I agree with almost nothing John Hood, top dog at the John Locke Foundation, has to say. But after thinking through his column today on government policies on alcohol, I have to conclude that he's more right than wrong. The column came to my attention via Rob Schofield, who properly took issue with the predictable extremism.
Having said this, the notion that modern society should simply do away with almost all alcohol regulation is, in a word, nuts.
Nuts is right. Hood goes too far by half in his zeal to infuse our culture with all things Libertarian.
The only laws about alcohol that should remain on the books are these:
- No one under the age of 18 should be permitted to purchase alcoholic beverages.
- Anyone who gets drunk and injures or kills another because of it – like what happened so tragically over the weekend to a young Carolina Ballet dancer here in Raleigh – should receive a draconian sentence.
- Anyone selling alcohol beverages should be required to label their products accurately.
Hood's wrong about the drinking age. It should remain at 21. There is ample evidence that adolescent brains, even into late teens, are undergoing rapid and important development. Alcohol can have permanent and irreversible effects.
On the other hand, he's right about the need for draconian sentences for crimes involving alcohol. Just as we have special categories of offenses that involve firearms, so too should we have categories of offenses involving alcohol.
On the other other hand, I don't get the glib imposition of government requirements on product labeling. That's not the freedom way at all! Why shouldn't a guy be able to crank out moonshine and sell it without government supervision? No one requires truth-in-labeling from your local lemonade stand, do they? What's the difference?
Your kids could be drinking spiked juice and never know it.
Some of this post is snark, but most of it's not. I do agree with Hood about the insanity of an army of law enforcers who's main mission in life is to keep adults from drinking and drugs. Our state's approach to dealing with alcohol seems fundamentally flawed, as is our nation's approach to the War on Drugs. In both instances, we seem to be exercising American exceptionalism at is very worst.
The state of North Carolina should not be an active partner in the business of regulating alcohol consumption by adults. It's our job to slap all the taxes on booze we can get away with, keep young people from frying their brains, and make sure that people who break laws under the influence end up in appropriate treatment - whether that be jail or rehab.