Underage drinking, a commonly accepted custom at most colleges. Not necessarily an evil, a matter of three years difference is a matter of mala prohibita versus mala in se. However at the University of Pittsburgh students caught by the University Police for underage drinking face criminal misdeminor charges that could effect their career prospects in the future.
The irony and tyrrany of the legal system is appearent here: go to college for better job prospects and engage in college culture, engage in said culture and lose those job prospects. It is similar to how young people are penalized for student debt which is a necessary condition of attending college for many people. It is amazing how much American culture, since the 20th century, has an affinity for criminalizing her young people.
There are no conditional factors that present a loop-hole for these students either, a citation or a conviction is a citation or a conviction. This goes on the student’s record for anyone to look up. At this point most people of the Baby Boomer and Generation X will wonder why misdeminors are considered such problems. The problem comes about when the new graduates in competition for jobs, underages will negatively affect their chances.
The question however is one of: “is this a great evil?” Well every since Carrie Nation it pretty much has been the devil.
Malum in se, “bad/evil/adverse/harmful in itself.”
Malum prohibitum, “bad/evil/adverse/harmful because (it is) prohibited.”
Underage drinking falls into the second category, since of age drinking is legal, and the age limit is artifically contrived. Obviously a very young person should not be drinking anymore than a toddler should be driving, but finer dinstinctions than this as to the absolute morality of age limits are just sophistry.
What help are the authorities? Well consider the G20 as an apogee of Police protocal in this city. And of course you always have your “day in court” if you so desire it, but to quote Judge Judith Friedman of the Court of Common Pleas, “I’m going to assume everything you would say is true but it won’t matter, it’s all set.” So assume then the courts are there to solely convict the student.
It is an interesting contrast to the Classical world: in Ancient Rome or Athens, the State did not seek prosecution in matters of personal crime, including murder. If a crime was commited by a person, real crime like murder or theft, the state did not prosecute, a private citizen had to step forward and bring suit. For justice to be rendered someone had to seek it, on one hand that meant some crimes went unpunished (if a person who was murder had no one to whom they mattered, then the murder would get away) but on the other there was not this state apparatus looking for crime (which can lead to the criminalization of a lot of petty things, and anyone with common sense knows such apparatuses never disappear.)
Things for young people to avoid: [note; these suggestions may sound paranoid and extreme, but better err on the side of caution, consider if head protection can be too hard]
– Alcohol consuption, not only because it is mala prohibita for people under a certain age, but because also you loose most rights as a person and you loose due consideration under the law, if alcohol is invovled and the authorities can say/construe/portray/insinuate that you are drunk.
– Large gatherings of young adults, the police haunt these like predators to a herd of prey animals (for your safety of course!) Under age drinking is just one of the many charges the authorities can hit you with when out drinking. The legal limit is low enough today that the average ammount of alcohol consumption is enough to make someone legally drunk, ergo you have no rights after a couple hours of evening on the town.
Remember that over the student is young and legally un-protected, unlike various special interests groups that have political or monetary clout, the average college student is always looked upon as “at fault.” And until we can change the University by-laws and police attitudes, it best to avoid coming to the attention of the police.
Cicero (De officiis, I, 10, 33):
Summum ius, summa iniuria; the supreme law, the supreme injustice, the implitcation being that more laws lead to more injustice and injury. Tacitus also echos this same sentiment. And America might have learned the lesson with the failure of Prohibition and the War on Drugs.
The Romans must have know, having ephasized the humanities in their learning, that men and society cannot run on the presumption that people will always act in a criminal manner. But America today, being the product of Protestant Modernism believes: semper reformanda, “always reforming” (motto of early Dutch Protestant churches.) reform can be loked upon like change; eventually through evolution we will get it right.
Until then young person in school, watch out because if you get caught up in the legal system it is a black mark against you in any prospective employer’s book.
For more information on law and the police, from modern and ancient perspectives:
Cicero, from “On the Laws.”
Paul Craig Roberts on the American Pandemic of Police Brutality. It should be considered part of brutality to wreck someone’s future for a pay check. This author first hand, as an employee of the University, has over heard Pitt Police Officers brag about destorying a young man’s chances of graduation.