The Inconsistencies in American Adulthood


In the United States, a person becomes a legal adult at 18 years old. This is the age the government requires you to be before you can buy tobacco products, serve in the military, or vote in elections. 18 is meant to be the beginning of the challenges, responsibilities, and freedom of choice that is adulthood.

This definition of adulthood, however, is met with inconsistencies in American law. An 18 year old is legally allowed to make important, life-altering decisions, such as taking a loan or joining the military. Yet the 18 year old who decides to join the US armed forces is forbidden from grabbing a drink with his buddies after work. In states with recreational, legal marijuana, a person must be 21 years of age or older to consume it, not 18. There is, in the freest country in the world, a three year buffer between legal adulthood and the freedom to drink or handle alcohol, the freedom to ingest marijuana, the freedom to drive commercially, the freedom to game at casinos, the freedom to eat in an establishment that operates primarily as a bar, the freedom to apply for a concealed carry permit, and the list goes on and on.

The argument often made against a drinking age of 18 or a gambling age of 18 is that the brain is not fully developed, and allowing young people to do these things will increase the likelihood that young people will make poor decisions. This is not an entirely flawed argument, as the brain is still not fully developed, and that young people will make poor decisions. The problem is, however, that this argument applies to things like contracts as well. What makes someone think an 18 year old cannot be reasonably trusted to make the choice to drink or not drink a beer, yet they are fully capable of reading, understanding, and entering into a confusing and convoluted contract in which they are required to pay exorbitant interest rates on a loan for their higher education?

18-20 year olds in this country are perfectly capable of making their own choices on what they put in their body and what they don’t. The United States of America should either recognize that 18-20 year old Americans are responsible adults and treat them as such under the law, or it should drop the façade and make the age of legal adulthood 21. This purgatorial adulthood framework is found almost nowhere else in the world, and is absurd. The government is not the parent of every 18-20 year old, and should not behave as such.

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Dawson Phipps is an intern for the Libertarian Party of Nevada. The views expressed are his and may or may not reflect the official views of the Libertarian Party of Nevada. Follow him on Twitter today by clicking here!