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The booze crisis!

Dr Susham Gupta, a specialist registrar in adult and old age psychiatry, and Dr James Warner, a consultant in older adults\’ psychiatry, said the relative price of alcohol has halved in real terms since the 1960s.

Right…they\’re  measuring this by the price relative to income. And as alcohol is a manufactured item, it\’s really not surprising that the price has fallen in relation to wages. That\’s pretty much the history of every manufactured item since we first, umm, started manufacturing.

It\’s also an interesting way of responding to those who say that real wages haven\’t risen over the decades. If for the same number of hours work you can buy twice as much stuff then real wages have most surely risen.

At the same time average annual consumption of alcohol per person has doubled from less than six litres to more than 11.5 litres in 2000.

Hmm. If alcohol consumption has doubled while prices have halved (relative to incomes) then that means that alcohol consumption is, well, I can never quite remember, inelastic or elastic? A 1% movement in price leads to a 1% movement in consumption is which? Elastic? Certainly it makes alcohol a normal good, not a luxury, sticky or inferior one.

Still, it shows that there\’s nothing very odd about alcohol from an economic point of view.

People are able to buy more alcohol so they do.

But apparently this is very bad as it makes old people demented if they have drunk during their lives. And thus we must tax it all a great deal more and reduce the amount people drink.

The link between alcohol consumption and dementia is being ignored and unless urgent action is taken today\’s binge drinkers will be tomorrow\’s dementia patients, psychiatrists said.

Public awareness campaigns and labels warning that dementia is linked to alcohol should be introduced, they said.

OK, fair enough, tell people this and then let them make their own decisions. You want to wait for the Alzheimer\’s to kick in or have a few pints along the way?

In the meantime raising the price and restricting sales was proven to be the most effective methods of reducing consumption of alcohol.

But that\’s not actually what we want to do, is it? We want people to have the maximum freedom to make informed choices….not to be coralled into making the choice you desire.

18 thoughts on “The booze crisis!”

  1. I’m not sure I understand. Why exactly do we not want to corrall people into making certain choices? Seems to me that threat of a prison sentence corralls people into not breaking the law.

  2. people will rob banks whether there is a law against it or not
    the law does not prevent bank robberies..
    It spells out the legal consequences..

  3. I despair when I read comments like Jacob’s. Who are “we” in your question, Jacob? Who are the people to be “corralled?” Once I know the answer to that question (“Who? Whom”, as Lenin put it), then perhaps I can better understand your mentality. As it is, I suspect you are in the “we” group, and I am in the “people to be corralled” group, and therefore you are a dangerous man.

  4. Indeed. I can’t work out whether the Jacob-ites are too stupid to understand the difference between ‘robbing a bank, which deprives the bank’s customers of their money and traumatises the tellers’ and ‘drinking yourself to death, which hurts you’, or whether they genuinely don’t care.

    (note that the 1960s are a silly comparison here: alcohol consumption grew from 1965 to 1980 and has trended flat since.)

  5. Wasn’t there a similar story about booze in relation to pocket money last year, whereby in ‘the old days’ kids would have to save up their pocket money for months to buy a half bottle of vodka, but now can buy one with their weekly pocket money and have change left over.

    In this case its like the playing field has changed, you never used to have to warn kids of the dangers of drinking a half bottle of vodka cos they wouldn’t be able to afford it until they were old enough to know better, but now they can afford it they need the information at a younger age, thus displacing other learning that kids ought to be doing.

    Like throwing fireworks.

  6. They drink less than us, but they do so in an even binge-ier fashion.

    So Nordic measures are good in terms of cutting the health risks associated with heavy daily consumption, but bad in terms of fighting and general disorder. Since the latter are the only issues government policy has any business addressing, it’s clearly a failure.

  7. We want people to have the maximum freedom to make informed choices….not to be coralled into making the choice you desire.

