National Minimum Drinking Age Act

For many of the people who are unaware, the National Minimum Drinking Age act was passed in 1984. After the end of prohibition in 1933 the States determined the minimum drinking age requirement. From 1970-1975 30 states lowered the drinking age from 21 to 18 due to the appeal of the Baby boom generation and the war in Vietnam, with the argument that if you’re able to die and fight in a foreign war, you should have the privilege of being able to consume alcohol. This same argument was applied to the right to vote. During 1980 a mother’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver, this same woman rallied other supporters and created MADD, ultimately swaying voter opinion, winning support from representatives and was the main force for the passing of a piece of legislation that changed our interpretation of liberty and freedom. The drinking age bill introduced required “all States to raise their minimum drinking age to 21 within 2 years or lose a portion of their Federal-aid highway funds; and encourage States, through incentive grants programs, to pass mandatory sentencing laws to combat drunk driving.”

Ronald Reagan originally threatened to veto the bill “citing that the provisions that punished states that didn’t comply were an infringement upon state’s rights”. Reagan’s opinion changed after fear of voter disapproval.

The Act is “discriminatory based on age, and that it goes against the Constitution by forcing the states to comply with the federal government. This legislation was disastrous for the concept of federalism, because it was one of the first steps that allowed the federal government to “blackmail” the states in this way.”

The above contains quotes from an essay written here with sources.

Is this act constitutional and should it be appealed?

If you are off dying and fighting in a foreign war, you are also in a country that has a lower drinking age, and less cars for you to drive. Thus you are allowed to drink, and in a safer environment.

Max: That depends on where you are. FWIG, some countries have a prohibition on drinking alcohol.

rufuz: The states can still mandate a lower drinking age. It’s their choice. As the funds administered by the federal government are administered by the federal government, the national government gets to pass legislation deciding on how that will be administered. There is a very strong incentive for the states to mandate 21 years as the minimum drinking age; however, they are not forced to.

Any countries that we are at war with aren’t too concerned with enforcing drinking laws on soldiers that they are trying to kill.

I don’t quite see the correlation between the above mentioning of soldiers abroad and the real question “Does the federal government have the right to influence state’s rights, in reference to the constitution”? (BLACKMAIL)

If not, then why is it an effect?

Why is one of the most recognized and unitary laws in all the United States being influenced by the federal government, MOREOVER, why would anyone support such a law that promotes age discrimination, restricts our basic freedoms defined in the constitution, and jeopardizes liberty, which this nation was supposedly founded on.

The Constitution itself promotes age discrimination: You must be 25 to be elected to the House, 30 to be elected to the Senate, and 35 to be elected President. Also, voting rights are only guaranteed to people above age 18.

It seems that, for whatever reason, age and sexual orientation are the only forms of discrimination that are still legal.

I’m quite amazed at the small amount of input from dopers out there on this issue. The drinking age would be 18 almost everywhere if it weren’t for this act.

WAG here, but it seems to me that maybe people aren’t receptive because it has been done. I’ve read about it several times. General consensus: it’s unfair.

An example, I’m sure there are more

My God, someone is arguing for state’s rights. I remember some doper stating that there is no state rights question that does not relate to race. So let me say that my support for these laws has to do with race factors that I do not understand. :stuck_out_tongue:

I agree that there should be one age, 18 or 21, that is considered “adult-hood” and it should be the basis for all adult privileges: drinking, voting, smoking, driving, etc.

I mean, really, maybe the responsibility of being allowed to do these things would sink in better if the message was a direct: “Now you’re an adult.” As it is, these various ages mean NOTHING except that now you can drive, and now you can vote and buy cigerettes and porn, and now, FINALLY, you can drink. Tell us when we’re an adult and stick to it, for God’s sake!

And doesn’t MADD have an outright prohibitionist agenda anyway? Why grant meaningless concessions like this? It’s not going to satisfy them…

An interesting question that arises, is if a politician contested this act, would it be political suicide or would it have a chance?

I have zero problems with a national drinking age, but then again the idea of the federal government trampling over the poor little states has never resonated with me one bit. I find the constitutional interpretations supporting the current status quo quite sufficient.

Neither does the gradual granting of various privileges make my unfair-o-meter needle jump. The whole “all-or-nothing” approach would certainly backfire against the youth of America, since about the only thing an eighteen year-old can’t do (besides run for certain offices as mentioned above) is drink. An all-or-nothing decision would mean that you would probably have to wait until you were 18 to do things like drive, marry, and engage in consensual sex. Besides, how many people can honestly say they waited until they were 21 to drink because of the legality issue? As I recall, some of the fun of underage drinking was knowing I wasn’t supposed to be doing it.

However, anyone who dons a military uniform should be afforded the privilege of drinking legally IMO, at the very least while on base/post. We have an all volunteer military, and anyone can be called up to go and die at any time. That should be enough to earn someone the right to tip back a brewski in my book.

Hmmm, where I live we already have to wait until 18 to marry or engage in consensual sex.

But, then again, like you say: who actually takes the legality of these things seriously? All it affects is how difficult it is to do it.

Still, though, it’s a matter of principle…

Is it unconstitutional? No. The Constitution grants the central governmant the power (among others) to post roads. The manner in which they do so is through grants to the states. To put conditions on these grants violates no section of the Constitution.

Is it wrong? Yes. The central government has no authority to dictate alcohol policy (nor drugs, but that’s another topic). To use (basically) blackmail tactics goes against the idea of seperation of powers. Unfortunately, this has become the norm for a central government that operates largely outside its authorized powers.

The problem with arguing state’s rights (besides the already mentioned connection to racism in the civil rights era) is that those of the founding generation who believed in this theory (for example: Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry) did not participate in the Constituional Convention. TJ was in France; Henry “smelt a rat.” The authors of the Constitution were, for the most part, proponents of a strong central government - quite the opposite of how they are viewed today.

Mere membership in a particular organization, even the military, does not confer the priviledge of ignoring the local laws. It certainly doesn’t confer the priviledge of ignoring the military regulations either.

That is completely irrelevant to the issue of imbibing.

How do you come to that conclusion?

Nitpick: the national minimum drinking age is premised on the federal government’s taxing and spending power found in Article 1, Section 8, clause 1; it is not premised on the post office/post roads power of clause 7. See, e.g., South Dakota v. Dole.

So you don’t have to wait till 18 if you can convince your parents.

In Texas the age of consent is 17 anyway.

Yet another good reason to limit the Federal government’s taxing power. :wink:

Hmmm, Reeder, granted: I haven’t researched it or actually invested any interest whatsoever in the topic, but having lived here all my life, I’m pretty sure the age of consent (without parental or judicial approval; I won’t debate that) is 18.

You’re the one with the cites, though…

Not sure if this is very clear, but it’s all I could find on the topic:

Ah, looking deeper there appears to be a rule that 17 is it IF the older party is within 3 years of that age, or in other words, under 20.