Should Adults Be Allowed To Drink?

05 November 2006 12:00:00

Should adults be allowed to drink? Libertarianz Spokesman on Drugs Dr. Richard Goode is pleased to answer this rhetorical question. “Of course they should! And,” he continued, “if they’re allowed to drink alcohol, then they should also be allowed to buy it.”

“The Libertarianz Party opposes raising the drinking age (the legal purchase age for alcohol) from 18 to 20. To state the obvious, raising the drinking age from 18 to 20 discriminates on the basis of age. Such discrimination by the government is wrong and is expressly forbidden by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.”

The Bill of Rights Act 1990 enshrines the principle of ‘one law for all’. It protects citizens from discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, religious belief, ethical belief, colour, race, ethnic or national origins, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status, and sexual orientation. “Imagine the furore,” suggests Goode, “if a private member’s bill were introduced proposing to restrict the sale of alcohol on the basis of race or sexual orientation. And yet, by treating 18 and 19 year old adults differently from adults aged 20 years or more, the current bill falls foul of exactly the same clause in the Bill of Rights Act.”

“Unfortunately,” laments Goode, “the Bill of Rights Act has no teeth. The rights and freedoms it ‘guarantees’ may be subject ‘to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.’ The Attorney-General is required to draw to the attention of the House of Representatives the introduction of any Bill that is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act. In this case, the Attorney-General was advised ‘that the Bill, by increasing the legal drinking age from 18 to 20 years old, gives rise to a prima facie issue of discrimination on the ground of age,’ but that such discrimination is ‘justified’ and ‘reasonable’.”

“The bill’s proponents tell us that outlawing the sale of alcohol to 18 and 19 year olds will reduce the incidence of binge-drinking by 14 and 15 year olds, but the evidence for any such benefits is inconclusive at best, and certainly not robust enough to justify age discrimination as ‘reasonable’,” notes Goode. “Remember Prohibition? It still doesn’t work.”

“I call upon the many National Party MPs who support this bill, or who are wavering in their opposition, to take proper heed of their leader’s rallying cry of ‘one law for all’ and see this bill for what it really is – unjustified, unreasonable, unnecessary, discriminatory wowserism.”