The news article that I've linked to is about a push in Vermont to lower the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. Here's what the article offers initially as the rationale for this:
Proponents say the higher age hasn't kept young people from consuming alcohol and has instead driven underage consumption underground, particularly on college campuses.
Now, I can appreciate the danger to the kids who are drinking underground. That young, potentially ignorant of the reality of the effects of alcohol, without supervision, etc. this is a bad situation. However, I also recognize the message at the center of this: we haven't been able to prevent underage drinking, so we should allow it.
Consider that... we outlaw underage drinking--thus it is presumably bad--but because we haven't done well at preventing it, we should just allow it.
From the sound of the article, this likely won't come to pass. Still, the attitude irks me immensely. They hope to alleviate the dangers of underage drinking, not by enforcing the laws against it more strictly (which most certainly can be done), but by simply encouraging it to come out into the open, where "responsible" drinkers can keep an eye on the youth.
In my afore-linked post on alcohol I made it perfectly evident that I don't think drinking is a sin; there are nuances to the position, of course, but I'll stop there. Here, allow me to draw out quickly my other main sentiment regarding drinking: I think it should be totally outlawed.
That's right, I'm a prohibitionist.
Considering I've already explained that I don't think drinking is a sin--unlike my prohibitionist ancestors of the 1920s--one may wonder why I hold such a conviction. The answer to that is fairly simple, and it's grounded solely in my own experiences and observations of life. The answer is this: I feel that the pleasures of drinking cannot be justified when brought up against the often-negative results of it.
I don't have any up-to-date numbers from research in front of me to buttress my position, but they're actually entirely unnecessary. If one person dies in a year because of drunk driving, if there is one death from binge drinking, if one marriage is destroyed because of alcoholism, then the pleasures of drinking are no longer justified, and, of course, all three of these criteria are met. Is an individual's enjoying of a good brew reason enough to allow for there tragedies? Absolutely not. I also hardly need point out that these aren't the only sort of tragic ends that can come from alcohol consumption.
Legal drinking ages are in place to try and prevent such things. The thought behind them is that the older, wiser, more responsible individual will be able to discern (despite their impaired judgement) when to stop, what not to do. Living in a college town with more than 10,000 'responsible' legal drinkers of 21, I can assure you that there is nothing magic about that number. There's no age at which one suddenly can handle whatever is thrown at them or suddenly makes wise decisions. Alcoholics can be found of all ages. My solution? Prohibit alcohol use entirely. (Note: I have no issue to take with alcoholic substances used in certain Christian--and perhaps other--religious observances; the two scenarios simply aren't comparable)
Yes, this is unfair to those who are responsible drinkers. No, I don't care. They can go explain to every widow or orphan of alcohol-related tragedies out there why they should still be able to drink, how they propose to fix the problem. Once that group has been converted, I'll begin to listen to what they have to say. Some folks would counter my reasoning with something like this: 'Oh, but can't cholesterol kill? Should we go ahead and outlaw all unhealthy food?' That's not necessarily a bad idea, but I don't think the analogy holds. Alcohol is already controlled substance in our society, i.e. we've already designated it as something harmful that must be regulated. Once we see that regulation doesn't sufficiently filter out the negative consequences the next logical step is to make the regulation more strict. My solution is the logical extreme... and unlike most people with most arguments, I'm perfectly fine with it.
If those countering my suggestion brought up cigarettes, I would just concur that they should be prohibited.
Again, this is not a strictly religious issue--a disclaimer for all those who would immediately attack it for that very reason, if it were--while my religious convictions do look towards the alleviation of suffering, that is not the only drive here. This is a humanitarian issue, and I just hope to see everyone honestly take some time to ponder it.