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Drunk PersonIn 2003 the Labour government implemented new alcohol licensing laws with the result that alcoholic beverages are now available 24x7. They were hoping this would create the so-called "European style" drinking culture (whatever that may mean). Instead people now buys more alcohol, drinks at home in pubs and clubs and they do this throughout the day and all night.

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

What they were hoping for was:

  • A reduction in drinking
  • A new drinking culture
  • A reduction of alcohol demand peaks

What they got was:

  • People drinking at home
  • People getting drunk into towns, pubs and clubs
  • People continue to get drunk in said places for longer and longer on cheaper and cheaper alcohol drinks

The consequences were:

  • The level of drunkenness got significantly up
  • The level of hospitalizations and medical care due to alcohol got significantly up
  • The level of civil offenses (disorder and violence) perpetrated by drunken people is significantly up
  • The level of night police forces required to patrol drinking areas had to be doubled

The position of the alcohol industry and supermarket is:

  • Increase in price is not the solution
  • People drink more because of a change in lifestyle
  • Bulk purchases are mostly for sharing or longer term consumption
  • We are working with the Government to provide health information

The proposed solutions are:

  • Deal with dangerous drinkers
  • Crack down on irresponsible business
  • Stem the tide of cheap alcohol
  • Imposition of an alcohol-content related pricing policy effectively rising the price of alcohol beverages to deter excessive drinking

The expected solutions (as modeled by the Sheffield university in a 6 year study) are:

  • 9 million problem drinkers will consume less
  • 1000 lives saved per year
  • 35,000 fewer hospital admissions per year
  • 50,000 fewer crimes per year
  • 5 Billion Pounds saved per year

The medical establishment says that:

  • People has not changed
  • What has changed is the marketing of alcoholic beverages and its cheapness
  • Consequently people who drink a lot have access to more alcohol than before

The critics say that:

  • Responsible drinkers will be unfairly punished
  • Hardened drinkers are not price-sensitive
  • The model is theoretical and not proven

The data from Canada says:

  • That s price increase of 10% decreases alcohol-related hospitalizations by 9%
  • There is an overnight decrease of crime and disorderly conduct
  • So, in theory, all that needs to be done is to pass new laws to hike the price of cheap alcohol.

But then the alcohol-manufacturing and retailing industry counter-attacked with:

  • Lobbying
  • Court challenges in Scotland

And then NGO groups declared (outraged) that:

  • How is it possible that governments be prevented from introducing public health legislation which will benefit citizens because of the might and power of alcohol corporations!?
  • How is it possible that politicians are delaying the introduction of price increases?

And then corporations declared (outraged) that:

  • The entire country is based on political and judicial powers (and let's not forget the Constitution) and when laws are considered illegal is the choice of people to challenge them judicially to seek remedy.
  • The problem is drinking in excess and price fixing is not the solution.

And then the government declared that:

  • They don't have enough evidence showing that rising prices will solve the problem without penalizing people who drink responsibly.

And why did the government backed out? Because of the meeting between government officials and lobbyists pointing out that if price rises are approved, tax revenues will fall.

And what did the government do to save face? Implement a policy of no alcohol selling below manufacturing price.

And what did this policy achieve in terms of health care? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

SUMMARY

Companies in Britain do what every company does best: provide the maximum amount of a product at the minimum possible price. This means that alcohol of higher concentration is now available at cheaper and cheaper prices.

What would people do when a product is plentiful and cheap? They buy.

What do very drunk people do? Harm themselves and others as well as other people's properties.

What did the government propose? Hiking prices.

Would this policy have helped? Yes.

What did companies do? Lobbying.

What was the end result? Same level of drunkenness, same profit levels and one government who saved face.

COMMENTARY

This tale repeats every day in every country in the world. Substitute alcohol with sugar or fats or salt or paints or food coloring or… or… or… The government's taste to regulate and control is insatiable.

Let's now put this into perspective.

Are companies doing something they were not supposed to do? No.

Are people doing something they were not supposed to do? No.

Then whose fault this is?

Governments' fault.

How is this possible?

We need to ask ourselves why do people drink in excess. The answer is because they don't suffer the economic consequences of their acts.

  • They don't pay for extra police.
  • They don't pay for medical care nor medications.
  • They don't pay for property destruction.
  • They don't pay for personal crimes.

In other words, the government has removed the "moral hazard" from the equation. The risk/reward of drinking to excess is heavily biased towards "reward". And if this is the case, why would anybody control oneself?

Sure, blame the heartless corporations that are in only for the money. Forgive the drinkers because they are "victims". Blame the politicians for saving face and do nothing when they could have enacted effective and efficient laws.

The funny thing is that nobody asks the question: when did all this start? And the answer is when the government removed the "moral hazard" from the equation. And how did the government do so? Through legislation.

And so we arrive at the core of the problem: legislation caused the issue and it cannot be fixed by more legislation. The solution is the removal of legislation and the making of every emancipated person responsible for his/her acts.

Remove the useless courts of so-called justice and let people pay for the real cost and real damages in real currency that their drinking produces.

This simple act will do far more than price increases.

Artificial prince increases are simple patches that reduce our freedoms and decrease our responsibility.

The real solution is for people to be held accountable for their acts. But this accountability must be real and effective. So-called government-imposed accountability equates "moral hazard" which is at the very core of the problem.

In an Absolute Austro-Libertarian system alcohol beverages would be available at increasingly cheap prices and probably anywhere. However, the consequences of any alcohol-induced or related undue interactions with other people's properties would carry severe economic results.

CONCLUSION

The solution to the problem is to remove the "nanny" government and restore full responsibility and freedom to the people. Let the free market punish irresponsible people through economic calculations and not moral or ethical nonsense (for details see Justice In The Austro Libertarian System ). The solution is to return freedom and power to the people and let the people, the real people (through the free market) provide the most economically appropriate solutions.

You may believe us or not but whatever you do please don't drink and vote. Or better still, just don't vote.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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