The Temporary Solution to a Permanent Problem:
The National Drinking Age.
I am not the first person to discuss this topic; and to be honest I'm probably not the only one who will write about this in class. But none the less, of all of the problems that I see in the spectrum of public policy, there are few if any that concern me as much as this. I am referring to the stereotypical hallmark of the Fraternity and college scene, alcohol, but in the case of public policy, the "national drinking age."
So how is it that the "national drinking age" is a public policy problem? It is a problem due to the fact that it was instituted for the wrong reasons, it was enforced in almost a fascist sense, it is a poor solution, and it is a waste of money trying to uphold it. This law affects everyone in this country whether it is realized or not.
As a college student, and a member of a Fraternity, I can't go more than an hour without coming near or being reminded of alcohol. Even at the dorms, with their zero-tolerance policy, I was surrounded by it during my freshman year. But why; why is it that on college campuses alcohol is such a big deal? I truly believe that it is due to the fact that until the age of 21, it is illegal for one to buy, sell, consume, or possess alcohol. There is no doubt in my mind that if we were introduced to alcohol at an earlier age, and in a controlled environment, that there would be less of a desire to have it. Let's face it, everyone at some point or another in life is drawn to deviant behavior. Whether deviant from ones parents, authority figures, or both in this case, nothing adds excitement more so than knowing you are going against the mores of society.
In the early 1980's, traffic deaths among people under the age of 21 was high (a large portion being alcohol related), and due to the nature of the issue, people demanded action fast. Instead of funding research and determining multiple reasons why these deaths were so high, the United States immediately assumed that the problem was a product of the drinking age (this being the first problem). Thus the U.S. acted accordingly on this false assumption and made a law enforcing a 21 year old drinking age. By law the minimum age of consumption of alcoholic beverages is set by each state independently, herein lays the second problem. To ensure state cooperation, states with a drinking age lower than 21 would be cut off from federal highway funding. Needless to say every state quickly complied with this financial tribulation, even if it was completely against what state law-makers believed. The fact is that alone, these states would suffer massively if they did not receive this funding.
This decision, although seemingly logical at first, failed to take into account other possible causes of the problem. Not to say that it was...