The Point: Lack of justice for “adults”

One of the most basic ideas of U.S. law is that minors do not have full rights under the law. However, inversely, once a person turns 18, he/she is generally assumed to have the full slate of freedoms granted to American citizens. These include the right to join the military, and therefore, the right to fight, die and kill for America; the right to drive a multi-ton automotive machine with the capability to harm or kill multiple people with one wrong turn of the wheel; the ability to be charged as an adult in court; and the right to help decide the future of the nation itself through voting. These are all very significant abilities for any person to have, and not only do all of them have serious, sometimes deadly effects, but they also indicate the fact that the government considers 18-year-olds to be responsible enough to handle these large responsibilities.

Therefore, it is downright illogical that the government should deny 18-year-olds the right to consume alcohol, which is reserved for those 21 and older. The right to consume alcohol is not only far less dangerous than many other rights gained at age 18 or before, but it is also a basic human right that no government should be able to deny its people.

There are arguments against lowering the drinking age. Some say that alcohol can have a dangerous effect on young people, while some believe that if those under 21 used alcohol, they would commit more crimes and be involved in more accidents. There are those who simply believe that young people can’t make good decisions, and therefore, they shouldn’t be allowed to decide whether or not to drink alcohol.

Considering some of the other rights 18-year-olds have shows how absurd these arguments are. The right to join the military involves the possibility of being on a battlefield with bullets, bombs and shrapnel all posing very real threats to soldiers’ lives. It involves being in a situation where a recruit may have to end another human being’s life. Both of those circumstances can have a much worse effect on a young person’s life through death or PTSD than a glass of beer can.

It’s true that the mix of teens, alcohol and cars could be a problem. Drinking and driving is a serious issue. However, many of the people who are willing to break the law and drive under the influence are also willing to break the law and drink before they reach 21 the drinking age doesn’t affect them. And it’s not like teenagers don’t already have issues with their driving habits; indeed, there are many less intelligent young persons who find that driving is a good activity to pair with texting and social media. If the government truly wanted to make sure teens were safe behind the wheel, they’d ban all cell phone usage and ownership before the age of 21.

Yes, many people of ages 18 to 20 are very bad at making good decisions. However, if the government is going to use this reasoning as an excuse to prohibit them from using alcohol, then it should probably also prohibit them from voting after all, if a person can’t make good decisions, why are they allowed to help decide the future of the nation and its very well-being? The fact that 18-year-olds can vote is a testament to the fact that the government believes that those under 21 can make good decisions, and therefore, the whole “they can’t make good drinking decisions” argument is rendered moot.

In the end, though, the drinking age laws are completely useless. The laws are aimed at stopping abuse of alcohol by young persons; however, the teenagers who are likely to abuse it are going to drink alcohol anyway, regardless of the laws. The only people the drinking age is hurting are those who are going to be responsible with alcohol and obey the law.

Alcohol is not some new concept, either; its consumption is a tradition that spans millennia. Alcohol is as much an aspect of humanity as cooking or economics, and to deny it to a portion of the population is a blatant violation of human rights.