less binge drinking in college?

What have these people been smoking (or drinking)?

As I recall, there was an era, not so long ago, when the drinking age was lowered to 18 in many states, only to again
be raised to 21. As I further recall, it made no difference in "binge drinking" at all. But what it did do is increase the availability of alcohol to an even lower age group.

Where 21 year olds are normally associated with 18-20 year olds in college, 18 year olds are still associated with 15 to 17 year olds in high school. Any guess how that ends up?

I'm not so much interested in the law or what the legal age should be. But I am interested in the logic, or lack there of, that argues lowering the age limit will somehow magically help lessen problem drinking. I cannot, for the life of me, see how lowering the age limit would mean less binge drinking in college (it's the culture, stupid!). However I can see how it might aggravate the problem by making alcohol more readily available to an even younger segment of the population while having no real effect on drinking in college either.

Of course they're college and university presidents. Their only concern is their little world, and they're taking heat for not doing more about binge drinking by underage college students. Make 18 the law and they can wash their hands of the problem.

What effect it has in high-schools, of course, concerns them not at all.
 
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What about the whole "they are legal adults and should have all the rights and responsibilities of such". (To me that includes the right to be an obnoxious jackass and look like an idiot... but I guess that’s just me.)

And aside from such crazy libertarian ideas:
The vast majority of people I know drank significantly less, in particular less binge drinking, once they and most of their friends turned 21, and could just relax and enjoy a beer out. (Generally that started a few days after the hangover from the 21st b-day)

Additionally, being able to drink legally actually encourages people to drink at bars, which are significantly better at cutting off or throwing out people who are too drunk or obnoxious.
 
Written By: Tito
URL: http://
The logic isn’t hard to follow at all. If an activity is forbidden and therefore hard to engage in, then when the opportunity does in fact present itself, you will tend to engage in it to excess before it’s too late.

By removing the prohibition, you also remove the urgency.

P.S. What Tito said.
 
Written By: KipEsquire
URL: http://www.kipesquire.net
The vast majority of people I know drank significantly less, in particular less binge drinking, once they and most of their friends turned 21, and could just relax and enjoy a beer out. (Generally that started a few days after the hangover from the 21st b-day)
So you don’t think binge drinking has anything to do with the culture of college, and you don’t think that lowering the age also lowers the age to where alcohol becomes available to others?

I mean are we really solving the binge drinking problem if this is done or just moving it to another age group which is even less capable of handling it?
Additionally, being able to drink legally actually encourages people to drink at bars, which are significantly better at cutting off or throwing out people who are too drunk or obnoxious.

Tito, we’re talking college here - while some may go to bars, most are going to do their drinking at the frat house or in their dorm rooms. They’re not going to waste their money on high priced drinks at bars except on special occasions.

Again, where the age is set isn’t the crux of my argument. The belief that it is going to change anything concerning abusive drinking is what I don’t understand. Yeah, it may have some effect at the college level, but given the culture, I don’t think it would be much. And I see it aggravating the abuse problem at a lower age level simply because 18 year olds will be able to buy it for 16 year olds because they still associate with 16 year olds (whereas a 21 year old is not very likely to be associating with that age group).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I don’t think it’s a culture thing. Or, more to the point, I don’t think the drinking age currently helps curb the issue. Will people still binge drink? Sure. Will people be "forced" to binge drink because they have to take the booze when they get it if it’s legal to purchase at 18? Probably not.

I think that’s the situation. Plus, lowering the age allows colleges to address drinking in a real way from the start, instead of having to half-pretend that underage people aren’t drinking.
 
Written By: Jeff
URL: http://www.internationalhouseofbacon.com/ihob/
The logic isn’t hard to follow at all. If an activity is forbidden and therefore hard to engage in, then when the opportunity does in fact present itself, you will tend to engage in it to excess before it’s too late.
I must have had a completely different college experience than you guys had. The culture in the college I went to encouraged binge drinking in totally safe areas (houses, apartments, etc) where age was simply not an issue (21 year olds buy it, you pay them, drink it, etc). Getting booze for college students and finding safe places to drink are simply not a problem. But college students, at least a significant portion of them, drink to get drunk. Period.

