Now: Here is Complete Colorado’s Rob Natelson on another shot at the graduated age of majority. Excerpt:
On December 20, President Trump signed legislation purporting to impose a single national age of 21 for selling tobacco products.
Obviously, the measure reduces the freedom of millions of Americans who are legally adults in almost every other respect—including (correctly or not) the right to vote. Moreover, setting minimum consumption ages is not a power the Constitution grants the federal government. The Constitution reserves it to the states.
The issue here, of course, is not whether tobacco products are safe. They clearly are not. The issue here is whether our Constitution and the freedoms it protects are safe. As this episode demonstrates, they clearly are not.
Regulating local sale and consumer use of products is an exercise of what lawyers call the “police power.” This phrase does not refer to your local police officers; it is an older use of “police” to mean “policy.” The police power is authority to adopt regulations to protect public health, safety, morals, and the general welfare. Under the Constitution, the states retain broad police power, with constitutionally-imposed exceptions.
By contrast, the Constitution grants the federal government only certain enumerated (listed) powers, including police power within Washington, D.C. and other federal enclaves and the federal territory. Outside those areas—as the Supreme Court has reiterated—the federal government has no general police power.
This is why when advocates of Prohibition sought to ban alcohol use, they did so by constitutional amendment.
Did you get that? The Imperial government has no authority to meddle with what ages people are allowed to buy tobacco. In the past, where drinking ages and so forth were concerned, the Imperial City set age expectations in a different manner – through extortion. When the Imperial age limit of 21 was decided for alcohol, for example, the Imperial City threatened to withhold highway funding for states that did not meekly submit.
In an ideal world, Washington wouldn’t have this kind of hold over the states. State highways should be state business, and if we are going to have a national highway net – as in, the U.S. highways and the interstate highway system – then either the Imperial City pays for them, or the states pay for construction and maintenance within their borders – no payment of tax money into the Imperial government to be doled back out piecemeal and oh, by the way, used as a cudgel to force recalcitrant states into submission with Imperial whims.
I’m notoriously irritated by the idiotic graduated-age-of-majority in our country, but I’m far more irritated by this kind of high-handed Imperial extortion.