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Old Enough to Serve, Old Enough to Drink

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Old Enough to Serve, Old Enough to Drink"

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(cc photo by viZZZual.com)

(cc photo by viZZZual.com)

Here’s a bipartisan initiative I could get behind:

Younger troops have grumbled for years that America trusts them to carry a weapon and fight for freedom overseas, but until age 21 they can’t be trusted with a bottle of beer. Now a Georgia lawmaker is looking at changing that.

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., introduced legislation recently which would allow servicemembers as young as 18 to enjoy alcoholic drinks at restaurants or clubs on any stateside military base. The bill would not allow anyone under 21 to buy carry-out cases of beer from base stores or allow younger troops to keep beer in their barracks.

Of course what would be even better would be to more systematically revisit the policy that led to this absurd outcome. The idea of raising the drinking age to 21 was that it would prevent drunk driving. But there are a whole variety of contexts in which this isn’t a relevant consideration. Where I grew up, for example, kids never owned cars. It would make sense to allow a lot more local variation in this policy, so that decisions can be made that relate to actual circumstances. And insofar as the drunk driving is the target here, the policy should be more tailored to driving.

Like maybe a 19 year-old should be allowed to choose between a license to drive and a license to drink? A fair number of 18, 19, and 20 year-olds are in an institutional setting—be it a military base or a college campus—where it’s more plausible to imagine separating them from the need to drive around at night than from their desire to have a beer.

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