February 27, 2002
The Drinking Age

Instapundit quotes reader Brett Deal of North Carolina on Elizabeth Dole's federalization of the drinking age. Go read it, if you haven't already. Then come back (please!) and read these additional points:

1. Instapundit's penultimate comment: "There's also some evidence that raising the drinking age has made problem-drinking by 18-20 year olds worse, by moving them from bars (where there are people watching) to dorm rooms, etc., where there aren't."

To judge from my own experience, it's even worse than that. When I was an undergraduate at St. John's College (Annapolis) in the early 1970s -- admittedly a highly atypical college then and now --, my friends and I spent very little time in bars. Instead, we had a lot of wine-and-cheese parties for two or more, the occasional school-wide waltz party with champagne and strawberries, and plenty of other parties at which beer and hard liquor were consumed. However, we also had parties with the faculty. Near the end of each semester, nine out of ten teachers would invite their various classes over to their homes (one class at a time) for cheese, crackers, fruit, and of course wine and beer and sometimes (in the spring) mint juleps made with fresh-cut garden-grown mint. The tenth of ten was generally considered a jerk. In short, we learned how to drink like adults from adults. Of course, even then there were alcoholics and binge drinkers among the students and sometimes the faculty, but the general level of civilization in drinking habits was relatively high. Many years later, as a university instructor, I found that relations with students were necessarily much more distant than they should have been. Colleagues occasionally served wine or beer to undergraduates in parties at their homes, but this was far less frequent, since it is now a crime. Just about the only legal choices today are beerless back-yard cookouts and cookies-and-milk parties. It does indeed tend to puerilize the students.

2. Though I cannot prove it, I have a strong impression that smokers have gotten ruder since I was in college, that is, a lot more prone to toss their butts anywhere they please. (I've never been a smoker or an anti-smoker, so I don't think that's affecting my judgment.) A likely reason is easy enough to find. Even the most polite smokers are now treated like scum by a large portion of the population -- including many who pride themselves on their tolerance --, so there is far less incentive to be polite if you smoke. I think that making under-21 drinking illegal has had much the same effect and for similar reasons. If the mere fact of drinking is already a crime, why not toss your empties out the car window or puke on the sidewalk or piss on the neighbors' rose bushes? (Well, the danger from thorns should discourage the last -- see Tom Sharpe's Wilt for a terrible, though fictional, warning.)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at February 27, 2002 10:00 PM