August 25, 2004

THEY'RE TEENS, AFTER ALL:

Putting Caps on Teenage Drinking: A nationwide plan to reduce underage drinking is long overdue. ( JIM GOGEK, 8/25/04, NY Times)

Bold government initiatives can be effective. This summer, we're celebrating the 20th anniversary of the minimum drinking age of 21, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. That legislation has saved an estimated 20,000 lives. An adequately financed, nationwide plan to reduce underage drinking, adhering to the National Academy report, would save even more lives. But so far, it looks like underage drinking will only be fought by impoverished advocacy groups, a scattering of state officials and trial lawyers who see the story of tobacco litigation about to repeat itself.

You don't need more money, just take away the driver's license of anyone under 21 who's caught drinking or using drugs and don't let them have it back until they're over 21. You'd be using the same peer pressure that gets them to misbehave in the first place. The humiliation of not being able to drive when all your friends can would be a powerful motivator.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 25, 2004 9:30 AM
Comments

We've been neglecting the power of public shame for too long, I think.

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at August 25, 2004 9:35 AM

What bulls[tuff], Orrin. More protectionist condescension from your liberal alter ego. So, let's get this straight: we'll let these young guys serve in the military to protect our women and children from terrorists, but they can't have a friggin' beer. Go to hell. Look, if you preclude any age group, including YOURS, from drinking, their incidents of bad behavior will drop and they will "misbehave" less.

"Misbehave"(??) God Almighty, Orrin, you sound like Kerry or Gore shaking your finger at the ignoramuses who like NASCAR and guns.

Posted by: Jim Gooding at August 25, 2004 9:36 AM

Mr. Gooding:

You lost me at this concession: " if you preclude any age group, including YOURS, from drinking, their incidents of bad behavior will drop and they will "misbehave" less. "

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 9:44 AM

Orrin, if you misunderstand me it's because I was unclear; obviously, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

My point is that prohibition of alcohol by any means reduces drunkeness and saves lives, that does not necessarily make it a social good; moreover, cherrypicking unfortunates from the adult population to be denied alcohol, in this case you opt for the under-21 set, is discriminatory for no purpose. There is more threat from a 40-year old driving drunk than an 19-year old on leave from serving in Afghanistan sipping beer behind the barn with his girlfriend.

Posted by: Jimm Gooding at August 25, 2004 10:21 AM

Mr. Gooding:

It's discriminatory for a purpose--a purpoose which you keep saying it ably meets.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 10:26 AM

I can't disagree more:

1. I was 20 when the drinking age in MA was raised to 20. Though it didn't affect me directly, and alcohol consumption probably did go down, drug use of all kinds skyrocketed. The dorms started reeking of marijuana. The thinking among associates was that if they were criminals for drinking they might as well be criminals for using drugs. Is it really a good idea to take any action which increases drug use?

2. Those going to college in urban environments would be virtually unaffected by having their license revoked till 21. I couldn't afford a car during college and in Boston it would have been more hassle than it would have been worth anyway. On the other hand, rural, poorer folk would be very hard hit. I generally oppose laws that punish certain classes far more than others.

3. Why not just throw anyone underage in jail who is caught drinking until they are 21? That would certainly reduce underage drinking. What? Not worth the cost you say? Well, neither is your suggestion IMHO.

Bret

Posted by: Bret at August 25, 2004 10:44 AM

"40-year old driving drunk than an 19-year old"

Actually the statistics seem to indicate that a drunk 19 year old is more dangerous than a 40 year old drunk.

Off Topic OJ did you read where Lady Thatcher's son Mark has been arrested for plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea.

Posted by: h-man at August 25, 2004 10:47 AM

h:

Yeah, and it really is all about the oil in that case.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 10:51 AM

Bret:

Yes, you should lose your federal education money if caught with drugs in college.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 10:52 AM

oj writes:
>>Yes, you should lose your federal education money if caught with drugs in college.

Ahhh, so you would only punish poorer college kids for drinking. That doesn't seem fair to me.

Bret

Posted by: Bret at August 25, 2004 11:02 AM

Bret:

and, not or.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 11:14 AM

Orrin,
Weren't you in a fraternity?

Posted by: Matt C at August 25, 2004 11:52 AM

OJ:

Why such a mild (and frequenlty disregarded) penalty?

Heck, if caught consuming illegal drugs, why not the slammer and a permanent criminal record?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 25, 2004 12:06 PM

Matt:

Yes.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 12:20 PM

Jeff:

Of course you'd have a permanent criminal record.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 12:21 PM

Orrin:

Or, we could let them drink but prohibit them from driving until 21. I'll bet we'd all be safer.

Seriously, why would you take away the driving license of a teen who was drinking but not driving? Driving is a necessity for millions and no one should lose a license for misbehavior totally unrelated to driving. Besides, once caught, why wouldn't he drown his sorrows in one glorious multi-year bender?

Presumably you wouldn't be so draconian with those under 16 or 17, so why do all the 18-21 year olds have to live in boot camp? (What would the penalty be for pre-marital sex?). I thought we were supposed to expect and be tolerant of youthful mistakes and come down hard on the older malfeasors who should know better.

Posted by: Peter B at August 25, 2004 12:44 PM

And so we have arrived from "Don't drive drunk" via "Don't drink and drive" to "Don't drink." What nonsense. We should severely punish drunk drivers (current enforcement is a farce), who are inherently a menace to society, not drinkers, who are not.

Posted by: brian at August 25, 2004 12:44 PM

Peter:

That's quite right. The accident rates for even the non-drunk young are so high that they shouldn't be driving until 21.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 12:49 PM

brian:

Yes, Prohibition didn't work out through the front door but has been pretty successfully brought through the back.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 12:51 PM

Orrin:

Most car rental and insurance companies would agree with you. I'd vote for an under 21 driving ban after 6:00 pm.(Gotta put the lazy sods to work).

But if you take the position that a class is too young or immature to indulge responsibly in something we let adults do, surely the penalty if one of them does has to be less onerous than for the adult and it shouldn't mark him for life. After all, we've declared he is young and immature.

Posted by: Peter B at August 25, 2004 1:10 PM

Peter:

If he gets busted selling crack no one cares that he's marked for life. Why should our sons be different than theirs? When there's a law, obey it or accept the consequences.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 1:15 PM

Orrin:

We don't allow people to start selling crack at 21.

Posted by: Peter B at August 25, 2004 1:16 PM

We'll just ask Orrin for a list of what's bad, and then we lock'em up. Problem solved. The man's a genius.

Posted by: andy at August 25, 2004 1:55 PM

I think I can settle this.

That's what we do in Hawaii, and it hasn't affected underage drinking at all.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 25, 2004 2:12 PM

andy:

You don't have to ask--there are laws. All we're discussing is the penalties.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2004 3:49 PM
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