We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

It is about metacontext

I vote for the fifth option, which is “There should not be a drinking age”, on the basis that it is none of the government’s damn business.

30 comments to It is about metacontext

  • Dom

    Sometimes I think libertarians don’t believe half of what they say. For example, this drinking age business. If you have a 12 year old son, and someone is selling him drugs or alcohol, I’m pretty certain you want the state to stop it.

  • RAB

    Hell Yes!
    It’s not a drinking age
    you should be worrying about
    but one that doesn’t stand their round!

  • RAB

    Missed your post Dom.
    Close crossover time.

    No. If someone is selling my kids drugs or alcohol
    the last people I need in the picture are the government or their quangoised substitutes.

    I would simply say
    I must have raised a stupid child!

    You know that my and ya das prices are the cheapest on the block!

    Away wi ya yer numpty!

  • “If you have a 12 year old son, and someone is selling him drugs or alcohol, I’m pretty certain you want the state to stop it.”

    That’s what you think.

  • If your 12 year old is buying booze and drugs and you want someone else to stop it then…

    Jeezuzzzzz!!! I can’t say more on this without defenestrating things.

  • James

    If you have a 12 year old son, and someone is selling him drugs or alcohol, I’m pretty certain you want the state to stop it.

    Well, it might save him from raiding my stash…

  • Laird

    “Away wi ya yer numpty!”

    ???

    More seriously, as is usual with this type of silly “survey” the question is badly phrased. There should be no “drinking age” at home; if I want to give my 12-year-old son wine with dinner (as my father did with me), I see nothing wrong with that, and it’s no one else’s business. But I don’t have a problem with society setting an age-based standard for permitting minors to purchase alcohol (or tobacco, or even other recreational drugs in a hypothetical libertarian society which has abandoned the “war on drugs”). Children, by definition, lack the emotional maturity we should expect of people who are risking harm to themselves by ingesting such substances. There is no “magic age” at which they attain such maturity, and more than there is for attaining legal competence (to execute contracts, for example), so having a “default” age at which such competence or maturity is presumed is, I think, not unreasonable. I would set it at 18. If that makes me a failed libertarian, so be it.

  • Dom, you oviously have no idea who you’re talking to. Parents should hold the sole responsibility of bringing their children up andteaching them to take over such responsibilites when said parent feels they are ready for it. Leaving such things to the state is asking for uyour children to be infanilised for the rest of their lives and afraid of doing anything without the permission of the state.

    The state always makes a very bad parent. Just look at the state of the majority of kids brought up by social workers.

  • apologies for the typos, I have just got a new keyboard and am still getting used to it.

  • Laird

    What, they rearranged the letters on you?

  • Pa Annoyed

    I vote for the sixth option, that there should be a quick competence test, in which the consumer (of whatever age) demonstrates that they know exactly what the product will do to them, and what the consequences on their life will be.

    Informed consent.

    If you can still calculate your units of unmetabolised alcohol per kilo body mass ratio, you’re clearly not inebriated enough.

  • Gabriel

    Mandrill, think about this a second. Say someone offers your 14 year old son whisky. Now, if they ask your son whether he has the permission of his parents he will -assuming he’s normal – lie his butt off. Your son will become drunk and quite possibly very ill. Conceivably he might die.
    Currently such an action would be illegal; most people will agree that it should remain illegal. The onus then would appear to be on those who wish to abolish the drinking age to explain what law, either existing or proposed, would prohibit such an activity. If one or more new laws needs to be passed to replace the drinking age the onus is then once again on to explain what benefits have been gained by the Houses of Parliament expending their time and our money on making these changes.

    Laird, is it not already the case that one can give alcohol to your own child if he/she is above the age of 5?

  • K

    I can’t believe anyone looks at this as an issue of state v. individual. The depressing fact is that children mature slowly. They aren’t fully operational within a few hours like mosquitoes.

    And while maturing our young encounter temptations and guile and complexities which often defeat even experienced adults.

