More health wowsers illogic over booze

Sir Ian Gilmore, the AHA\’s chair, said action was especially urgent given that UK teenagers drink much more than the European average.

I don\’t know whether that is true or not but let us assume that it is.

So, what are the actions that need to be taken then?

It wants ministers to set the planned minimum price for alcohol that David Cameron has decided should be introduced in England to be set at 50p a unit, higher than the coalition\’s preferred option of 45p.

Hmm. Now call me picky if you like. But here\’s a small thought.

Is the UK price of booze above or below the European average? Umm, well above the European average I think, no? So the link between teenage boozing and high prices is what?

Excellent, you now know more about logic and evidence than a knighted doctoring type.

Please do note: I am not claiming that lower prices reduce teenage drinking. Nor that higher prices will not reduce drinking of any or many types. I am poiting only to the hole in the logic and evidence we are being presented with here. To refer to teeange drinking across Europe is fine: so is to argue in favour of higher taxation (well, not if we catch you and hang you first of course). But to argue that a high tax country has high teenage drinking therefore taxes must rise does not work. We might even start to believe that you\’re simply a killjoy puritan bluenosed wowser rather than someone with a reasonable relationship with evidence and logic. And that would never do, would it?

18 thoughts on “More health wowsers illogic over booze”

  1. But to argue that a high tax country has high teenage drinking therefore taxes must rise does not work.

    He’s not. He’s arguing that a country with a teenage drinking problem should raise the specific Pigouvian taxes, on the sort of logic you normally promote.

    Now, this clearly isn’t addressing the underlying causes of why an already high tax country has the problem in the first place but he’s responding to a pair of specific (illegal) HMG and Scottish Govt initiatives, not to the more general problem.

    Of course, he also appears to be “a killjoy puritan bluenosed wowser” but then that’s the norm for the medical representative establishment, unfortunately.

    I seem to think that their (insane) objective is to stop everybody having anything wrong with them so that medics other than the geriatricians can stop dealing with messy, unpleasant, demanding ill or damaged people and have comfortable, 9 to 5, paperwork shuffling and decent lunches jobs like theirs.

  2. Hi Tim, Whereas I fully agree with your take on the logic, or lack thereof, in the learned professors argument, the claimed cost of drinking appears to be staggering: GBP 50 billion. Now, I am not an expert on the spending of the NHS, but this amount appears to be very high. Is this one of those numbers that are magicked out of thin air to support leftist arguments and is never challenged?

    Tim adds: The £50 billion? Yes, usual nonsense. They’ve inflated every number they can think of.

    But they’ve also made a logic error. This includes all the private costs. So, say we generally think that someone values their life at £25k a year (entirely a made up number). So, if they die five years early because of booze then that’s a £125 k loss. Which, indeed, it is.

    But it’s not a loss to the country. It’s a loss to that individual. It’s a private cost, not a social cost. And thus it’s not a cost to “the country”. And that’s what really inflates their numbers.

  3. ….But its not a loss to the country. It’s a loss to that individual. Its a private cost, not a social cost. ….

    It also makes a saving in pension liabilities, but somehow they never include that.

  4. I had much more expensive booze than the UK when me grew up, and beer. That’s why us young folks drank the poorly labeled stuff you get out of the back of a truck, and what we could manage to water down from our parent’s liquor cabinets…

  5. The internal logic of the policy proposal is based on an odd premis, that being – the target of the proposed policy cares more about their wallet than their health.

  6. Well, what do you expect from the Anti Saloon League?

    This does however nicely illustrate one of the reasons Pigovian taxes are fundamentally dumb. You can’t objectively define the externality.

  7. In Tims earlier post the claim was that it would save thousands of lives. So on its internal logic is the premis, that the target of the proposal is someone who would moderate when a loss to the wallet is the consequence but not moderate when death is the consequence. very strange.

  8. Yes. All this accounting is fundamentally bollocks, because it fails to take into account that in a country with state pensions, death is socially beneficial. Agree with you all.

    However, you lot seem to lose your rags when that turns into health provision that doesn’t waste shedloads on keeping nearly-dead people alive for another week or two.

  9. you lot seem to lose your rags when that turns into health provision that doesn-t waste shedloads on keeping nearly-dead people alive for another week or two.

    At best you are misunderstanding our point, but that’s probably being too nice to you and you are actually maliciously mis-representing it.

    We “lose our rags” when inconveniently would-probably-recover people are turned in to actually dead people because it was convenient to decide they were nearly-dead.

    We also get more than a bit cross when conscious but nearly-dead people are put on a pathway designed for the pretty-much no-longer aware nearly-dead.

  10. Well John, not sure what you’re getting at really. Can’t speak for anyone else but I take the view that if you’re going to have an NHS and state pensions etc, you have to be Attleean about it and just hand the provision over to everyone who qualifies, and that’s the end of it. Otherwise you end up with the current style of tyranny-for-your-own-good. If you don’t want to do that, don’t have one.

    There’ no genuinely meaningful way to actual perform any of these Pigovian calculations, partly because you’ve never got enough data (intrinsically) and partly because you would need to plug in subjective values which are intrinsically unknowable.

    Basic problem is, we’re all nearly dead. Áll healthcare merely delays the inevitable. That’s life.

  11. “Excellent, you now know more about logic and evidence than a knighted doctoring type.”

    This may well be true, but I appear to be lacking in the “fanatically pursue my agenda at all costs” department.

  12. On average, according to the ESPAD survey, British teenagers do drink more than the European average.

    But:-

    – I’m not sure I’d categorise it as “much more”. The measure of alcohol drunk on the last drinking day is 5.1cl average, 6.7 in the UK.

    – the common correlation on this is geographic latitude. Swedish, Norwegian and Danish kids drink more. Germany and the Czech kids drink a bit less. When you get to Greece and Cyprus, they’re drinking a lot less. So, the reason we drink more than the European average is that Lancashire is 3.7 degrees further north than Frankfurt.

    http://www.espad.org/Uploads/ESPAD_reports/2011/The_2011_ESPAD_Report_FULL_2012_10_29.pdf

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