September 7, 2005
I just finished reading a guest editorial about the South Carolina Supreme Court’s reported efforts to curtail underage drinking, and it got me thinking about how screwed-up our government really is when it comes to age and responsibility.
The article states that the court’s recent ruling would allow “civil as well as criminal penalties for those individuals whose transfer of alcohol to minors results in death or injury.” Additionally, the article states, “Alcohol is not a kid's drink, plain and simple. That's the reason South Carolina’s drinking age is 21.”
I have a big problem with that, but not for the reasons you might think.
In 1986, the state government raised the legal drinking age to 21, supposedly because youngsters below that age are not responsible, or wise, enough to drink responsibly. If that’s the case, why are children expected to be responsible adults in other areas of the law and society?
For example, our children can sign up for military service when they’re 17. They can even start down that road when they’re barely teen-aged, through ROTC programs on government-run, middle school campuses.
They can join the military, complete boot camp, learn to use various types of weaponry and expensive equipment, get shipped off to fight in a foreign land for a year, then return home and still not be old enough to enter certain nightclubs or buy a cold beer. Something’s just not right about that.
When it comes to breaking the law, someone please explain to me how no one under 21 is adult-enough to buy alcohol, but the courts can determine that a thirteen-year-old is adult-enough to stand trial and go to prison for the rest of his life.
In order to eliminate government hypocrisy in these areas, we should administer a simple test to all those who are under 21 when they are on trial, want to go into the military, or join the ROTC program. The test would determine if they were adult-enough to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages, and if they failed the test they could not be tried as an adult in court, could not enter the military, or join an ROTC program until they turned 21.
Government can’t throw out fairness, simply because it stands to gain—a new recruit or an additional prosecution—from doing so.