    A parental structure has to protect and guide and sustain the young for years. If not, the results are very unpleasant for the child and the adults and society.

    Schools and courts, in fact all adults, have a duty to prevent harm to children when the actual parent is absent. This is not a theory, it is law.

    Do you actually prefer no age of majority and no parental responsibility to children? Do you prefer the removal of even the slightest legal restraints on the young? And upon any who take advantage them?

  • Daveon

    I’m with Laird. What you do within your own family and so forth is your business. I would often have wine with family meals etc… didn’t like it much, took years to get the taste :) Likewise, if parents/guardians of the little mites want to offer the kiddies wine with meals while out, then that is their call.

    What people can buy on the open market is a different question. I’m not convinced that there is any sensible test that can be applied to the maturity of individuals to make that call so an arbitrary point of adulthood is probably the only way to make this work on a practical basis.

    What is not acceptable is the ludicrous situation we had last week with my wife’s niece, where a sensible, well mannered 18 year old, a few weeks shy of her 19 birthday and off to University in a foreign country couldn’t enjoy a glass of bubbly when out celebrating her sport’s scholarship with her parents and uncle and aunt. That’s just ridiculous.

  • Midwesterner

    US underage alcohol laws are many and varied. This table shows the states listed with their specific types of possession restrictions. Consumption is even more highly regulated. Note the number of states where not even a parent may allow to minor to possess alcohol. There are many states where wait staff may serve alcohol to a diner in a restaurant but may not get their own parent a beer or glass of wine at home (say nothing of sample any of it).

    So kids go to college to learn from other kids about responsible alcohol consumption. I served as a liaison on a food/alcohol policy committee at a major university and can assure you, this is a major problem. The university presidents are definitely on the right track but the laws definitely need to permit parents to teach responsible alcohol consumption to their children if they choose to.

    Another interesting point, the separation of church and state. In 32 states minors are prohibited from handling (much less taking) communion if real wine is used.

  • fjfjfj

    Laird:

    “Children, by definition, lack the emotional maturity…”

    Ok… That’s quite an odd definition of “children”, because it means that a 40 year old who lacks emotional maturity is a child, and an 8 year old who has the emotional maturity is not. But, that’s fine, we can work with this definition.

    But I don’t think you went on to use the definition for anything. And you can’t reason from a definition, obviously. So why did you state it?

    Gabriel:

    “Say someone offers your 14 year old son whisky. Now, if they ask your son whether he has the permission of his parents he will -assuming he’s normal – lie his butt off.”

    Yes, this would be normal, although it would also be normal (although not necessarily better) for them not to lie. Of course, if he were my son, he would have my ‘permission’, as I do not intend to pretend I own my children.

    “Your son will become drunk and quite possibly very ill. ”

    Why will he become drunk? Why wouldn’t he drink a small amount and be cautious, particularly if (as you assume, I guess) he has not drunk spirits before? That’s what I’d recommend a person trying whisky for the first time do.

    “Conceivably he might die.”

    It’s very very unlikely. He might also die riding a bicycle or going swimming. So why did you mention it?

    “Currently such an action would be illegal;”

    Wait, would it? Which part? It’s not illegal (in the UK) to offer and give alcohol to 14 year olds as a gift. Are you talking about selling alcohol to a child? If so, why would my hypothetical son get drunk to the extent that he’s even vaguely likely to die on alcohol that he’s legally bought when children rarely get so drunk that any harm results by their standards on alcohol that they’ve been legally given or (as is very common) they’ve illegally bought, even though obtaining and drinking it furtively is obviously much riskier than doing so openly?

    “most people will agree that it should remain illegal.”

    They’re wrong! :-)

    “The onus then would appear to be on those who wish to abolish the drinking age to explain what law, either existing or proposed, would prohibit such an activity.”

    This is the sentence that prompted me to reply to you.
    We only have the onus to explain it if we think it should indeed be prohibited. Given that it’s not prohibited now (and now I see you must mean gifts of alcohol as we are now talking about a hypothetical future situation where sales are not illegal), it’s quite hard to imagine why we would want it to be prohibited.

