Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Change Coalition: lies and bullshit

When Our New Coalition Overlords announced a programme of cutting back the state and returning powers to the people, many of us were prepared to give them a chance—more in hope than in confidence. And, sure enough, they have neatly demonstrated that their promises were, in fact, all lies and bullshit.

For, in their latest Coalition Programme for Government [PDF], the ConDems have decided that one of their very first acts will be yet more controls on alcohol.
  • We will ban the sale of alcohol below cost price.

  • We will review alcohol taxation and pricing to ensure it tackles binge drinking without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers, pubs and important local industries.

  • We will overhaul the Licensing Act to give local authorities and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to, any premises that are causing problems.

  • We will allow councils and the police to shut down permanently any shop or bar found to be persistently selling alcohol to children.

  • We will double the maximum fine for under-age alcohol sales to £20,000.

  • We will permit local councils to charge more for late-night licences to pay for additional policing.

Commenting on the BBC article, The Nameless Libertarian explains why the minimum pricing for alcohol is such a bad idea.
Just for old time's sake, let's rehearse the reasons why this policy is both wrong and pointless. It won't stop binge drinking—that will continue, but people will just have to spend a little more on getting arseholed. It is an impingement on the freedom of business during a feeble recovery from a deep recession. Laws already exist that allow for the refusal to sell/serve alcohol to those who are drunk, and laws already exist that can deal with the anti-social behavior of those who are wasted. We should enforce those laws, rather than creating a new, illiberal rule to punish everyone in society who might want to buy alcohol at a cheap price. I don't think there is anything liberal, democratic or even particularly conservative about this policy—other than the fact that the Con-Dem coalition has jumped on it with unseemly haste.

This is, of course, one of the main points that I made when Boris banned drinking on the Tube—and the vast majority of commenters leapt upon me, supporting the ban. I maintained that the ban would punish responsible drinkers, and that we already had laws against being drunk and disorderly, etc.

"No, no," maintained the commenters. "Bans are fine when it's banning something I don't like or don't do." Now, how do you like them apples, guys?

What is the point of the Coalition introducing a Great Repeal Bill—designed to abolish thousands (ha! I bet it will be about ten) of "unnecessary" laws introduced by NuLabour—if they are simply going to replace those laws with other, even worse laws?

And if the Coalition can't work out by themselves why a minimum price on alcohol is a bad idea, this should give them a massive bloody clue.
Supermarket chain Tesco says it wants to see curbs on the sale of cheap alcohol during this Parliament.

Tesco has welcomed a promise by the coalition government to ban below-cost sales of alcohol in England and Wales.

The UK's biggest retailer goes further, saying it would back the more radical step of introducing a minimum price.

Here's the thing, Dave and Nick: Tesco doesn't need laws to introduce a minimum price on the alcohol that it sells—it could simply stop selling alcohol below cost price. If this massive corporatist organisation supports a minimum price on alcohol, then a minimum price on alcohol is definitely something that you should not introduce. Understand?

If Tesco wants a minimum price on alcohol, it is because the law is either going to give them an advantage over their competition or it is going to allow them to gouge the public for more money—or, of course, both. And propping up the proficts of Tesco is not—repeat, not—in any government's remit.

Never mind, I'm sure that Dave, Nick and their merry Coalition will carry on regardless.

Say "hello" to the new boss: same as the old boss.


Anonymous said...

The powers that be rarely think through the consequences of their actions. Where I grew up alcohol was expensive and difficult for the underage to obtain, so we indulged in the much cheaper and readily available substances, namely copious amounts of recreational drugs. Very progressive.

Tim Worstall said...

"If Tesco wants a minimum price on alcohol, it is because the law is either going to give them an advantage over their competition or it is going to allow them to gouge the public for more money—or, of course, both."

Hmm. If Tesco is selling below cost price to Tesco (which it may well be doing, it's known as a "loss leader") then we should ask the question why are Tesco doing so?

Because other stores are also doing so. Tesco are in competition with these other stores and lookee here, what do we see, competition between suppliers lowers prices to consumers!

Econ 101 strikes again.

So, why does Tesco support banning below cost sales? So that it's competitors cannot do so either, so that they now have a new equilibrium where none of them need to cut prices in order to attract consumers.

Guess who loses?

The consumer, of course.

Econ 101 strikes again: limit competition and the consumer gets screwed.

Big Matt said...

To be frank, the minimum price/ban on 'below cost' sales - increased revenue through taxation. In this brave new world of sorting out the shite left by NuLabour, we need to raise revenue to reduce our debt. It makes far more sense to obtain capital in this fashion, rather than the Labour way - sell assets at well below market value and buying one's own debt. Also, the coalition is (hopefully) removing Quangos and reducing the role of the state. Better of two evils, don'tcha think?

Roger Thornhill said...

This is collective punishment, pure and simple, and thus is an obscenity. Why should I pay for the bad behaviour of others?

People are free to not drink and are free to consider alcohol evil. What they are NOT free to do is use the law to impose their personal opinions.

Massive FAIL by the Condemagogues.

p.s. pubs often have to buy their alcohol at prices higher than the supermarkets because they are being gouged via monopolistic/cartel practices.

Chalcedon said...

The EU won't allow a minimum price. Anyway, that's price fixing which is illegal. This government just wants to be seen to be being tough. If it just had the yobs who get mindlessly drunk at weekends caned they would soon stop this behaviour.

DocBud said...

So, Chalcedon, you believe being drunk in itself (i.e. not causing harm or damage due to being drunk) is justification alone for the application of a barbaric form of punishment?

Old Greeny said...

Why doesn't Plod just enforce the EXISTING laws on drunk and disorderly etc? If yobs are ratted and a nuisance, shove 'em in the cells overnight and kick 'em out at 7am, with a hangover. If they persist prosecute 'em. Simples.