So the logic here, at least in my experience, doesn’t track. And when the age was lowered previously, as I recall, it had no significant effect on that problem then anymore than it would now.

But what it did do was open up the same sort of abuse problem for high-schoolers because their 18 year old friends (seniors) were able to now legally acquire booze for them.

So the logic applied here A) didn’t previously help the situation in college because of the culture and B) created more problems within a lower age group because of increased availability of booze.

It simply makes no sense. Want to stop binge drinking? Attack the culture which encourages it. The fact is, age has little to do with that culture. Look at what happens in Mexico on spring break for college students where the age for drinking is 18 or lower.

Binge drinking. Culture.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
And I assume your first drink was consumed well after you turned 21?
 
Written By: coeruleus
URL: http://coeruleus.blogspot.com
I don’t think it’s a culture thing. Or, more to the point, I don’t think the drinking age currently helps curb the issue. Will people still binge drink? Sure. Will people be "forced" to binge drink because they have to take the booze when they get it if it’s legal to purchase at 18? Probably not.
Again, I must have had a different experience in college.

Weekends were for drinking. Most drank to get drunk.
It wasn’t because they were "forced" to do so, it was because they chose to do so. That was the culture.
And as I understand it, talking to college students today, that hasn’t changed one iota from the time I went.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I like what Tito said and would add:
That you use the tools and arguments available to you. Mayhap most folks dealing with collegians and remembering their college days, realize that drinking IS a part of going to college. But you can’t say that in these health-conscious, PC-crazed times, so rather than saying "Lighten up Frances, kids like to drink, I know I did." You have to use the arguments and tools available, the new bug-bear or is that ManBearPig, is "binge drinking." So, in order to return to a measure of sanity on campus college presidents use the excuse, "this will reduce ’binge drinking.’" It’s may not be really true, but it’s the argument that’s allowable.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
And I assume your first drink was consumed well after you turned 21?
If you’re talking to me, no. I drank all though college, and my habits at the time weren’t any different at 21 than they were at 18. That’s my point.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Because 18-year-olds might buy it for 16-year-olds we shouldn’t lower the drinking age, but 21-year-olds buying it for 18-year-olds in college is more-or-less OK as far as I understand your logic here...

The problem is that state and federal governments can impose harsh penalties for colleges not enforcing their drinking age. That’s rather unfair for an activity that most people would consider to be expected.
 
Written By: coeruleus
URL: http://coeruleus.blogspot.com
Because 18-year-olds might buy it for 16-year-olds we shouldn’t lower the drinking age, but 21-year-olds buying it for 18-year-olds in college is more-or-less OK as far as I understand your logic here...
Well if that’s how you understand it, then I’m obviously not doing a good job of explaining it.

What I’m saying is, given my experience and that of college students I have spoken with, it is the culture in college, not the age, that encourages abusive drinking. Teens drink to get drunk, not necessarily to be sociable as we accept that in the working world. And there are no real penalties (such as one might encounter in later life if one gets drunk in a social setting) for doing so. In fact, it is encouraged.

That is the culture.

All lowering the age does is expand the problem by giving increased and easier access to booze to a lower age group.

So I’m asking how doing this is going to change that culture and everything I’m hearing so far doesn’t track with my experience, those of others I’ve talked too or the period in which the age was lowered to 18.
The problem is that state and federal governments can impose harsh penalties for colleges not enforcing their drinking age. That’s rather unfair for an activity that most people would consider to be expected.
And all of that has absolutely nothing to do with my point.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I agree with McQ’s questioning the logic of the requested legislation. In fact, I seem to recall that binge drinking in Europe is just as bad, if not worse, as it is here despite a lower drinking age.
Want to stop binge drinking? Attack the culture which encourages it.
In my mind, you could do more to attack the culture by allowing kids to drink with their parents or guardians in controlled situations (restaurant, at home, etc.). The culture is the way it is because kids don’t learn any other drinking behavior than getting rip-roarin’ at parties. Having a glass of wine with dinner, a beer while watching the Super Bowl, or some champagne on New Year’s Eve with one’s family would go a lot further towards teaching kids how to drink responsibly. Instead we throw parents in jail and throw away the key if they do something like that.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://qando.net
I don’t know, keg parties wouldn’t have been as much fun, and much less memorable, if we didn’t have to sneak the keg past the RAs and Security. :)
 
Written By: Boogs
URL: http://
"The logic isn’t hard to follow at all. If an activity is forbidden and therefore hard to engage in, then when the opportunity does in fact present itself, you will tend to engage in it to excess before it’s too late.