    “If one or more new laws needs to be passed to replace the drinking age the onus is then once again on to explain what benefits have been gained by the Houses of Parliament expending their time and our money on making these changes.”

    Eh? Parliament is a legislature. The whole point of it is for it to improve the law. That’s what it’s supposed to be for. We should want our laws to be so good that only small changes are worthwhile.

    If the cost of a new law is so small that the cost of passing it is relevant to, it’s a very cheap law.

  • Laird

    fjfjfj, I don’t understand your confusion. I stated that: (a) children are inherently (“by definition”) emotionally immature; (b) the decision whether to consume intoxicating spirits (or any other potentially dangerous substance) should only be made by individuals mentally capable of making it; (c) there is no magic point at which any child achieves emotional maturity; and (d) it therefore is not objectionable (to me, anyway) for society (acting in the role of parens partiae) to establish a fixed date (admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but based on observed norms) at which a child is rationally presumed to have attained the requisite level of maturity.

    It seems to me that the only part of that syllogism which could be subject to debate is (d). Rational people could argue about the actual age selected, and rational libertarians could argue that the concept of parens partiae is inherently flawed (at least, in this context) and that society has no business establishing any legal drinking age whatsoever. However, since there is certainly a societal need for a legal “age of majority” (before which one is not considered to be legally responsible for at least some of his actions), extending that concept to cover engaging in dangerous activities seems not unreasonable to me. But that’s just my opinion; obviously, there are those here who disagree.

    Also, I never attempted to offer a comprehensive definition of “children”; I merely noted one of the defining characteristics of childhood (i.e., emotional immaturity). A 40-year-old may in fact also possess that characteristic, but I would not claim that he is a child, merely “childish”. Of course, if his mental disability is severe enough we might make a legal determination that he is “incompetent”, and thus for most legal purposes he would be the equivalent of a child, but that is a very special circumstance and unrelated to the issue under discussion here.

    Gabriel, as to your question, I think the answer varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It is my understanding that, at least in some places, offering alcohol to a minor, even your own child and even in your own home, is illegal and moreover could subject you to prosecution under “child endangerment” laws. Sunfish would know better than I.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Laird,

    You’re using two different definitions of childhood, one including emotional maturity, and the other based on age.

    As you say, “the decision whether to consume intoxicating spirits (or any other potentially dangerous substance) should only be made by individuals mentally capable of making it.” You don’t specify what you mean by “capable” but I assume you’re talking about an ‘informed consent’ criterion. That’s fine. There is, of course no set time at which a person becomes informed.

    Where I lose track of you logic is in where you conclude that because there’s no fixed time, it’s therefore OK to set an arbitrary time. And further, that it is OK for the state to do it rather than a parent, who is for most other purposes the legal guardian.

    Why, if we have decided that age is not a useful measure of maturity, do we nevertheless pick an age? And what is the distinction between those situations where a parent is considered an adequate guardian, and those where the state takes priority? That there are such situations is reasonable (such as in severe parental child abuse) but where have you drawn it here?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but there are gaps in the logic.

  • fjfjfj

    “Also, I never attempted to offer a comprehensive definition of “children”; I merely noted one of the defining characteristics of childhood (i.e., emotional immaturity). ”

    Good point. So that wouldn’t mean that a forty year old could be a child, because they don’t have the other defining characteristics of children, whatever they are. Yes, that would make sense.

    But you are still saying that children are emotionally immature by definition? Wouldn’t that mean that an 8 year old who is not emotionally immature (surely conceivable even if unlikely) is not a child? Yet surely every 8 year old is a child regardless of their emotional maturity? So what does the emotional immaturity concept add to the definition?

    All I’m really saying is that the proposition that all children are emotionally immature in some sense (very nearly true for some meanings of immature, for young children, I suppose) is something you’re asserting rather than something inherent in the definition of ‘child’ as the word is commonly used and as I think you are using it in your thinking.

