Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A crucial distinction

It’s often said (particularly over the past three weeks) that Britain has an “alcohol problem”. But, in reality, even if you accept the analysis of the neo-Prohibitionists at face value, we have three separate problems which may overlap to some extent, but certainly aren’t one monolithic issue:

  1. An increase in late-night alcohol-related disorder, particularly in town and city centres
  2. Many more people regularly drinking at levels that in the long term are likely to do serious damage to their health
  3. A rise in drinking, often at hazardous levels, amongst under-18s
Clearly, the strategies needed to combat these three issues are going to be distinctly different, and indeed may conflict with each other – encouraging drinking on licensed premises may reduce uncontrolled excess, but at the same time may lead to more late-night violence. It’s certainly far from certain that cutting average consumption across the population is a magic bullet for any of them.

And it’s funny how we are at least officially stricter on underage sales than at any time in living memory, yet apparently far more underage drinking goes on. Maybe the approach in the past of tolerating it to some extent, but keeping it within bounds, worked better at controlling the overall level.


  1. Drinking is in fact decreasing -

    The "safe" number of units was plucked out of the air -

    And the prohibitionists seem to be cooking the books, presumably, to keep themselves in a job -

  2. I agree with your supposition that it is not as simple as ‘binge Britain’ en masse. There are different categories of problem and the solutions will be wide and varied. What really worries me is that responsible drinkers will suffer because of these problems. I maintain that us responsible drinkers should be shouting as loud as we can about it and where necessary offering our own solutions. I don’t think that harking back to a golden age will help though – the genie is out of the bottle – the genie needs to be tamed.

  3. I'd be interested in reading a post not only of your thoughts as to why the proposed solutions to the alcohol problems in the UK are ill thought out, but what policy would improve the issues you've laid out?

    What would you do, Mudgie, if you were PM?

  4. OK Lets put a quid on a 2 litre
    bottle of Magic 8.5% Vol cider.
    What then, the kids get a burger less for their tea and the mothers
    have to rinse the huggies.
    Sooner or later these politicians
    and puritans will need a good
    slapping round the head.
    As for the Pub Trade standing up
    for its customers,there's more
    chance of finding a CAMRA mwmber
    with a medal.

    Far Horizon

  5. The only thing increasing in the last three weeks is the government propaganda campaign has been initiated through the propaganda mainstream press to manufacture an "alcohol problem" in order to begin creating the public acceptance necessary to institute bans on drinking as they have already done with smoking. That is what I see happening.

  6. Cookie asks what I would do if I was PM.

    Well, I suspect I'd be busy doing a lot of other things that had nothing to do with alcohol policy. I reckon this guy is thinking along the right lines.

    But, when it did come to alcohol policy, I would start by doing two things:

    1. Repeal the smoking ban.

    2. Enforce the current law on being drunk and disorderly in a public place properly.

    That would get people back into pubs and make town and city centres more pleasant places to be.

    And beyond that, I would do nothing.

    So often we have problems presented to us and are told "doing nothing is not an alternative". However, generally it is, and most problems have a tendency to correct themselves over time.

    As the late Milton Friedman once said, "The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem."

  7. Al Jahom’s world sounds like hell, as well as being impossible to deliver in a democracy.

  8. If I get a pledge card through the letterbox at the election with the promise to "stop sucking Obama's cock" I'll think there is Mudgie and Mudgie for PM.

    I'll vote for anyone that puts the "cock" on a pledge card.


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. To combat persistent trolling, unregistered comments are liable to be deleted unless I recognise the author. If you intend to make more than the occasional comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.