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Mike's Meanderings

Constitution an alien concept

May 7, 2009
by Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer

For quite some time, I've been pondering an issue that seems particularly perplexing. It's the blatant unconstitutionality of the minimum 21 drinking age.

Now a minimum drinking age affects me in no way. I'm over 21 (in fact way over). I don't drink and I haven't for about 13 years now. I've seen not only young people but many adults act really stupid when under the influence of alcohol. And I think drinking alcohol is a profound waste of human endeavor.

So why on earth would I be concerned about the minimum 21 drinking age?

Well, it's the constitutionality of the thing.

About 20 years ago the State of South Dakota took the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Then U.S. Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole jerked South Dakota's federal highway funds because the state did not have a minimum-21 drinking age. So the state challenged it.

The State of South Dakota argued that the 21st Amendment, which repealed the Volstead Act, gave states the right to regulate the manufacture, distribution and consumption of alcohol. And since people are considered adults at age 18, the state argued, they should be entitled to the rights to consume alcohol. And, further, the state should be allowed to entitle them that right.

The high court ruled that public safety was a greater concern than the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution. That's right. The U.S. Supreme Court, consisting of nine supposedly intelligent jurists with working brains, said public safety was a greater concern than the sanctity of the Constitution.

When I discuss this issue with a lot of people, it seems they invariably fall back on the argument that people under 21 can't handle their liquor. I agree that a whole lot of people can't handle their liquor. Period. But that isn't the issue that concerns me the most. Rather, it's the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court regards the Constitution relativistically.

If the jurists could argue that public safety is a greater concern than the Constitution, where does that argument end?

By logical extension, the Supreme Court could also argue that since public safety is an overriding concern, the Second Amendment should be abrogated and all guns should be taken out of private ownership. It's really the same argument.

However, we can all see the slippery slope that this creates. Maybe we should suspend any protection against the protections afforded in the Constitution against illegal search and seizure because it's in the public interest. Or torture. Or any provisions ensuring equal protection under the law.

The whole upshot of this is that even lifelong jurists regard the U.S. Constitution with relativism. And that absolutely stinks.

The day we no longer care about the sanctity of the Constitution is the day we no longer care about our individual freedoms.

I don't know about you, but if some judge orders me to start goose stepping, I know where the first place is that I'll plant my foot.

 
 
 

 

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