And The Award For Least Libertarian Reason Article Goes To...

Steve Chapman, arguing against lowering the drinking age to 18.

There are other arguments for lowering the age. Maybe the most popular is that if you're old enough to join the Army and die for your country, you're old enough to buy a beer. But there is a good reason to avoid such blind consistency. Among the qualities that make 18-year-olds such good soldiers are their fearlessness and sense of immortality—traits that do not mix well with alcohol.

Maybe, if we assume as Chapman does, that all or most 18-year-olds are fearless and do not yet have a rational sense of their own mortality, then this is a good reason to prohibit 18-year-olds from making life-or-death decisions such as... joining the military?

Has Chapman been cribbing off of MADD talking points?

"These kids are malleable. They will follow the leader, they don’t think for themselves, and they are the last ones I want to say, ‘Here’s a gun, and here’s a beer.’ They are not adult; that’s why they’re in the military. They are not adults."

—Candy Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, on lowering the drinking age for military personnel, Fox News, April 7

Or enjoy this gem of collectivist thinking:

Why permit 18-year-olds to vote but not drink? Because they have not shown a disproportionate tendency to abuse the franchise, to the peril of innocent bystanders.

Try this one on for size, Steve. Suppose I collect some statistics showing that people of Irish heritage have a disproportionate tendency (relative to non-Irish) to abuse alcohol, to the peril of innocent bystanders. Is that a reason to deny alcohol to the Irish?

Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community, I've been drinking alcohol (semi-responsibly) since as long as I can remember. Four cups of wine on Passover; Manischewitz (blechh), Crown Royal, and Chivas for Saturday afternoon kiddish; and the annual binge drink-fest that is Purim.

By the time I turned 21, alcohol just didn't hold much appeal to me anymore. I long ago learned my limits, and as enjoyable as that drunk buzz can be, it just isn't worth the embarrassment, hassle, and expense - not to mention the hangover. Sure, I still drink at social gatherings, but if I want to get totally smashed, I roll up a fat blunt - which is enormously safer health-wise (and cheaper) than binge drinking.

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Libertarians will always disagree about age limits

Where to draw the line between childhood and adulthood? Maturation is gradual so biology isn't all that much help, and libertarian doctrine isn't much help either.

But Chapman isn't even

But Chapman isn't even making libertarian-sounding arguments here. He's trying to justify legal irrationalities by quoting Oliver Wendall Holmes, for goodness sake. That's my job!

Everyone Disagrees About Age Limits

I agree. If rough, collectivist regularities aren't a means to mark the line between adulthood and childhood, what do you suggest, Micha? Or are you entirely against rules that differentiate by age?

If rough, collectivist

If rough, collectivist regularities aren't a means to mark the line between adulthood and childhood

If you want to pick an arbitrary number to mark the line between adulthood and childhood, pick one. ONE. Not fifteen. Don't prosecute underage perpetrators of violence for adult crimes as adults if you aren't willing to make the same sort of exceptions for underage drinkers.

Further, the purpose of arbitrary number picking is to reduce judicial transaction costs. Fine. But one can have these same benefits while still allowing room for individual differences, by merely shifting the burden of proof depending upon the age cut-off.

Roderick Long and Tom Knapp go into greater detail at their respective links.

What's truly infuriating about this particular issue (alcohol) is that current laws prohibit parents and universities from introducing alcohol into young people's lives in a responsible way. That's what sparked this Chapman article - university administrators coming out against the current laws, arguing that the prohibition is making their jobs more difficult and alcohol use less responsible. That's a good sign that the current arbitrary number is set too high, and that if an arbitrary number does need to be chosen, it should only apply in cases where a parent, university official, or other responsible party isn't present, rather than override their more local judgment, as it currently does.

Ok, I addressed only one

Ok, I addressed only one complaint of yours: the collectivism of it. You don't seem to be defending that, except for here: "But one can have these same benefits while still allowing room for individual differences, by merely shifting the burden of proof depending upon the age cut-off." But burden shifting at a particular age seems just as collectivist as criminalizing at a certain age.

But burden shifting at a

But burden shifting at a particular age seems just as collectivist as criminalizing at a certain age.

Just as collectivist? No, since a rebuttable presumption allows room for exceptions, while an arbitrary statute does not.

Also, notice that Chapman isn't assuming the age of adulthood based on emotional or psychological maturity. His sole basis for favoring 21 over 18 seems to be driver fatality statistics. So even on libertarians grounds, his argument fails, since he isn't arguing that 18-year-olds are incapable of acting rationally, only that things would be "safer" if all of them were denied that option. Which is probably also true if we raised the minimum drinking age to 115.