Saturday, 7 March 2009

Taxing the Sinners

There’s an excellent article here on Sp!ked by Tim Black, who argues that the Scottish proposals to eradicate cheap alcohol are “coercive attempts to control our choices and behaviour”.

While the élite retains its morally inflected disdain for the bevvied-up masses, it is all too clear (if the number of bars in the UK Houses of Parliament is any indication) that they enjoy getting as royally tight as the people they decry. Targeting inexpensive drinking simply targets ‘cheap drinkers’. It’s not the Chenin Blanc minority that are seen as the problem, but the Stella and Strongbow hordes.

As with all sin taxes, the tacit snobbery of the SNP’s proposals will do far more to punish less well-off sections of society than alleviate the suffering of chronic alcoholics. After all, the daily intent, amongst small numbers of very heavy drinkers, to drink oneself into oblivion has less to do with supermarket special offers than with a feeling that one has little to live for. Imposing a minimum price of 40p per unit does not amount to giving people a raison d’etre.
He also refers to the famous quotation from J. S Mill: “To tax stimulants for the sole purpose of making them more difficult to be obtained, is a measure differing only in degree from their entire prohibition; and would be justifiable only if that were justifiable.”

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