An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Misplaced Societal Priorities of US Public Policy

US can indeed seem to be a crazy place for an outsider! Drinking age thing is a good example. So, 18 year olds can vote, go to war, get married, adopt children, sign legal documents, etc. So why can’t they have a beer? Is that crazy or what? I personally do not drink, but it is the basic thought process that is getting screwed up as far as public policy is concerned.

Another example – Talk about drugs – say cannabis – or sexual messages in media, and you will find every politician clammering to put a ban on such things in the US. Talk about the doctrine of "Personal Freedom" in these things and you get epic arguments on how such things are bad for the society.

Then talk of ban on Guns. And you get epic arguments on "Personal Freedom" this time. Cannabis can at best get a person out for a while and maybe addicted and lose money.. HIS money and HIS life at worst! What about the guns? Well, did you hear about Virginia Tech recently?

That is how screwed up the entire societal discourse is in the US at this moment. But oh well!

PUBLIC policy often illustrates the law of unintended consequences. Societys complexity — multiple variables with myriad connections — often causes the consequences of a policy to be contrary to, and larger than, the intended ones. So, when assessing government actions, one should be receptive to counterintuitive ideas. One such is John McCardells theory that a way to lower the incidence of illness, mayhem and death from alcohol abuse by young people is to lower the drinking age.

McCardell, 57, president emeritus of Middlebury College in Vermont and professor of history there, says alcohol is and always will be a reality in the lives of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds. Studies indicate that the number of college students who drink is slightly smaller than it was 10 years ago, largely because of increased interest in healthy living. But in the majority who choose to drink, there have been increases of binge drinking and other excesses. Hospitalizations of 18- to 20-year-olds for alcohol poisoning have risen in those 10 years.

This, McCardell believes, is partly because the drinking age of 21 has moved drinking to settings away from parental instruction and supervision. Among college students, drinking has gone off campus and underground, increasing risks while decreasing institutions abilities to manage the risks.

Although all 50 states ban drinking by persons under 21, technically there is no national drinking age.

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