There is a cheaper way for the governor to fight binge drinking

Governor Pat McCrory’s administration is going to spend $2.5 million to fight binge drinking. The campaign will target kids “through sobering TV ads, a website to help parents talk to kids, and a series of school assemblies with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest,” according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

In the grand scheme of things, $2.5 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but there is a much cheaper solution that McCrory should try: Reduce the minimum drinking age to 18. People are more likely to binge drink when it is illegal for them to drink socially. Reducing the legal age would cost $2.5 million less than McCrory’s proposal, it would save lives and even reduce sexual assault, and it would increase freedom. All it would take is some leadership and some boldness.

There is an indirect financial cost; the federal government threatens to cut 10 percent of highway funds to any state with a drinking age lower than 18. I would argue that it’s still worth it; federal highways are unconstitutional and we don’t need Uncle Sam paying for them.

However, if that’s too hard for McCrory to swallow, he can compromise. Keep the drinking age at 21, but announce that he will no longer punish — or punish less severely — businesses that sell alcohol to legal adults under 21. New York just did this with marijuana enforcement; North Carolina can do this with alcohol enforcement. The federal government can force laws on the states all it wants, but the states don’t have to enforce the bad or unconstitutional ones.

Harry Painter

Harry Painter writes for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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