The Sun-Times took a stand Thursday. Said the editorial page, “It is often said — but it really is true — that if a young man or young woman is old enough to fight and possibly die for their country, they’re old enough to have a drink.” It really is true, is it? Well, then, I guess I’d be wasting my time rounding up facts that argue the opposite. Instead, let’s run with the idea. An 18-year-old in America should be allowed to drink — if he or she enlists in the army. Perhaps we can advance this fine idea another step and make it public policy that any 18-year-old caught drinking face a choice: prison or enlistment.
But there are other things some of us do for our country. It seems to me that if a young man or young woman is old enough to win a gold medal for their country, they’re old enough to drink. That would bring the drinking age down to 16. In China it would be 13.
Throwing a wrinkle into its own logic, the Sun-Times editorial said that even though teenagers are old enough to drink at 18 the legal drinking age should be 19. It seems a lot of 18-year-olds are in high school, “which creates another set of issues.” I can’t say from reading the Sun-Times what those issues are, but Steve Chapman went into them Thursday in his Tribune column. Chapman rounded up some facts and figures, did some thinking instead of postulating, and concluded the drinking age should stay where it is. Chapman’s libertarian rule of thumb is the fewer laws the better, so when he examines a law and says it’s OK, it’s hard to disagree.