Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This is supposed to be better?

On the morning break during Friday's training, I read an email from my secretary, J.J. Mayer. Andrew Ozaki, from KETV(Channel 7, Omaha) had called, wanting an interview pertaining to a weekend debacle we had investigated. I told J.J. to just have him come down to Classroom C at his convenience. It would only take a couple minutes, and I thought the police academy trainees might enjoy seeing one of these TV interviews from the other side of the tube.

When Andrew arrived after lunch, he set up his camera in the classroom, and I gave him a short synopsis of the events from Friday night/Saturday morning. The backdrop theme of his story, however, was just what I suspected. It was set in the context of the recent call, by several U.S. college presidents, to roll-back the legal drinking age in the United States.

The argument goes like this: binge drinking by young people is a national epidemic. The legal drinking age of 21 contributes to this, by creating a legal taboo that makes the forbidden fruit more appealing. Rollback the drinking age, and the taboo phenomenon is reduced: young people learn to drink more gradually and moderately, under the watchful eye of parents--rather than at the frat party.

Personally, I don't buy it. The comparisons to Europe don't sway me: Americans, it seems to me, do everything to excess. I don't think it's the drinking age that causes the "let's get wasted" drinking culture. Even if it is, though, how in the world is dropping the legal drinking age to 18 going to change that? I can picture high school seniors out on their birthday bar crawl. This is supposed to be better?

The real cause of high risk drinking among young people is much more complex than the legal age limit or any alleged taboo. Most of these bingers started their drinking career well before college. The phenomenon of reckless drinking to intoxication and beyond would still exist, I think, among college freshmen who are out on their own for the first time without some measure of community and parental supervision.

The drinking age of 21 was adopted as public policy based on strong research in the 1970's showing that states with lower legal drinking ages had significantly higher rates of alcohol involved fatalities among young people. It would be foolish, in my view, to tinker with that public policy without revisiting that research. Lives are potentially at stake.


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you stuck to your beliefs on this topic. I see the changing of the rules very similar to a work environment. With teh teenagers as the employees and the lawmakers as the bosses. Changing the laws or "rules" out of convienence is only a path road to an underlying disaster. Nothing is solved yet the burden is displaced to another group. If these Presidents want a real fight then they should sign their names to a culture shift and not a legal shift.

Anonymous said...

They ARRRGH everywhere.

Anonymous said...

This guy walks into a bar and sees a pirate with a peg leg, hook and an, eye patch. So he asked the pirate how he got them. The pirate said "Well, I got the peg leg from the sharks eatin' my leg off, got the hook from gettin' my hand chopped off in a duel, an' I got the eye patch from a seagull poopin' in me eye." The guy replied "you lost your eye to seagull droppings?" and the pirate said "Well it was me first day with the hook."

podunk said...

I'll play devil's advocate on this one, despite having waited until nearly my 22nd birthday before tasting a drink.

"The drinking age of 21 was adopted as public policy based on strong research in the 1970's showing that states with lower legal drinking ages had significantly higher rates of alcohol involved fatalities among young people."

Your use of the word "young" here seems like a bit of rhetorical slight-of-hand. It might make the casual reader believe that we're talking about children, but the astute will realize that we're talking about adult citizens who could be asked to fight and die for their country, and who could be tried as an adult if charged with a crime.

Because of some research in the 70s that showed that a measurable percentage of said adult citizens deserve a Darwin Award for idiotic over-consumption, we've decided to restrict the rights of everybody in that age bracket.

Yet if a roadside bomb makes mincemeat out of one of them we say that it was in defense of "freedom".

Anonymous said...

Someone will probably raise the "Since you can die for your country at age 18" thing, but as a former active-duty serviceman in my early years, I'll remind them that there hasn't been a military draft for over 30 years. It's all-volunteer now. We could perhaps say that active-duty service members and those with honorable discharges from active-duty services should be able to drink at 18, but that's as far as I'd ever be prepared to budge. Incidentally, off-duty drunken driving accidents are still the number-one cause of death for active-duty troops during peacetime, greatly exceeding the deaths from training accidents.

Anyway, back to the civilian 18-20 crowd. People really should look at the UNLPD incidents for the past week or two, and notice all the alky incidents, like this:

Female vomited and urinated on herself. Taken to Detox with a .163 BAC

Her parents must be so proud! We really need more of that behavior, don't we?

Oh, there's also the tired, old "Europe doesn't have the same binge drinking culture we do because they teach kids to handle alcohol responsibly at a younger age" argument. Oh, really. You've rubbed shoulders with UK police officers, did they say that binge drinking wasn't a common thing over there? I doubt it!

podunk said...

@ 9:50

I'm not sure how the currently 'voluntary' nature of service is relevant when the males in this age bracket are still required to register with the Selective Service System.

These people, regardless of gender, can be tried as an adult, and they can enter binding contracts. I don't see how a few of them urinating on themselves is justification for restricting their freedom as a whole.

Tom Casady said...


Excellent links. As I've noted before, I noticed the same phenomenon of high-risk drinking by young people during my trip to the UK in 2005. Those folks puking on the beach in Mexico are not all Americans, either.

I will not buy the argument that binge drinking is less of a problem in Germany, Italy, France and the UK until I see some concrete research on this issue. I just don't accept the assertion without the evidence. I remain open-minded if it is out there. Maybe I just haven't read it.

As your links demonstrate, there is a great deal of concern about binge drinking by young people in the UK, and it appears, anecdotally at least, to be a growing problem. This was one of the topics in my presentation when I was there, and I was surprised at what I had in common with the UK police personnel on the issue.

