Camille Paglia’s Take On The Minimum Drinking Age

While I don’t often opine about America’s idiotic minimum drinking age, one of the oldest in the civilized world, I do believe it should be 18 for a variety of reasons. Author Camille Paglia, in the current issue of Time magazine, had a rather forceful, nicely angry piece on why she believes It’s Time to Let Teenagers Drink Again, which is the title in print. Online it’s called The Drinking Age Is Past Its Prime.

She’s pulling no punches, and believes it should be “repealed,” if indeed that’s even the right way to change it. She writes: “It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.” I don’t necessarily agree with everything she has to say, but enough. Plus it’s great to see such an unabashed argument in favor of relaxing that particular law in so mainstream a media outlet.

But my favorite line is the way she characterizes alcohol’s positive attributes. “Alcohol relaxes, facilitates interaction, inspires ideas and promotes humor and hilarity.” She concludes.

Alcohol’s enhancement of direct face-to-face dialogue is precisely what is needed by today’s technologically agile generation, magically interconnected yet strangely isolated by social media. Clumsy hardcore sexting has sadly supplanted simple hanging out over a beer at a buzzing dive. By undermining the art of conversation, the age-21 law has also had a disastrous effect on our arts and letters, with their increasing dullness and mediocrity. This tyrannical infantilizing of young Americans must stop!

Here, here. Few things in society are better than the simple pleasure of sharing a beer with friends. I didn’t realize it was improving our nation’s “arts and letters,” but hey, I’ll go with it.



  1. Beerman49 says

    I’m with her all the way, but I think she missed part of it reason-wise. MADD was a loud but small blip on the radar then – what’s ironic is that MADD’s based in Texas, where one could, in LBJ’s day, drive around while drinking alcohol from an open container (as was true in many other states).

    The law was a “carrot & stick” perversion tied to Federal funding of Interstate & other US hwys (by then, all the major Interstates had been around for 15-20 yrs). Comply ASAP, & the $$ flowed; until the states did – nada. The only “good” side of it was that anyone who was 18 when the law took effect got “grandfathered” in – so you saw signs (as I did in NYC in 1985) stating that you had to be born before month/day/1966 to be legal. Louisiana was the last holdout; they capitulated 1987-88.

    CA (where I lived as a kid & have lived since late 1978) & a few other states always had 21 as minimum age; others had 18-19 for beer & wine/up to 20% ABV. NY was 18 for everything; NJ reduced min age for all alcohol to 18 from 21 late 60’s early/70’s. When I turned 18 (1967) I lived in MD (7-8 miles from DC, where 18 was the min age for beer & wine); it didn’t reduce min age to 18 for beer & wine until 1972.

    That an 18-yr-old can do all the things she mentioned but not buy beer/wine anywhere or a 10-20% ABV mixed drink in a bar is patently absurd! Buying booze is the only area where 18 might not be such a good idea – but those < 21 always have found ways to get it.

    What's been lacking forever is sensible parental & school training about alcohol, which are the subjects groups like MADD & Alcohol Justice pretty much ignore in their proaganda.

  2. handsomerandyblackladbrad1953 says

    I guess Paglia doesn’t know my macho,pot-smiking buds,who’d be exceptions to her
    “feminized,pot-smoking men” crack.Still,she’s right about the 18-year-old drinking age in THE U.S.,which was the work of the Moral Majority and high school principals.
    ((Though I wonder if Ms. Paglia would have dated one of those jazz muscians,most


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>