On Happiness, Age & Drinking

When was the last time you saw someone or read an honest argument for the obvious fact that the drinking age in America should be 18 years old?

This idea is absolutely fringe at this point. Only the most ensconced politician in a district that supported them by 80% of the vote in their last election would even broach the subject…and even then they might lose.

The argument is simple enough. An 18 year old may fight and die in combat. An 18 year old may sit on a jury and pronounce their fellow citizens guilty or note. And 18 year old may vote, the most important right any American holds.

Yet, they may not lift, by law, a glass of Pinot Noir.

The argument against a lower drinking age has been a simple one: "If you drink, you will die."

It’s pretty stark.

I got thinking about the drinking age in America upon reading two things: The Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America’s (WSWA) support for H.R. 864, The Sober Truth On Preventing Underage Drinking Act ("The STOP Act”) and the venerable George Saintsbury’s eloquent defense of drink.

But let’s star with WSWA. HR 864 is a law that would essentially ask the federal government to do more to motivate minors not to drink. It creates report cards on states’ efforts in this regard, provides funding for media campaigns, and creates more committees. All for $2,000,000 per year. The WSWA, the wine wholesalers lobbying group, has made a bit of a push lately to see HR 864 passed before congress adjourns in a week or so. I don’t know if it will pass. But, I do know that WSWA’s support for the law is disingenuous.

This is the first paragraph of a form letter they’ve asked a number of folks to fill out and send to their congressperson:

"We should all be concerned about underage access to alcohol, and limiting Internet alcohol sales will help curb minors’ access to this controlled substance."

"Limiting Internet Access".

Even when WSWA appears to be supporting simple legislation to educate people, they can’t help but make a pitch to consumers to help them save their own hide. The entire bill, all 2,734 words, has exactly ONE reference to Internet sales of alcohol. Just one. Yet, WSWA appears to believe this one reference that asks the government to provide a report annually on what states are doing to regulate Internet sales, is the most important thing about the entire bill.

Time after time WSWA has been schooled when they attempt to push Internet sales of wine out of existence. They get spanked when they go to court. They get paddled when they try to release bogus polls. Yet they keep trying to sell the idea that kids are buying wine on the Internet and it must be stopped.

If WSWA is going to be so blatantly and transparently self serving, even when they attempt to portray themselves as the do gooders, they might as well just be completely transparent and lobby for a reduction in the drinking age to 18.  In approach would have the benefit of allowing them to be self serving (more people to legally sell wine too) as well as support for a positive, logical agenda (bringing our drinking age laws in line with the most important expectations we have for younger folk).

Ah…But then there is Mr. Saintsbury, a man I’d bet drank long before he was 18 and probably did it legally. And, a man of some literary girth.

George Saintsbury is among the famed wine writers to ever set pen to paper. He is was an EnglishGsaintsbury
fellow who wrote, talk and apparently educated many about wine. H.W. Yoxall, who studied Saintsbury and was himself a student and witer of wine described him as

"a man quirky, perhaps and sometimes gruff, though of a general pleasant dry humour; very much what people call ‘a character;’ but always kind and generous to any youngster who showed an interest i any of his interests. And does not this personality emerge from every page of the Notes?"

"The Notes" is of course Saintsbury’s famed "Notes on a Cellar Book", (1920) his great book on the wines he loved, drank and how to drink them.

I’ve been reading Saintsbury of late. And I found myself continually going back to his brilliant defense of drinking wine. I was reminded of it upon reading about WSWA’s defense of making sure more people don’t drink wine. Saintsbury’s defense goes like this:

"One may…boldly say, with a certainty of saying the truth, that for every evil deed that fact or fancy or the unscrupulous exaggeration of partisans can charge on alcohol, it has prompted a hundred good and kind ones; that for every life it has destroyed or spoiled it has made thousands happy; that much of the best imaginative work of the world has been due to its influence."

I’m in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18, if only to assure that many thousands more find happiness earlier.

One Response

  1. David - September 27, 2006

    It is interesting that people think that by prohibiting something they can reduce the usage. I would use grappa on my children’s gums while teething, each child sucked on a finger dipped in spumante on new year’s eve, wine was at every meal, and my kids drink rarely, the understand good wine, they do not like liquor, drink beer only with pizza and liquor is not the basis of a good party.
    Well that may be only my kids but all their friends are the same. Prohibit something and rebellion kicks in. How about families teaching what to drink and moderation instead of legislating something that the government cannot begin to control.

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