"If I'm old enough to die for my country, I'm old enough to drink a beer."

I once believed this, being 18, in the military, and wanting to drink beer. But my 34-year-old self looks at my 18-year-old self and says: “No way.” I made it out alive, but I think the drinking age is 21 for all the right reasons. Willing to die for your country and wanting to drink beer aren’t really related.

My argument centers on, generally, how immature and silly most 18-year-olds are. Often the maturity difference between a man of 18 and 21 is astounding. For the purposes of my argument, I’m only going to talk about men, not women. 18-year-old women tend to look at their male counterparts as immature little boys, and oftentimes rightfully so. I digress. 18 is often the age when young men leave the “nest” for the first time being left to their own devices (yes, even in the military), and a bunch of them in the same room with beer usually leads to injury (hey, let’s jump out that window!) or other bad decisions (“I know, let’s fight!”). Again, not saying the 21-year-old is exempt from this sort of behavior, but in my (vast) experience with drinking between these ages and being around countless others who did as well, it’s a lot less. Also, at 18, most people have had their driver’s licenses for a year or just over; the road experience just isn’t there for when they decide to get behind the wheel (and they will). A 21-year-old usually has 3 more years of road experience and likely knows a little more on how to handle a car. When you’re driving drunk, you’re usually using instinct more than anything

(For the record, I do not drive after 2 beers. I think anyone who does is stupid – or immature, and although I condemn it, I’d be a liar to say that I haven’t driven when I shouldn’t have. The idea here is that 18- and 21-year-olds will drink alcohol and drive cars. It’s the way it is.)

I also believe 21-year-olds are a lot more self-aware and developed as young adults so it’s less likely that once their inhibitions are dropped, they won’t know how to act.

The point, I believe, of this particular law is to protect people from themselves and others due to an inability to handle the effects alcoholic beverages. I agree with it.

Again, this is all based on what I believe is a reasonable generalization and I’m not arguing that there are some really immature 21-year-olds out there who shouldn’t be drinking (hell, I know 31-year-olds who shouldn’t drink, but that’s not the point). Also, I don’t want to get into cultural differences. I spent a couple of years in Italy and from what I remember, there is no “drinking age.” It’s a lot less taboo and isn’t usually a problem. I’m talking strictly about American culture and their fascination with alcoholic beverages.

Where do you stand?

Sometimes the maturity of a 14 yr old is astoundingly greater than a 21 yr old. I was 18 when 18 yr olds were allowed to drink. I never understood why it was pushed back to 21. One abritrary age is better than another? At the ripe old age of 56 I find 21 yr olds as lacking in anything resembling maturity as my 16 yr old grandchild. Lets push the draft, drinking AND driving to 25 at least (voting too?). Maybe 30. Or develop a national maturity test.

Frankly, age 12 or so is perfectly good beer-drinking age. People need to learn, through experience, how to drink without binging or getting drunk, and how to control themselves so they don’t get smashed. We have a huge alchohol problem in this country - we don’t get it early enough!

This is one social aspect where Europe is far and away ahead of us. I blame the mid-19th century prohobitionist movement.

Your theory holds for Americans only, the drinking culture is different overseas. If a year abroad taught me anything it was that a 16 year old drunk Englishman was far less obnoxious than a 21 year old drunk American.

The binge mentality itself might be directly related to the fact that we can’t drink when we’re younger.

Read the last paragraph of the OP…

Strangely enough, it is still legal in most of the United States for minors to drink - the laws are simply constructed in such a way so that the only thing that is legal is having a drink or two at home with your parents. And in some places, that fact has been made explicit in law, like here in Virginia.

I intend to let my kids know this when the time is right, so that alcohol is demystified for them.

I think they should lower the drinking age. When I was 18 years old, not even a year being out of high school, I was flying in a helicopter and was entrusted with the lives of 3-7 other crew members. A week after I turned 20 I was deployed to the first time to Iraq.

But because I hadn’t turned some arbitrary number I wasn’t allowed to drink?

What about the 19 year old who’s working a full time job with a wife and kid already? Or the Marine who’s in charge of keeping his platoon or whatever alive? Not allowed to drink because they can’t be trusted?

I know plenty of 30 year olds that shouldn’t be allowed to drink. I think the problem, like stated above, is that people make such a big deal about alcohol so that way when people can drink they feel like they’re making up for lost time.


If you learn that alcohol is “forbidden” and live in a household where it’s a BIG DEAL to drink on occasion, then you’re going to form some unhealthy habits when you finally get access to alcohol. Locking up the liquor cabinet just adds to the “alcohol is a dangerous and tempting thing” behaviors that often convince younger people that alcohol is this thing they must try, and when they do, they try it in abundance. With Smiling Bandit’s method, it’d be a bit like when younger kids go on a sugar binge: they consume too much, stay at home (who’s going to take a drunken 12 year old places?) and feel awful later on when the side effects get to be too much. It’d be a lot easier to actually go through the “learn how to consume responsibly” phase at, say, 12; like a lot of other things, it’s more about creating good habits through practice, and having a glass of wine or beer with dinner helps promote a better attitude about alcohol use than, say, letting them go crazy at 18 or 21 after forbidding it completely until then.

