De-Federalize the drinking age

If Republicans were smart and not so lazy there is a great opportunity for them to make inroads on the youth vote, and do something constructive for the nation at the same time. Right now the drinking age in America is set by the Federal government at age 21. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act (23 U.S.C. §158) was passed in 1984. It was a stupid idea of Elizabeth Dole when she was Secretary of Transportation. The Feds accomplished it using the unfunded mandate tactic. That is, states who don’t go along and pass an age 21 drinking age will lose 10% of their Federal funding from the National Highway Trust fund.

Only two other countries on earth have a drinking age higher than 18, Iceland and Japan. Our national drinking age established by the Federal mandate is, or should be, unconstitutional. If anything is a matter that should be left solely to the states it must be the drinking age. It’s none of the Federal government’s business, and the connection to highway safety that is used to support Federal involvement is highly tenuous. This dumb law sends those between 18 and 21 underground to do their drinking, thus encouraging binge drinking, taking shots in dorm rooms before going out, and fuels the market for fake ID’s. The truly amazing and ridiculous thing is that in Colorado and Washington state it is legal for 18-21 year olds to smoke pot but not to have a beer. Well, I guess that competes with another ridiculous result of the Federal law, that 18-21 year olds can join the military and lose their life fighting for their country but if they survive they then have to go underground to celebrate in the normal way.

Republicans could do a good thing by getting behind an effort to repeal this law, as well as Federal mandates on the states generally, and it would be popular politically with nearly everyone except Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Because MADD is the most powerful lobbying force on earth, and because Republicans are averse to the slightest risk, it won’t happen. That’s a shame.

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