The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
In addition to his disregard for the national sovereignty of Russia’s neighbors, Vladimir Putin has implemented a plethora of repressive laws and regulations that (as Camille Paglia might say) grossly violate the civil liberties of ordinary Russians. He has not yet, however, taken the extreme step of violating his own country’s constitution and raised the drinking age to 21.
To any alert readers (ARs) who might be looking for advice on summer reading I offer the following excerpt from an essay by Camille Paglia titled “The Drinking Age is Past its Prime”:
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by Congress 30 years ago this July, is a gross violation of civil liberties and must be repealed. It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age-21 rule sets the United States apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Congress was stampeded into this puritanical law by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who with all good intentions were wrongly intruding into an area of personal choice exactly as did the hymn-singing 19th century temperance crusaders, typified by Carrie Nation smashing beer barrels with her hatchet. Temperance fanaticism eventually triumphed and gave us 14 years of Prohibition. That in turned spawned the crime syndicates for booze smuggling, laying the groundwork for today’s global drug trade. Thanks a lot, Carrie!
What Paglia neglected to mention is that Congress did not only intrude “into an area of personal choice.” It also wrongly intruded into a legislative area that the U. S. Constitution specifically reserves for the States. As some ARs may recall from their classes in American History, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th (thereby repealing Prohibition) and also granted to the States the authority to pass their own liquor laws. It couldn’t be any clearer. The Constitution gives the States the right to set their own drinking ages. How did the U.S. Congress undermine this constitutionally granted right? Easy. It coerced the States into “voluntarily” surrendering their rights by threatening to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway funds if they didn’t comply. It should be noted that this trampling of the States’ constitutional rights had bipartisan support. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan and championed by Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole, whose husband went on to post-political fame and fortune as a pitch man for Viagra.
However important federal highway funds may be, I now know from personal experience that the States have other ways of generating huge amounts of revenue from their state road systems. Take Florida, for example. Back in February I drove on a stretch of State Highway and incurred a toll charge of $1.28. There was no toll booth or plaza at which I could pay the charge. Instead, a sign advised motorists to continue driving; we would be billed later. Were we ever! When my credit card bill arrived there was a charge of $26.03, representing a toll of $1.28 and an “administrative fee” of $24.75. I am not making this up. This charge was actually levied by an outfit in Scottsdale, AZ that I’ll call a different kind of AR (Administrative Ripoff).
How can you justify an administrative fee that’s 2000% of the underlying charge? I’m still not sure, but it’s apparently the result of a conspiracy among the State of Florida, Administrative Ripoff and yet another kind of AR (Anonymous Rental), from which I had rented my car. The State of Florida constructed a situation in which it was impossible to pay tolls and presumably authorized Administrative Ripoff to take pictures of cars driving by the non-existent toll booth. (I say “presumably” because I never was able to talk to a live person who could explain how the charge was imposed.) Anonymous Rental presumably gets a cut for tracking down the hapless motorists caught in this scam.
Although I never reached a live person at Anonymous Rental to explain the charge, I was able to submit a complaint on its website. A few weeks later I received a response explaining that the administrative fee was authorized by the rental agreement (as if I had a choice) and should actually have been higher, but had been capped at 2000%. As a special, one-time favor, however, Anonymous Rental would reduce the administrative fee from 2000% of the underlying charge to a mere 300%. In other words, the rate had been reduced from that charged by Mafia loan sharks to double or triple what pay day lenders charge.
Speaking of kleptocrats, I want to assure ARs and others that Schlafly is not one of the breweries that do business in Putin’s Russia. While governments dither about whether sanctions are appropriate; and while some multi-national conglomerates protest that limiting their dealings with this lawless regime would be a financial hardship, we’re proud to set an example based on principle. We have never had any business dealings with Russian oligarchs and don’t intend to start now. For the record, Schlafly is the largest brewery in St. Louis that does not have facilities in Russia. There’s another beer company that has one brewery in St. Louis and eight breweries in Russia, where it employs 8,000 people, several times its workforce in St. Louis.