A lot of people (particularly libertarians or Europhiles) find it ridiculous that the legal drinking age in the U.S is 21. Some speak nostalgically of the days when places like Wisconsin let teens drink, before the feds threatened to withhold highway funding. In their discussion of alcohol in “Crime and Human Nature”, Wilson & Herrnstein notes that highway fatalities dropped after those states raised their limits. I remember having to get a new driver’s license with a red-stripe that showed I was of drinking age (I think this was a recent change, as I had been able to buy with my old license after turning 21 for a while). It now occurs to me that we could give teens an offer: either they can drink or they can drive. If you live in a city and don’t need a car, who cares if you drink? We shouldn’t have to treat them the same as teens that place a higher priority on driving. And if we can expect cashiers to distinguish such stripes, surely traffic cops can be relied on to detect a signifier for driving eligibility.
This title was inspired by a famous P. J. O’Rourke quote.