The replies to my OP have been interesting, although i was also hoping that some people who had opposed DUI roadblocks on the other thread would connect the two issues here and give their opinion on the relative restriction of rights in the two cases.
Now, in response to stankow’s position, i’d like to make a couple of points. And before i do, i should say that i’m not trying to argue here that Australians are more responsible drinkers than Americans (or any other national groups, for that matter). Like in any other large group, drinking habits in Australia range from the teetotal to the moderate and sensible to the outrageous and ridiculous. But bear with me.
Based on almost two years’ living in the United States (in Baltimore, but i’ve also been to New York, Boston, Philly, D.C., Nashville, Austin TX, Seattle, Madison WI and various other places), it seems to me that drinking habits are not that different overall than they are in Australia. Statistics at this site show that per capita alcohol consumption in 1998 was slightly higher in Australia than the US, but my guess is that this is partly due to the relatively high rates of teetotalism among certain American groups, mainly due to religious affiliations - something that is not such an issue in Australia.
It seems to me, however, based largely on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, that one of the consequences of a legal drinking age of 21 is that young people tend to drink at parties and private gatherings (especially, at least in university areas, at fraternity and sorority houses) where there is often little supervision (formal or informal), and that this often results in higher levels of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning than occur in more public and regulated settings.
Now, i’m not trying to argue that people get shit-faced drunk at such parties but not at bars, but the public space created by a bar or pub means that certain behaviours are less likely to be condoned. Someone who gets violent or sick is likely to be turfed out by a bouncer, and to be censured by other patrons. In private settings, where the whole aim is often just to get pissed without being caught by the authorities, physical and social limits are more likely to be transgressed - hence the high incidence of alcohol poisoning and date rape at some (NOT ALL, i should stress) such parties. For those interested in the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption in certain college-affiliated organizations, check out the book by Hank Nuwer, Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing, and Binge Drinking (1999).
Again, i should stress that i’m not arguing here that Americans are somehow genetically or nationally predisposed to such behaviour any more than Australians are. What i am saying is that i believe there are certain social benefits to be gained from adopting a less rigid and more socially inclusive attitude to alcohol consumption among young people. Treating young people like adults will certainly result in dissappointment at times, as some will no doubt continue to act like children, but it might also result in more responsible drinking behaviour on the part of those who are grateful to be able to hang out and have a few drinks in the pub or at home, without going to the trouble of concealing their behaviour from the authorities.
As others have pointed out on this thread, if we determine who should and should not drink simply by looking at how responsibly people consume alcohol, then there are plenty of people well over the age of 21 who should never be allowed another drop in their lives.
Mr2001’s suggestion of two mutually exclusive licences for those aged 18-21 is an interesting idea, although the logistics of adopting such a program would be a nightmare. But it does bring me back to the question i asked in the OP - is there any logical connection or disjuncture between opposing DUI roadblocks and opposing age-18 drinking laws? Or between supporting both? etc.