    “However, since there is certainly a societal need for a legal “age of majority” (before which one is not considered to be legally responsible for at least some of his actions), extending that concept to cover engaging in dangerous activities seems not unreasonable to me. ”

    I used to think this (that there was a need for an age of majority, not that it should be extended to activities deemed dangerous), because obviously children do need to be protected sometimes (but wait, don’t adults?..). However, a few years ago I read this article, which has played a big part in pursuading me that it’s not actually the case:

    http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/childrens_rights_and_the_law

    I don’t know if you’ve read it already; it really is very good.

  • Midwesterner

    Actually, as I read Laird’s comment, it is pretty clear he is talking about allowing unsupervised purchase at an arbitrary age. His exact words are “But I don’t have a problem with society setting an age-based standard for permitting minors to purchase alcohol . . .” He emphasized “purchase” by italicizing it. He would grant the parent the power to override to the state default age. I completely agree with what he is advocating if I understand him correctly.

    On a different note, I suspect ‘our’ Sunfish will probably have a busy week. But maybe not.

  • And indeed, why not? Let’s scrap laws regulating how old you can be before purchasing firearms and ammunition, driving and buying automobiles, obtaining credit cards, X-rated lolicons, and leave the decision up to the private businesses involved as to how they want to set such limits on their own.

    Okay. I can live with that, actually. As long as the parents (or in loco parentis, whoever) are held responsible for what happens while their children remain under their guardianship/wardship. And the children themselves are also held responsible.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Gregory,

    In most of those examples, the problem is the potential for harm to be done to others. In such cases, it is generally accepted that society is justified in intervening.

    The hard case is in giving consent for harm to be done to oneself. This is where informed consent comes in, and the claim that children cannot give it because they cannot meet the “informed” part.

    The essay fjfjfj links to is very interesting, and has given me some food for thought. The example of a doctor and patient, in which the patient does not understand medicine but is still judged competent to make decisions on their own treatment, shows that it is not simply understanding or its lack that sets apart children’s incompetence. I’ll have to think some more on that.

  • Laird

    Actually, Pa, I was using no definition of “child”. I was saying that the lack of emotional maturity is one characteristic of “child-ness” (is that a word?), and I was using age as a proxy for defining when an individual is deemed to no longer be considered a child. I accept the use of an essentially arbitrary number to set that age because whether it is 18 or 21 or anything else in that general range it corresponds reasonably closely to the age at which most children display an acceptable level of maturity.

    The better question is why society should establish that age. The only answers I can give you are: (1) having it infinitely variable at the discretion of individual parents would be unworkable in our complex society, since every shopkeeper would have to ask for a parental consent note before selling alcohol to a young person, and would need some means of verifying its authenticity (and yes, as Midwesterner observed, I mean this to apply only to purchases; alcohol consumption under parental supervision should be no business of the state); and (2) the long-standing western tradition (and probably in other cultures as well) is that, to some extent, everyone bears some responsibility for protecting children, which ultimately means that it is society itself (acting through the State) which makes the decision. Children are simply a special case, and both the law and our culture treat them as such. They are not just miniature adults, and are not afforded all of the rights of adults. I’m OK with that; in fact, I think it’s absolutely necessary.

    Are there flaws and gaps in my logic? Undoubtedly. Is my position unlibertarian? Perhaps; certainly it is not doctrinaire. But this is my opinion and (as best I can articulate them in a small space) the reasons I hold it. I’m comfortable for others to disagree.

  • Sunfish

    Laird, Mid, and others:
    Halfway through the convention, and so far, the menu at the taco place where I had lunch was the most interesting thing I’ve seen all week.

    What I can tell you about minors and alcohol here: it’s illegal (misdemeanor under CRS 18-13-122), UNLESS:

    1) The minor is a student in a cooking school and tastes but does not swallow, as part of his program of instruction, or

    2) The minor is inside private property, with the consent of the owner of the property, and consumes the alcohol with the consent and in the presence of his parent or guardian, or

    3) The alcohol was in a very small quantity in either candy or a hygiene product (like most mouthwashes), or

    4) The alcohol was consumed as part of a religious service.

