Ineffective and expensive: Does a higher drinking age really make a difference?

When I was 11-years-old, my parents brought me with them to a convention in Mexico City, a wonderful town where the wine was delicious, the water was unpalatable and the drinking age was largely dependent on one's ability to hold a glass. In a desperate effort to ward off scurvy and intestinal parasites, I consumed massive quantities of fresh, wine-based sangria and the occasional tequila shot. Of course, a side effect of this was that I also managed to ward off sobriety with an amazing level of effectiveness.

Luckily, I wasn't a total newcomer to the wonders of alcohol consumption, so I was able to control myself fairly well, and managed to play off my occasional slurring as a side effect of altitude sickness. Years later, when I watched my college friends suffer through their first experiences with alcohol and hangovers, I became incredibly appreciative of my parents' determination to teach me about responsible drinking at a young age. This isn't to say that I never got drunk in college, or that I never acted like an idiot. However, I was always aware of the effects of alcohol on me, and usually was a responsible drinker.

When I was 18, I was struck by the apparent inconsistency of responsibility in my culture. I could be tried as an adult, could be enlisted to die in combat, and was trusted with the right to vote, yet I wasn't allowed to buy a beer at the local bar.