Monday 2 January 2012

The altar of something must be done

I rarely drink but I know a few who do, some a lot, and I’m not so removed from the world as to deny the problems of binge drinking. I am however detached enough to avoid the temptation of believing everything can be fixed, that something is always better than nothing. The “something” in this case is a plan to impose minimum prices on alcohol. From The Independent:
A recent study suggested that a minimum price of 50p [per unit] would prevent more than 2,000 deaths a year. [28-Dec-2011]
William Hogarth - Gin Lane
Here’s the difficulty I have: I don’t believe it. I simply don’t believe that 2,000 deaths per year are caused by binge drinking facilitated (and this is the important bit) by cheap alcohol. What I suspect are thousands of deaths where it has been judged alcohol consumption played a part - the rest being conjecture. Whether alcohol played the significant part might be evidence-based - though I doubt it - what remains is dodgy statistics and wishful thinking. How on earth do you determine the alcohol was low-cost? More than this, how do you determine the elimination of this low cost would have made any difference? Removing low cost doesn’t remove the lowest cost option, it merely changes it; and my limited experience of people intending to get rat-assed is that price doesn’t come into it, if it did they wouldn’t be going to a pub/club to get paralytic; which leads to my other annoyance.

Given “progressive” is a word so in vogue, this is regressive in nature. Minimum priced alcohol is a measure advanced by one section of society with the intent of imposing on another - the poorest, financially. There’s no incentive for those introducing the measure to question the ropey science, since they won’t be affected in any way. It’s an illiberal example of the liberal-styled middle class not helping, but telling the poor how to live - how unusual.


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