I recently turned 21 and I drank A LOT OF alcohol to celebrate that.
Did I drink a lot on my birthday weekend because I was dying to see what drinking legally was like? Well, I had already drunken legally in 2 different countries already, so the novelty effect kind of wore off on me. I did have one thought on my mind however:
Why did I have to wait so long in the U.S. to consume this liquid legally?
Before I turned 21, I just wanted to drink a beer out in public without getting ridiculed for it. I wanted to explore the city's nightlife and make new friends, but I wasn't allowed to enter a club or a bar. I wanted to order a cocktail at a fancy restaurant known for its mixed drinks, but the law said that I clearly wasn't mature enough for that yet.
What the law doesn't get is that I'm a moderate drinker: I don't get so drunk that I can't remember anything the next morning. I simply enjoy getting to a buzz and just chatting on a casual weekday or weekend with friends or friends-to-be. Anything further than that has to be a special occasion.
Maybe it's not the popular opinion to drink moderately as a college student, but that's me.
I noticed this about myself when I was studying abroad in Australia, that I would be very content with just sipping on some cider at a pub by the university. It felt good to be out in public and just relaxing with my friends without judgment for being "too young". Going to the bar made me feel like I had a place that I could meet friends at and relax away from home, school, or work, even if I wasn't drinking that night.
Whereas in the U.S. I would be consuming my alcohol in someone's house and it became less of a chill social activity and more of a "drink until you can't anymore" kind of interaction.
Fine for occasion, but for a weekly practice? It's just not for me.
Unfortunately, it's a popular idea that the "age of adulthood" is essentially the legal drinking age. I thought moving to college 3,000 miles away from my home meant I was an adult; apparently, it did not. I felt belittled that I wasn't trusted with the responsibility of taking care of myself.
I wondered to myself, why is the minimum drinking age at 21?
It's because the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. This law basically told states that they had to enact a minimum drinking age of 21 or lose up to ten percent of their federal highway funding. Obviously, all of the states complied with the federal government in order to keep their funding.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, one of the main proponents of this act, claimed that it helped prevent thousands of drunk driving accidents. Today, no one bats an eye at the legitimacy of this law. No one seems to think that maybe this law didn't work. Maybe it actually worsened alcohol culture in the United States.
What are the negative effects of a minimum drinking age law of 21?
- I think the decrease in drunk driving incidents was a result of better education about the consequences of drunk driving and how culture has attached a negative stigma to it. I don't think the minimum drinking age law contributed that heavily to saving lives.
- I think the law does not stop most young people from drinking alcohol. I think it encourages bingeing behavior because no one is really sure when they'll get that next drink.
- I think it funnels in more young people to pursue underground, creepy frat parties as their only source of alcohol. I think it causes society to alienate all illegal drinkers as irresponsible.
- I think it unfairly infuses the issue of morality into alcohol. I think educating our youth about alcohol's effects but ultimately letting them decide if they want to use it is the moral thing to do.
- I think the minimum drinking age of 21 is detrimental to the individual's freedom. It also assumes that people can't think for themselves, or learn from making their own choices.
Comparative to the U.S., other countries who have a drinking age of 21 are Pakistan, Qatar, Guam, and the U.A.E. Not the typical countries you would compare the U.S. with.
Surprisingly, China's minimum drinking age is 18. A communist country with a lower drinking age than the "freest country in the world". Many European countries and even Asian countries have minimum ages around 18. These countries don't have exceedingly large drunk driving incidents.
Now I was never one to buy the "this country does this so it works everywhere" argument, but these facts are very telling. In a nation of people that champions freedom, we are one of the least free in terms of legal alcohol consumption age.
I have traveled to countries where it was legal for me to consume alcohol and let me tell you, it is so much more liberating to be treated like an adult and trusted with your own health. Sure there were some immature people who drank much more than they should have, but I have no right to judge them or mandate how much they should be allowed to drink.
People who approve of the 21-year-old minimum age law: they're either prudes, afraid of what they don't understand, or knowledgeable and genuinely concerned. I like to describe those people who are genuinely concerned as those parents who find out their kid has been sneaking out of class to have fun. They ground their kids and lock the door and believe they're teaching them a lesson.
But what they ignore is that the kids are just going to sneak out the window and go and do what they want to do anyways.
People will make mistakes.
If we're going to spend all of the time in high schools to deter young adults from drinking and driving after prom, why don't we trust them and give them a chance with actually being responsible by lowering the drinking age?
A safer world starts with actually taking the time to raise our kids on ethics and being in constant communication in order to create trust. A minimum drinking age of 21 prevents this growth from happening.
And if you disagree with that statement, then maybe we should discuss it over a cold one sometime.