Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1-30-08: Military Underage Drinking and States' Rights

I've heard this saying many times before: "How is it fair to have some one die for their country but not be able to legally have a beer?" Well, Representative Fletcher Smith of South Carolina (I'm pretty sure he's a state representative) is taking that saying to heart and doing something about it.

I don't see this as a Republican vs. Democrat issue (although Reagan was President when the drinking age in South Carolina was brought back to 21 back in 1984). I see this as an issue of common sense. To say "It's the best thing for the state as it increases safety," is bullshit, since most states only have the law so that they continue to receive federal funds. This goes back to what I call "soft lawmaking," which is when a state is pressured into changing its laws for fear of losing federal money for schools or highways. It's OK to say it's all about the money. At least it's honest. But when it's brought out as a moral obligation, it just gets on my nerves.

What Fletcher Smith is doing is pretty remarkable. I commend him for the effort, since I firmly believe in states' rights.

The article is short, and misses the point completely. Here's one paragraph that really shows it:

"Safety advocates oppose the Greenville Democrat's bill. They say many studies show that giving alcohol to people younger than 21 does not make life safer for the military, nor for others on the nation's highways."

Oh what brilliance must have gone in to these studies! Underage drinking isn't safer than it's alternative? I hope the leader of the study wins a goddamn Nobel Peace Prize for his breakthrough. The whole point of what Smith is doing isn't to make life safer, it's to show that the country shows some appreciation for its troops. I doubt the bill will go through, as neither party will be keen on losing federal highway money, but I'll be happier knowing somebody out there in a state congress has the gall to stand up for state rights.

I'm not for underage drinking, however. This could virtually be anything, like give an extra state tax break for military members and their families. It just so happens to be something that wasn't brought up by South Carolina; it was brought up by the Federal Government. If a state feels that it's based solely, or at least mostly, on a safety issue, that's fine. But it's not. South Carolina changed its existing law, which had previously been changed to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18, in order to reflect a federal mandate. Until states stop relying on federal funds, laws like that won't get changed. It's probably safer in the end, but that's debatable. There are enough drunk drivers over the age of 21 to show that selling it at that age prevents drunk driving in general.

Come on, South Carolina. Let the soldiers have a beer. If they're willing to lose life and limb because some other country can't manage itself properly, why not let them have one back in a country that doesn't have IEDs all over the place? There are enough safeguards in existence today to keep drunk drivers off the road that I'm sure any issues that could possibly come up are either present today and are impossible to resolve (like really good fake ID's) or manageable (like cutting people off at a bar).

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