Actually, as I see it, it is very dangerous to make young people wait until they are 21 to consume. They cause us no end of trouble for that reason. Where did the reader go when he or she was 18? Did you abstain? Or did you go out in someone’s car to get totally blotto?
Even in our troubled society, there are successful groups (Jews, Italians, Greeks, French, and the offspring of those who work in the alcohol industry) who manage alcohol consumption moderately and who educate their young to respect and enjoy this wonderful substance in a supportive environment. Young people from these groups rarely cause trouble from so-called binging.
The Europeans view this matter quite differently than we do. There is little or no social pressure to drink and great intolerance to alcohol abuse. Alcohol beverages are considered normal fare, even offered in some high school cafeterias. A British report declared it “impractical” to have a drinking limit “higher than the age of majority….” Other Europeans concluded that raising the drinking age (from 16 to 18) would be useless because the older ones would buy it for the young. In Belgium, children are allowed taefelbier, at 2%ABV. But of course that’s “old” Europe.
We consider our young citizens of 18 to be old enough to vote, get married, start a family, go deep in debt, join the armed forces and learn to kill or get themselves killed. But are they allowed to have a social beer at the end of the day? A glass of wine with dinner and family? No. Are our teen soldiers allowed to have a bit of libation while on R&R (“rest and recuperation”) in Qatar or Bahrain with their older peers? Probably not legally, but I’ll wager that they can get it.
I remember my own service in WWII, and I know that it was less than two weeks after the invasion of Okinawa that there was at least one still operational; and that at what became an air base VERY close to the battle lines. Technically, there IS no booze allowed to our forces in Iraq, after all it’s a situation where one needs all the sobriety one can manage, but I’ll bet it can be found all the same.