Best argument for a lower drinking age: you're an adult when you turn 19 (in Nebraska), and government shouldn't be in the business of protecting you from your own folly. Worst argument: binge drinking by young people (and associated harms) will be reduced by raising the drinking age.

Anonymous said...

Yep, unless one reads Euro news from Euro-land, they seem to think that Europe is Utopian, much like Lake Woebegone. Our domestic news media doesn't report Europe's bad news, like rampant knife crime, gun crime, binge drinking, yob violence, waiting lines and rationing of socialized health care, and all that jazz.

To those that want the drinking age lowered to the magic ages of 18 or 19, I'd say that to be consistent, we should then lower the age for handgun purchase and CCW permits to that ago too, as well as raising the age of sexual consent, voting, and driving to the same age. You know, just to be consistent. We have a graduated system of different ages for different things, generally for very good reasons.

As far as selective service canard goes, call me as soon as a majority of the incumbents in both houses of congress decide to commit political suicide by reinstating the draft. Personally, as a veteran myself, I wouldn't want to force volunteers to have to serve alongside conscripts. I know that some folks viscerally despise all forms uniformed, sworn, armed service, but I don't understand it.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the biggest reasons the drinking age is at 21 is because although the voting age is 18 years old, very few people from 18-21 actually vote. I bet if people from the 18-21 voted, the drinking age would be reduced. I believe a drunk idiot at 30 is just as dangerous as one at 18. I do use the argument that government is too involved in "protecting" us. Think about it... Helmet laws, seat belt laws, and there are even cities who say you have to fry your french fries in a certain kind of oil. What really is alarming is how naive some people are thinking this drinking age law is curbing related incidents. This 21 law has has been in effect for over 20 years and still there is a binge drinking problem. I say lower the drinking age to 18. Then make the punishment more severe for alcohol related incidents. Kids want to be adults, give them what they want.

Anonymous said...

Lets make it ok for pot too. Then we can make use of cocaine, and other drugs also. Besides when did an "intoxicated, on pot, driver have an accident? When did the last crash happen with alcohol. Those are sick liberal arrhguments.
(emphasis on arrrrggggghhh)

Best said today is:
government shouldn't be in the business of protecting you from your own folly. Jim J

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Wyoming during the 1980s. Wyoming was the last state to raise the age limit ot 21. Prior to July of 1988, the age limit was 19. During this time Wyoming also had the highest rate of alcohol related fatalities in the nation. Most fatalities were under the age of 21. After raising the limit in 1988, the number of alcohol related fatalities decreased dramatically indicating that the age of the drinker played a significant role in number of fatalities. Fewer kids died of alcohol poisoning (including those over 21) and there were far fewer fatal car accidents, especially on roads near state lines. One of many theories is that kids in the age range of 18-20 are not mentally or emotionally ready for the effects alcohol causes. Furthermore, UW has become one of the more calm campuses in the nation. This is a huge improvement. In 1989, the Princeton review didn't even put it on it's top party schools list citing that students at UW were professional drinkers/partiers and could not be grouped with the ameteur drinkers of other American Colleges. Leaders in the state of Wyoming all agree that raising the drinking age to 21 created a drastic change in roadway safety and image. The argument that binge drinking may decrease if the age is lowered is ludacris. The dangers presenting by allowing 18-20 year-olds drink (as seen in Wyo in the 1980s) far outweighs the potential decrease in binge drinking

Anonymous said...

A bartender got arrested for serving an underage seal. The bartender was reported to have asked the seal what he wanted to drink and the seal replied, "Anything but Canadian Club".

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. DO NOT lower the drinking age. I came from a country where the drinking age is 18 and there is NO FEWER binge drinkers! Physically the brain is not ready to realize the full consequences of one's actions until early to mid twenties. Fools will drink in excess if they want to regardless of age.


Anonymous said...

With the drinking age at 21 it's amazing how many under 18 MIP's we get. I really don't think the drinkers would get younger but statistically the number of MIP tickets would drop so on paper it would look better. I don't think the age will be lowered and don't think it should be. They can raise it to 43 if they want to (I'm 44).

A pirate looks at forty said...

The thoery on why lowering it is better is almost as ridiculous as when they wanted to extend the bar closing time saying that having the bar open longer would limit the mass pounding that ocurrs near 1 a.m. I think any rational person can see the holes in that theory, and this one is just as silly. While we are at it we should also lower the age for people to go to jail, I think 16 is a good age for the big boy jail and no more juvenile system....eye opener.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you on this one, Chief. I don't see how lowering the legal drinking age is going to help on this one. I don't buy the "forbidden fruit" theory.

Zen said...

I don't see how continuously passing or allowing laws that keep people from their own stupidity helps either. Adults have a right to do dumb things-and if it thins out the population, well, that's the point of fate, destiny, or the consequence of free will or what have you. We restrict or illegalize other addictive drugs, yet give a pass to alcohol; then try to say, well you aren't 'really an adult' yet to someone who has reached their age of majority when they want to drink, why?

Why does pot and druns legalization constantly get brought into this?
I personally support legalized possession and consumption of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Tax the crap out of it, legislate and test it-hell, control the points of access, but remove the illegal market for it.

The govt. however, can and will restrict or legalize whatever it wants to, and the sooner people realize this, the better. Just because the drinking age is lowered does not advocate making crack available to everyone, nor does the legalization of marijuana-such 'slippery slope' arguments are unrealistic pretty unrealistic-the amount of damage from alcohol and 'hard' drugs pales to that caused by pop, yet we allow alcohol and make a weed illegal.

Zen said...

pot, and strike the extra 'unrealistic'

I shouldn't type faster than my brain.

podunk said...

Tyler Cowen over at the Marginal Revolution blog has a thought-provoking take on this issue.