By removing the prohibition, you also remove the urgency."
In my first year of college, the drinking age was still 18 (South Dakota). Binge drinking occurred constantly. It was especially bad on Wednesday night, when it was nickel night at the local salons, but someone was drunk in my dorm every night. Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings were the worst in the bathroom - puke all over the place.

The age changed to 21 in my sophomore year and all of this stopped. I’m sure some of it moved to a new place but there was a lot less drinking and a lot less getting drunk.

I don’t know what the drinking age should be but I don’t think changing it to 18 will eliminate excessive consumption.
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
I think that a lower drinking age allowed many more opportunities to teach college students the responsible use of alcohol. Think receptions for professors and students, or awards ceremonies, where you’d want to drink socially but would embarrass yourself if you drank to excess.

You think the culture of frat parties, etc. is driven by students’ demands for binge drinking. I think the causality runs the other direction, that prohibition pushes all drinking into venues like frat parties that encourage excess consumption.

I can only offer anecdotes as evidence, but my experience in college was that basically 100% of students dropped the frat party scene in favor of bars once they turned 21. And, as Tito said, their total consumption dropped once they realized they could go to the bar for a beer anytime they wanted.
 
Written By: Doug
URL: http://
The 21+ drinking age isn’t about saving people from a culture of binge drinking in college, and it’s only marginally about stopping those under 18 from drinking. Of course there are consequences for drinking (or smoking pot) to excess in college: failing classes and dropping out. Somehow, most of us manage to figure it out early on and limit our excessive drinking enough—even in the face of this culture—to pass our classes and get a job after college. Overall, that is a valuable learning experience. Kids under 18 will continue to have the same forces keeping them from drinking that they do now, mostly centered around the fact that they live at home. On the other side of the drinking age, it’s not like parties where people drink too much stop once you get out of college.

Over time, here’s what lowering the drinking age will do: it’ll reduce the size of the huge bureaucracies (state liquor "control" agencies) that tax alcohol for the supposed purpose of keeping 18-21 year old adults from doing things that everyone knows they’ll do anyway; it’ll reduce the number of bouncers in front of every bar and security personnel within bars that we fund with high drink prices and/or cover charges; and it’ll get rid of the inordinate financial penalties imposed on 18-21 year old adults in possession of alcohol and hopefully the increased insurance premiums paid by those adults with legal amounts of alcohol in their systems that happen to be below that arbitrary age of 21.

I now realize that your point was to ask how lowering the drinking age will attack the problem of binge drinking. My point is that 21-and-over is going to be about as effective at keeping younger adults from making the occasional mistake of imbibing too much as 18-and-over would. It’d just cost a whole lot less.
 
Written By: coeruleus
URL: http://coeruleus.blogspot.com
McQ, you’re being monumentally naive. Prohibition leads to illicit consumption. Illicit consumption necessarily takes place as far from responsible "law-abiding" adults and authority figures as possible. This leads to a toxic environment where responsible drinking habits are difficult to acquire. You say that it’s the culture, not the age of college students that leads to binge drinking. Have you considered that prohibition might be contributing to the culture you find so troubling?

In addition, prohibition DOES change the means by which people consume the prohibited substance. See the Iron Law of Prohibition. It’s the reason I drank 40 oz.’s of Olde English 800 and Boone’s in high school rather than Bud Light.