    And then there’s a limited immunity for the minor who gets alcohol poisoning or calls 911 on behalf of someone who does, in order to encourage the kids to pick up a phone rather than leave someone to die from it.

    There’s a separate provision in the liquor code (CRS 12-47-901(1)(a.5)(I) that makes it illegal to furnish alcohol to someone under 21, but that section also specifically says that it doesn’t apply to the circumstances in the first section I outlined.

    I looked at our “Contributing to the Delinquency” statute (felony under CRS 18-6-701), and I suppose it COULD MAYBE[1] be stretched to the adult who provides alcohol to the minor, although I’ve never heard of an attempt to apply it to #2 above.

    FWIW, I agree that a child having a drink[2] under his parents’ supervision doesn’t need to be a police matter. “ZOMG Junior took Communion and had a glass of Ripple Blanc at Thanksgiving o teh noez!!1!one!”

    [1] You hear that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” While that’s true enough, it is a defense to whatever charge that there was a different provision of law specifically authorizing the defendants conduct. Which means (IMHO IANAL) that prosecuting a parent for furnishing a small amount of alcohol to his own child inside a private home would be a loser case.

    [2] Insert weasel words about “parents controlling child’s actions to prevent nuisances and disturbances” and “not enough alcohol to do physical harm” and such

  • Sunfish,

    IMHO IANAL

    “In my humble opinion I anal”?

    huh!

    Laird,
    Society itself can do things without the State which is I suspect what this is all about.

  • Nick M: I presume you know it means I Am Not A Lawyer and was just dicking around with Sunfish. Well, let me just sit by the sidelines, if you don’t mind.

    Pa Annoyed: Like I said, I’m actually fine with the areas as I’ve described. I’d loved to have had credit cards when I was younger, and definitely my Dad had me ‘drive’ (okay, steer) his car when I was 7-8. And all young’uns should know how to handle guns safely, no?

    Everything always has a potential to harm others. It is not reason enough. You should NEED to prove that it PREDOMINANTLY has NO beneficial effect before banning stuff. Who am I damaging by reading lolicons, for instance? Certainly not any real children.

    I will admit I was originally going to use the slippery slope argument, but halfway through, I started thinking seriously about how pissed off I would be about half of this, and I found out that actually, I won’t be.

    About the only things that irk me are spaced-out druggies and smokers. And fatass girls who do not cover themselves up. I mean, I’m a fatass guy, but I keep myself covered up decent in public. For that, I imagine using a RPG or calling a thousand syphilitic camels down on them and then they don’t irk me quite so much anymore.

    A whole lot better than actually using a 9mm, I should think.

  • kentuckyliz

    Which 32 states criminalize minor consumption of communion wine?

    Well, I’m Catholic. It’s not wine, it’s blood. LOL

  • Conrad

    What about age of consent? If the child is apparently aware of his/her action and the consequences thereof, it wouldn’t be long before it would be brought up. Alcohol consumption is connected to it. As Seneca said “… it is wrong to add fire to fire”. I’m a Minarchist, but the state should have a limit no more, and no less.

  • Sunfish

    Kentuckyliz:
    The list is in the NHTSA link that Mid posted above. It looks like it’s a little (at least 2 years) out of date, though.

  • cj

    They’re at it again – The liberal paternalists are proposing to ban the display of tobacco in shops and are currently soliciting the opinion of their electorate. Banishing cigarettes will cost ordinary taxpayers more money, inconvenience thousands of consumers, and threaten the livelihoods of shopkeepers all over the UK.
    I’m sick and tired of more of the same from Nanny – obsessed with dictating how people live their lives but brushing the big issues, like knife crime and recession, under the carpet. They’re planning to hide tobacco, and they are already policing alcohol, red meat, fatty foods, and salt to name a few.
    I’m sick of seeing pubs closing down where I live. I’m sick of being made to feel guilty because I eat and drink as I please.
    I’m sick of Nanny. How about you? Got Freedom?
    Ceej