The only way to make this practical, though, is to actually change the culture in regard to alcohol use, which I don’t see happening any time soon. Too many Americans are still stuck in the “shameful things” Puritan ideology when it comes to things like alcohol consumption and nudity.

:smack: shit.

When I was 18, it was legal in many states (I believe most) to drink beer and wine. The people who drank stupidly did so at both 18 and at 21. The people who drank responsibly did the same. I believe that 18 should be the age of majority for all decisions that are not already allowed earlier.

21 year olds are better drinkers because they’ve been drinking since they were 18.

Well, I was 20 years old walking the streets of Tuzla, Bosnia with an M-16 on my back and an M9 in my hand shortly after the Tuzla massacre. Again and as I stated, I still don’t see the relevance.

If you read the OP again, you can see that 18 is not an arbitrary number at all. In the US, it’s a turning point in one’s life where society recognizes them as an adult and oftentimes, 18-year-olds are ill-equipped to deal with it. Add alcohol to that and you’re asking for trouble. Most people learn a LOT about life from 18 to 21.

Even if I concede the fact that the issue is culture-based (and I believe that to be true), it isn’t relevant either. American culture isn’t going to change tomorrow. Alcohol will continue to be taboo and subsequently sought after by many 18-year-olds.

Personally, I don’t think 18 year olds are mature enough to join the military either.

I agree, but I think the theory is they’re more malleable and therefore more willing to go into situations that more mature individuals would rightfully balk at.

I was amazed when I went to college how many of my fellow freshmen were wholly unprepared for partying and acted like asses when they got a couple in them. I was used to partying in high school and knew what I was doing, or at least where the “puke line” was.

It seems to me that moving the drinking age from 18 to 21 just makes 21 the new 18. Those who would have done stupid things involving alcohol at 18, now either just wait until they are 21 to do stupid things involving alcohol or don’t wait until they are 21, and are drinking anyway, except they are now trying to hide it as well. Rather then decrease the mystique of alcohol, we’ve just increased it. “Ohh, and for THIS stuff, I have to wait until I’m 21. Must be the good stuff. Let’s go out behind the school and drink.”

Better to allow drinking at say 16, but only if accompanied by a guardian and maybe only beer and wine. Make it ok to take your kid to a restaurant and share a bottle of wine with the family, or to a bar to watch football over a beer. Make responsible drinking part of a normal life, not a secret sin.

Yes, but this logic is circular.

18 is just as arbitrary a number to hand someone the trappings of adulthood, and it’s likely only picked because at that point, mandatory secondary education is complete, the individual is educated and physically developed, and thus likely capable of being self-sustaining.

The drinking age of 21 is a creation of whatever advisory committee decided that “below age 21” was the point at which drunk-driving accidents spiked. That is the only reason it’s national.

The idea that a person ought to be given legal autonomy in phases is an excellent one, but the idea that driving should be first and drinking should be last, with voting and military service in between, is logically inconsistent, is the product of different people being responsible for different laws, and is certainly not based on any scheme or plan whatsoever.

If the idea is to teach maturity, then teach maturity. But no one has ever pretended that the drinking age is 21 for this reason (at least not entirely honestly).

I don’t see how it’s circular.

If the powers that be had data that shows that drunk-driving accidents spiked for young people between the ages of 18-21, doesn’t that corroborate with my initial assertion in that 18-20.99-year-olds are ill-equipped, generally, to handle the effects of alcohol?

Why should I wait until 16? When my mom was a girl in a very traditional Italian-American household, she would frequently get wine cut with water with dinner - one glass only. My grandfather usually made the wine. This started when she was about seven.

She now drinks probably a dozen drinks a year, at the age of sixty.

Why make wine and beer mysterious? It’s just another thing to drink - a thing that you shouldn’t drink too much of and that you have to be careful driving afterward. But if you’re drinking to get drunk, you’re doing it wrong.

No. Because if you changed the age limit for alcohol, the drunk driving stats would also change. The stats are the way they are because of the arbitrary ages we assigned them.

If we made legal drinking age 13, legal driving age 16, legal voting and military age 18… your drunk driving stats would be much different. Give them alcohol earlier, demystify and desensationalize the whole drinking thing (and un-demonize it) and then you’d have 18-20.99 year olds who are much more equipped to handle it.

They’re not equipped to handle it because of the ages we’ve set things at. It is not because of some inherent developmental limitations, but rather the restrictions we’ve created.
This is why it is a circular argument.

Most people learn a lot about life from 18 to 22. And 25 to 28. Also, I’m willing to bet most people learn a lot about life from 16 to 19.

I guess what I’m wondering is, what relevance do these (undefined) things that most people are learning from 18 to 21 have with respect to the ability to purchase and consume alcohol responsibly? Is there any way we could teach these things sooner?