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Old Enough to Fight A War, Too Young to Shop in Peace

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At the Atlantic Terminal mall in downtown Brooklyn, groups of four or more -- if they are under 21 years of age and unaccompanied by a parent -- are given a choice by security guards: split up into smaller groups or leave.

And it's not just here. According  to the New York Times, "Of the 1,418 malls in the United States, 66 now practice some form of constraining youthful visitors, up from 39 in 2007, said Jesse Tron of the International Council of Shopping Centers."

No matter that these retailers are effectively barring a consumer bloc with, according to the Generational Project Group, purchasing power of $200 billion (people under 30). Cut this in half to account for the nine-year differential, and you're still looking at $100 billion of money that will gladly be spent elsewhere.

“When kids gather in groups, they can get kind of rowdy; they can cause trouble,” Michael Rapfogel, a spokesman for the mall’s operator, told the Times. “It’s no secret. It happens all over the place.”

That's right, Michael. Groups of kids can get kind of rowdy. Groups of kids can also be perfectly well-behaved, when you define a "kid" as anyone under 21.

Barring four or more unsupervised 21-year-olds means barring:

Four or more 19-year-olds serving in the US Navy and are on shore leave.

Four or more 18-year-old college freshmen who headed to the mall to share notes after class.

Four or more 20-year-old Suffolk County police officers who must be accompanied by their parents if they want to enter the Atlantic Terminal as a group.

Gene Healy, a vice president at the Cato Institute, is concerned about the long-term effects of criminalizing the act of being young:

"Downtown DC's booming Gallery Place corridor has lately been plagued by disruptive, loitering teens. Two weeks ago, after meeting with District officials, business owners hit on a novel solution: installing the latest in crowd-control technology outside the Chinatown Metro entrance.
Like a reverse dog whistle, the 'Mosquito' emits a piercing beep at a frequency only young ears can hear. 'Cool stuff,' brags a spokesman for the British company selling the device. 'Drives kids crazy.'

Nobody likes getting jostled by unruly punks, but there's something a tad creepy about "fixing" the problem with a human 'bug zapper' -- a machine that harasses guilty and innocent alike.

Kids are getting used to this sort of thing, though. This generation has been poked, prodded, monitored, and controlled more than any other in American history.
Healy wonders "how the regimented teen is supposed to grow up into an independent, free-thinking citizen."

Don't go looking for any answers at the Atlantic Terminal -- especially if you're under 21 and accompanied by three or more friends.

You're not likely to get very far.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.