Science Daily asks “When Are Minimum Legal Drinking-age And Beer-tax Policies The Most Effective?” in reporting on a new study about to be published in the May issue of “Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.” The study, “The Joint Impact of Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Beer Taxes on US Youth Traffic Fatalities, 1975-2001,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a government agency and branch of the N.I.H. Their mission statement is to “provide leadership in the national effort to reduce alcohol-related problems.”
The study looked at the two most common ways in which government has tried to reduce alcohol-related societal problems: through the minimum drinking age and raising taxes on beer (notice how wine and spirits get yet another pass?). Most significant is the finding that “[w]hen it is illegal for youth to buy and consume beer — as it is now in all 50 US states — higher beer taxes are less effective.” Hear that Oregon legislators (and every other state official trying to extort money from small brewers)?
“Our findings suggest that some of the varying results across past research may simply indicate that a given public policy may not have the same effectiveness in all places and times,” said William R. Ponicki, one of the study’s authors. What that doublespeak means is essentially that for any given policy decision, many other factors determine whether the policy will work as intended or not. It’s not just a simple matter that raising the drinking age will cure underage drinking or that making beer more expensive will either. And that’s just looking at two very broad factors. Imagine all the others at work but not examined, such as peer pressure, alcohol’s perception in our culture, accessibility, and on and on.
What that suggests to me is that MADD and the other neo-prohibitionists were and are misguided in pushing for a higher minimum drinking age, tougher access for legal adults, higher taxes for alcoholic beverages and all the other harebrained ideas on their agenda without having any real notion of how they’ll effect society or even if they have a chance of working. There’s absolutely no reason that legal adults should have to pay more for legal products or have a harder time legally buying them, especially when such measures have not been shown to be effective in reducing any perceived problems. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of being in their petri dish of experimental legislation to mold society to their wishes. It’s my world, too. And yours, as well. We should try to remember that, I think, when fanatics try to remake it for their own benefit and worldview.