The drinking age should be lowered to 18. Wiki­media

I was 18 when I had my first drink with my dad.

He sat me down to have a con­ver­sation about alcohol in light of my first and fast-approaching semester at Hillsdale: “I under­stand that it seems arbi­trary,” he said,  “but it’s really not that big of a deal. You should just obey the law. You have to wait only a couple years. In the meantime, why don’t you just drink with me?” That seemed rea­sonable, and I love my dad. So, more out of respect for my father than agreement with the state, I obeyed the law.

Yet, I really do think that the drinking age ought to be lowered to 18.

Why? Because as it stands now, the law doesn’t work. Rather than pro­tecting underaged drinkers from the dangers of alcohol, the drinking age nannies a group of young adults who ought to be exer­cising their capacity to act respon­sibly.

Look, the obvious evil here is binge drinking. Binge drinking is stupid, unhealthy, and in many cases, dan­gerous. But the 21 drinking age does not fix this problem. The gov­ernment can’t leg­islate against stu­pidity. The kind of person who habit­ually drinks himself to sleep is the same person who will break the law to get his hands on a pint. He will spend hard-earned cash on a fake ID, or he will hire an older person to buy alcohol for him. The barrier to booze does not keep a drunkard from the bottle. It only drains his wallet and his integrity.

The only people that are going to keep that law are the respon­sible, law-abiding cit­izens — people who could probably handle them­selves around alcohol and who frankly deserve a good drink. The drinking age does nothing but withhold the joy of a good drink from those who deserve it and increase the wretchedness of the people who don’t.

The drinking age creates a culture of extremes, espe­cially at college. It forces stu­dents to choose between either a square’s-night-in with Coke and Catan, or a night of crime at a college party. As much as I love board games, I under­stand that they aren’t for everyone. The law leaves no middle ground for college stu­dents. You are either a prude or a criminal.

In addition, the law creates a sub-culture of excess. Instead of going to a public bar to grab a drink with buddies under the watchful eye of God and the world, covert drinkers gather in the seedy corners of campus, where the din of blaring music mixes and stirs a crowd of Red Solo cups. There, in an act of rebellion, they drink as much as they pos­sibly can. Thus the drinking age inad­ver­tently creates an out­lying com­munity where drunk­enness is not only acceptable, but also expected. Obvi­ously, college parties would not vanish if the legal drinking age were lowered to 18, but the culture on campus would change for the better. If stu­dents were allowed to drink at parties, they might not feel the freedom that comes from having already broken the law — the same freedom that encourages further law breaking. Think about it: If you have to break a law in order to have a drink, then what is stopping you from breaking another? For example, a minor drinking on the sly isn’t going to coor­dinate with a des­ig­nated driver. He’s much more likely to attempt driving himself home to avoid dis­covery.

Rather than forcing stu­dents to choose between prud­ishness and crime, the gov­ernment should give them the chance to choose between mod­er­ation and excess. Due to the imme­diate bio­logical effects of binge drinking, this choice is fun­da­men­tally easier to make. In addition, low­ering the drinking age would provide college stu­dents with a myriad of alternate avenues for more reserved alcohol con­sumption.

Young adults don’t need to be babied. They need to be called up to respon­si­bility. Rather than trying (and failing) to restrict college stu­dents access to alcohol, the gov­ernment ought to foster a culture of respon­si­bility.

But in the meantime, we ought to obey the law; because guys, it’s just not that big of a deal.


Aaron Andrews is a senior studying English.

  • Adam Andrews

    This is the best argument I’ve ever heard for a position I dis­agreed with — until now, that is. Well done, Aaron. You can drink with me any time.