While I realize the following essay is controversial, I ask that those who would criticize it please read it in full and, if you find it distasteful, please add a writeup here containing a thoughtful response, rather than simply downvoting or flaming me.

Footnotes are indicated by numbers in curly brackets.


The sheer hypocrisy of the underage drinking law is overwhelming. I cannot begin to describe how harshly I look upon this law; I have nothing but contempt for it. This law is nothing less than oppression.

The common arguments{1} for this law go:

"x number of lives were saved by raising the drinking age."
"x dollars were saved by raising the drinking age."
"There is a different age of initiation for everything."

These are, of course, gross oversimplifications, but they capture the gists fairly well. Let us begin with the first two:

"x number of lives/dollars were saved by raising the drinking age."

I do not contest these arguments directly, as they are quite correct. Yet I believe the same results can be achieved through different means. I propose some alternative solutions below.

More interesting is argument 3, as it strikes at the crux of the hypocrisy of drinking age limits.

Argument 3 is correct in that there are different and appropriate ages of initiation for everything, yet it fails to address the monumental importance of being required to serve the draft. Being asked to give our lives for our country carries with it great responsibility and sacrifice. It is only fair to expect that we give ourselves for the same citzenship that others enjoy{2}.

It was this revelation that ultimately led to the instatement of under-21 suffrage--in the 1960s, our youth became outraged at the inequity of their peers' sacrifices for liberties that they could not enjoy simply because of their age. Thus, the 26th amendment was born and a new emphasis was placed on the rights of our youth.

Here, I must make a painful concession. In the wake of the 26th amendment, our youth became complacent. Voter turnout among us is terrible--it is consistently the lowest, by far{3}. To borrow some timeless rhetoric, freedom is truly a flame that is easily extinguished when left unattended.

Thus, we are screwed. I postulate that the age limit laws were ultimately applied to our age group because we were the ones who would not (and, in all likelihood, will never) retaliate in the polls{4}.

This is why I have such great contempt for this law. It stands as a disgraceful reminder of the political atrophy that grips my generation. It also points to a steady erosion of a great and newfound liberty, that came only after much struggle--the right to vote and the equity it affords.

We MUST restore this equity. It is our responsibility as citizens to exercise our right to vote. A failure to understand what our apathy is costing us is only a forecast of bad citizenship to come, as our youth ages and replaces the generations before it.

That being said, I am not cold to the problems of alcohol abuse. I offer the following two ideas, which are neither original nor complete, but of which I am rather fond:


I realize that prohibition was tried and has failed, but I refuse to believe that less restrictive, yet equally effective measures do not exist. An attractive solution is a nationwide "alcohol curfew"--restricting purchase of alcohol or its consumption during certain times of day (especially later at night).


Easier said than done. Yet I think this is necessary even if the age-21 drinking laws stand. I applaud the various special interest groups who fight drunk driving in advertising campaigns. This should be extended to creating a realistic, proactive attitude towards drinking in society. By realistic, I mean an attitude which does not demonize alcohol to the point that it is seen as a "forbidden fruit{5}."

I do not believe that these options are the only measures to be taken, nor do I believe that either is a solution in itself.


Despite its good intentions, this law cannot stand. It is an abomination to the greater principles of society. Repeal it and let us work towards fairer solutions to the drinking issue.


1. Some URLS for those who would research these arguments farther:


There are other arguments, but I consider these to be the most important for their frequency of invokation and their implications.

2. This claim is self-evident to me, but I realize that there are myriad arguments against it. Particularly troublesome is the idea that drinking is not a "right," but a privilege. I disagree with this notion; if it is merely a privilege, then it is quite important nonetheless--enough to drown out previous attempts to prohibit it, en masse (and with a constitutional amendment, no less!).

3. Voting statistics for federal elections since 1972:


4. The argument can be made that underage citizens supported the age limits. Rampant underage drinking in spite of the law leads me to conclude otherwise; I welcome any arguments to this effect.

5. The forbidden fruit theory of alcohol prohibition is intruiging. For more information, see the research by Dr. Ruth Engs at http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/