I realize that you claim everything was the same when the drinking age was only 18, but isn’t this an argument against the effectiveness of prohibition? If you fear that 18-year-olds are going to give booze to younger people, why would you expect the amount to change, given that you just stated that rolling back the drinking age had no effect on the consumption by 21-18 year olds? Why would you expect it to change how 17-year-olds drink?
 
Written By: CTD
URL: http://
A friend had a 18 year old girl come to stay with them in a exchange program a few years back from South America. We all got to talking and the girl said they didn’t have as many problems with binge drinking there. Her reasoning was that they can pretty well drink at any age but if they mess up while drunk they have to face real penalties. Their parents don’t come riding to the rescue every time a problem happens so they learn to shape up. Granted, she is a exceptionally mature girl which is why she was in the program but it makes alot of sense.

If we want to change the culture of binge drinking then throw the problem kids out and the rest would learn. A nice libertarian solution. Yes, you can drink but you will face the punishment for messing up.
 
Written By: SkyWatch
URL: http://
"saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus"

Well, I guess they could just prohibit drinking on campus. That would work just as well, and is already within their power.

I don’t remember the drinking age when I was in college; it didn’t matter to me since I was already 21. Whatever the age was, in any of the colleges I went to, there was no shortage of binge drinkers. The U. of Fla. even had a bar on campus, so the crawl home at the end of the evening was much more convenient.

When I was in the military the drinking age, in the US and overseas, was 18 at the enlisted men’s (sexist, but historically accurate) clubs, bowling alleys, PXs, etc. I assume also at the NCO and O clubs. There was no lack of binge drinking there, either.

The drinking age was 21 when I was in high school, which is when I and many of my friends started drinking, and we were all under 18.

There may be some kids who drink for the sake of doing the forbidden, but I doubt it is a significant number. People drink and do drugs (including cigarettes) because it is fun. It is fun when you are 18, and it is fun when you are 21. Unless someone can produce some hard scientific data to show otherwise, experience has convinced me that changing the age to 18 will not solve the problem of binge drinking on campus.

" Prohibition leads to illicit consumption"

Yes, by definition. The question is how much, if any, does prohibition contribute to the outlawed activity. I doubt that murder will not occur if it is legalized. It won’t, strictly speaking, be murder, but people will still kill people.

"This leads to a toxic environment where responsible drinking habits are difficult to acquire."

Which environment are you speaking of? Do you categorize the influence of other people as environmental? There are a lot of different influences on drinking habits, but I don’t think the legal age is a significant one.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I realize that you claim everything was the same when the drinking age was only 18, but isn’t this an argument against the effectiveness of prohibition?
Actually everyone I’ve ever known has stated that the problem got better when the drinking age was raised, even thought the problem still exists. This isn’t an argument against raising the drinking age, it is a recognition that raising the drinking age is only sufficient to reduce the problem’s severity not remove it altogether. A reduction in severity is still a benefit.
Over time, here’s what lowering the drinking age will do: it’ll reduce the size of the huge bureaucracies...
No it won’t because those bureaucracies will still be engaged in keeping alcohol out of the hands of 15 to 17 year-olds. The reduction in their extent will be quite small because everyone remembers that kids in their mid-teens are undeveloped idiots and really really shouldn’t be drinking. You can argue that 18 year-olds should be treated like adults, but adolescents? That isn’t going to fly.

 
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
URL: http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com
timacual,

"The question is how much, if any, does prohibition contribute to the outlawed activity. I doubt that murder will not occur if it is legalized. It won’t, strictly speaking, be murder, but people will still kill people."

I’m not making the argument that prohibition makes people drink who otherwise wouldn’t. I’m making the (I thought) uncontroversial point that prohibition has a significant affect on the way people drink, and that many of those affects are bad.

And comparing prohibition to laws against murder is inappropriate. Laws against murder exist to punish killers and (to a lesser extent) deter people from harming others against their will. Prohibition and other laws against victimless crimes exist to (allegedly) protect people from themselves. The two are not remotely the same.

"Which environment are you speaking of? Do you categorize the influence of other people as environmental? There are a lot of different influences on drinking habits, but I don’t think the legal age is a significant one."