    Ho Ho. You kidder, Tim. You know that’s exactly what thousands of these weird quango-crats want…

  8. Tim, why do you even pose it as a question after all this time? You know that they are approaching this from a different angle. You want to minimise the bad (social disorder, dementia, etc.) whilst maximising individual freedom, they want to minimise the bad full stop. The fact that this means trampling over freedom is regarded as either inconsequential or a pleasant side-effect.

  9. “they want to minimise the bad full stop.”

    Nope, they want to extract more taxation while pretending they are doing something for our own good.

    Like the speed cameras? They were deployed to st

  10. …oops, sorry.

    The speed cameras that have been taken out of service, are the ones that don’t make enough revenue.

  11. Looks like I’m late to the party… Still I think it’s worth saying a couple things. em butler – Taxes, just like the threat of a prison sentence will change behavior. Do say it ain’t so is saying that society would work without laws of any kind, which is an interesting point, but another argument. Tom Paine – The we and the people are the same thing, does that help you understand my mentality? John b, we live in a world where banks can be robbed without ever leaving your desk and alcoholics have families friends and collegues, as I see it these facts fairly neatly destroy your point.

  12. Jacob, I’ll take this slowly.

    In, alcoholism for all its horrors, the gain in terms of satisfied urges and the pleasure of being drunk is to the alcoholic and so are the bulk of the costs (dementia, death, etc.). There may be social costs as well, but that’s why we add a special duty to alcohol so that we’ve the funds to provide healthcare, rehab, social support for families, etc. It’s not perfect but it’s liberating, practical and balances the books.

    In robbing a bank, whether remotely or in person, the person gains wealth entirely at the expense of others (the customers that lose their cash, the public that pay for the police to try and find these guys, etc.).

    This is why being an alcoholic is legal and being a bankrobber isn’t. If you really think the former is worse than the latter then…well, I’m not sure any logic will persuade you otherwise.

    Of course, if you’re asking if we apply this logic consistently in the law, the answer is no, we don’t. A sizeable portion of our laws are total nonsense, hence why we spend sizeable portions of our time complaining about them.

  13. People will always drink beer, wine and spirits. It’s all about a little pleasure. I really do object when someone tries to impinge on my life by trying to impose excessive taxation on simple things for everyones good health. I think they need reminding as were the Caesars, ” All this will pass”.

  14. What I’m saying is that taxing as of form of social coercion shouldn’t simply be taken off the table because they restrict individual liberty, we already have a working precedents for social coercion in the form of prison time and fines.

    I don’t think I chose the best example when comparing alcoholism and bank robbery, but I am interested in how far it could go.

    Both bank robbery and alcoholism can be considered socially undesirable. Can you really stick bank robbery in one box and alcholism in another? Philip Thomas, you measured the difference in burden of cost to the individual vs cost to society, your assertion that the individual pays a higher price for the pleasure they gain than his or her nearest and dearest is shaky, your assertion that Robbing a bank incurs no cost for the robber is simply wrong.

    There was a time when a person could be jailed for drinking alcohol, I can imagine a world in which stolen “earnings” are legal and taxable.

    I am arguing for the freedom to use all the tools of available to government to create a better society, rather than striking punitive tax from the spectrum of choice simply because of dogmatic views about what constitutes personal freedom.

  15. Jacob, you try and live in your imagined world of force and fraud and I’ll do everything in my power to oppose its creation.

    “When the common good of a society is regarded as something apart from and superior to the individual good of its members, it means that the good of some men takes precedence over the good of others, with those others consigned to the status of sacrificial animals.” Ayn Rand

  16. Brew your own.

    I do.

    That way, no loyalty card informs the Stasi that I might need some of my NI back when I get dementia, no scowls from the Righteous when I am forced to queue with tramps and no stupid warnings on labels.

    43p a pint.

    Stick that up your arse, Jacob. Sideways.

    “I am arguing for the freedom to use all the tools available to government to create a better society”

    Just like Hitler, Stalin and Mao.


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