The recent news about the Amethyst Initiative, in which a number of college and university presidents are calling for a lowering of the drinking age from 21, has sparked a bunch of discussion. Jake Young and Mark Kleiman have good contributions.
There are two main arguments against lowering the drinking age:
1) Raising the drinking age to 21 led to a decrease in drunk-driving fatalities
2) Lowering the age to 18 would mean a rampant increase in high school drunkenness, as there are a fair number of 18-year-old high school students.
Just in the interests of being provocative, let me throw out a couple of modest proposals that would address these concerns while also addressing the concerns of the college presidents calling for a lower age:
1) If drunk-driving by 18-year-olds is the concern, lower the drinking age to 18, but raise the driving age to 21. This would have all sorts of beneficial effects beyond stopping teen DUI– it would encourage the use of public transportation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and free up lots of parking on campus.
2) If drinking by high-schoolers is the concern, lower the drinking age to 18, but only for high school graduates. You don’t graduate, you have to wait until you’re 21, or get your GED. That gets students who can buy booze out of the schools, and encourages kids to stay in school.
There you go– problem solved…