The environment that is created when you push alcohol consumption (especially someone’s formative experiences with alcohol) into the shadows, far from responsible society, family, elders, authority, etc. Many of the social checks and balances that ameliorate behavior simply aren’t there. Instead of having your dad or teacher saying "That’s about enough for tonight," you’ve got your meathead pals shouting "CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!"

And do you really think that people who are allowed access to alcohol from an early age are really going to have the same drinking habits as those for whom alcohol has been forbidden as the devils own drink until they’re 21? Really?
 
Written By: CTD
URL: http://
I happen to think you’re quite right about this McQ and that nothing has changed from the previous time this experiment was run. But it would be irresponsible of me not to note this:
But what it did do is increase the availability of alcohol to an even lower age group.

Where 21 year olds are normally associated with 18-20 year olds in college, 18 year olds are still associated with 15 to 17 year olds in high school. Any guess how that ends up?
For the children, my friend?

Won’t anyone think of the children?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
I read this story at Yahoo, and they included a link to the Amethyst Initiative, which is the group who wants to rethink the drinking age. Check out the photos at the top of their page and let me know if that represents college drinking, legal or not. I ask you, where are the beer bongs? Where are the games of quarters, up-river down-river? Kings?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
18 year olds can vote and join the military. They can own a gun and drive vehicles. They can accrue debt and earn wages. They can enter into legally binding commercial contracts. They face the full brunt of the law in criminal court. They are allegedly full citizens and adults. Except they can’t drink alcohol, because of what might happen to "the children." McQ seems confident that this is an issue that demands such inconsistency, and I don’t feel so strongly about it that I’m willing to discount the arguments in favor of an artificially high drinking age. I do feel that it’s important to point out this rather odd situation.
 
Written By: capital L
URL: http://
MQ’s argument is that they will buy alcohol for their under-age associates. How about a compromise law...at 18 you can drink alcohol legally if it is purchased for you, but you cannot purchase alcohol directly. (Maybe let them buy it at bars though?)

So, you could attend a kegger and drink beer legally, but you couldn’t buy a case of beer to hand over to your girlfriend’s little brother.

This is like the old learner’s permits for drivers.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
McQ seems confident that this is an issue that demands such inconsistency, and I don’t feel so strongly about it that I’m willing to discount the arguments in favor of an artificially high drinking age. I do feel that it’s important to point out this rather odd situation.
Again, my point is to question the logic which says that binge drinking at colleges and universities will automatically be solved by lowering the drinking age. My contention is while it may be ameliorated a bit (but not significantly), lowering the age will have the negative effect of shifting the problem to a lower age group.

I really am not seeing anyone address that point. Instead we’re all wrapped up in laws and "fighting for one’s country".

I’m questioning the premise which says lowering the drinking age will help stop binge drinking in college. I’m saying that age has little to do with it - it is the culture. And lowering the age won’t stop it and will shift the problem to an even lower age group.

Unless you address the culture which enables and even glorifies drinking in college, you can lower the age to 2 and nothing is going to change.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
For a slightly different take on this issue (though one that agrees that the problem is the culture):
http://scotterb.wordpress.com/2008/08/20/college-drinking/

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
" prohibition has a significant affect on the way people drink"

Prohibition turns moderate or social drinkers into binge drinkers? Unlikely.


"lowering the age will have the negative effect of shifting the problem to a lower age group"

Too late;

"Underage Drinking: A Major Public Health Challenge
By the time they reach the eighth grade, nearly 50 percent of adolescents have had at least one drink, and over 20 percent report having been “drunk” (1). Approximately 20 percent of 8th graders and almost 50 percent of 12th graders have consumed alcohol within the past 30 days (1). Among 12th graders, almost 30 percent report drinking on 3 or more occasions per month (2). Approximately 30 percent of 12th graders engage in heavy episodic drinking, now popularly termed “binge” drinking—that is, having at least five or more drinks on one occasion within the past 2 weeks—and it is estimated that 20 percent do so on more than one occasion (2)."

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa59.htm

I guess we are just going to have to keep trying prohibition, i.e. lowering the age to zero, until we get it right.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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