Sunday, March 25, 2012

Minimum price for alcohol

So, David "buttered new potato" Cameron—the man who once said "The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end."—has announced that he intends to pass a law setting a minimum price per unit for booze.
The Prime Minister is to say: “Binge drinking isn’t some fringe issue, it accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in this country.

What? How the fuck can he possibly determine that? I call "bollocks" on that one.
“The crime and violence it causes drains resources in our hospitals, generates mayhem on our streets and spreads fear.

Sure, alcohol-fuelled crimes are deeply unpleasant. So, the solution is to stop accepting drunkenness as mitigation when convicting people.
“When beer is cheaper than water, it’s just too easy for people to get drunk on cheap alcohol at home before they even set foot in a pub."

Oh, this old canard lie again. As my colleague, the Filthy Smoker, pointed out in his Five Myths About Alcohol post (back in 2009), alcohol is not cheaper than water.
This doozy is a favourite of pretend charity Alcohol Concern and has been repeated many times...

Let's ignore for a moment the obvious point that someone wanting to buy water is hardly likely to buy lager on an impulse instead. Let's even ignore the fact that water comes out of the tap for 0.02p per glass.

Instead, let's look at Tesco's own brand lager. Here it is.

It costs 91p for a 4-pack, or 5.2p per 100ml.

And here's Tesco's own brand mineral water.

It costs 13p, or 0.7p per 100ml.

So please can we put this one to bed now?

Apparently not, because the leader of this country is repeating it. Again. Given the number of advisers the man must have, it's hardly even worth applying the Polly Conundrum* because Cameron must be lying.

So, what else does the scumbag has to say to justify this massively illiberal act?
“So we are going to introduce a new minimum unit price—so for the first time it will be illegal for shops to sell alcohol for less than this set price per unit.

“We’re consulting on the actual price, but if it is 40p that could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths per year by the end of the decade."

So they're "consulting on the actual price", are they? So, given that we know the usual suspects, let's think who they'll consult...
  • The BMA and other assorted medical charlatans: they'll be for a much higher price, because their massive salaries will bear it and they are a bunch of interfering, self-righteous, patrician arseholes.

  • Alcohol Concern, Alliance House Foundation, and other fake charities: they'll be for a much higher price because they are insane, temperance supporters and, besides, telling the government what they want to hear is what the government funds them for.

  • Drink companies, pubs and off-licences: they'll be for higher prices (within limits) because they will get a fuckload more cash.

So, the ordinary people of this country are going to get royally stitched-up, eh?
“I know this won’t be universally popular."

Well, it'll be popular with those groups outlined above.
"But the responsibility of being in government isn’t always about doing the popular thing. It’s about doing the right thing.”

The right thing, you pompous prig, would be to leave people to go to hell in whatever way they choose, frankly. As your Deputy Prime Minister once said, "Taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safe."

In the same article, Clegg also said...
... the Government wanted to establish “a fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge”.

Excuse me whilst I let out a hollow, derisory laugh.

As ever, the brilliant Chris Snowdon has done some sterling work on this issue, so forgive me whilst I quote large chunks of this neat round-up post.
I have written much about this subject on this blog in the last two years—that campaigners have used statistics dishonestly to promote the policy; that it is very likely to be illegal under EU law; that pub chains have gone all bootleggers 'n' baptists in their rent-seeking; that the BBC has bent over backwards to amplify the voice of temperance groups; that the government has used public money to lobby itself.

I see minimum pricing as a sister policy to plain packaging in that it will give the government an unprecedented right to impose its will on the free market. Sin taxes and health warnings are one thing. Having the government setting prices and seizing control of a product's entire packaging is quite another. These are powers that the government has never had in our peacetime history (correct me if you can think of an example to the contrary) and they are being taken without any kind of rational debate. The binge-drinking 'epidemic' is a modern moral panic which will baffle sociologists for years to come, and the packaging of cigarettes would be trivial if it were not such a blatant trampling of private and intellectual property.

As James Nicholls wrote recently:
That it is the Tories, rather than Labour, who have been first to throw their weight behind minimum pricing is remarkable enough: it is, after all, a concept entirely at odds with free market principles. 

Indeed. It is especially disappointing—though not surprising—of a government that came to power promising to restore freedom to this country. The so-called Freedom Bill seems to have been shelved and, whilst the Coalition seems to suffer less from legislatory diarrhoea than their predecessors, they are quietly carrying on with the job of removing more of our liberties.

Chris goes on to make this prediction...
Nothing—absolutely nothing—is more certain than that within weeks, perhaps days, of minimum pricing being introduced, you will hear the usual shrill voices complaining that 45p, or 50p, is mere "pocket money" and the minimum price should be 60p, 70p, 80p, £1 a unit. What hope can we have that the government will stand up to them then?

... and, sure enough, this little gem appeared in the Telegraph on Friday.
Minimum alcohol price 'could be higher than 40p per unit'

Drinkers face paying more than 40p per unit of alcohol under a minimum price scheme to tackle the country's binge-drinking problem, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has indicated.

Now, Chris Snowdon has studied the tactics of temperance loons—and published two excellent books about them: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist and The Art of Suppression**—but most of us, I think, would easily have predicted this move.

See, it's brilliant for the temperance movement: it's a campaign that they can continue to fight (thus continuing to justify their existence and, thus, their dollops of taxpayer-extorted cash) through demands ever higher prices, until eventually moving in for the ban.

Hmmm, that tactic sounds somewhat familiar...

Did I mention that fags have got even more expensive in the Budget?

Anyway, over at the ASI, Timmy is incensed...
This is the most monumentally insane, stupid and illiberal nonsense that we've had imposed upon us in years. There have been things more illiberal, yes, but not insane at the same time. I'll leave you to fill in the (...)s in the title there for I'm afraid that my carpet biting outrage at this silliness might lead me to become intemperate in my language. Idiots just isn't strong enough.

As Sam points out a lot of the detailed heavy lifting on this has been done by Chris Snowden, sometimes of this parish. Alcohol consumption is falling, definitions of "binge drinking" are ludicrous, the statistics on alcohol related hospital admissions are nonsense (they are assumed, not counted or calculated), boozers, smokers and lardbuckets save the NHS money, not cost it and anyway, what is this interference in our charting our own way from cradle to inevitable grave? Not to say that it's regressive in distribution.

There is worse though than just entirely shakey evidential support (much of it cooked up by people paid by the government to lobby the government) and gross illiberalism. There's actual stupidity as well in at least two points. The first is that minimum pricing is almost certainly illegal. We even have case law on the point.

The second is so glaringly, inanely, stupid that it even has the European Commission on the right side of the point. And yes, you know someone has to have been really barmcaked to have managed to get them on the right side of any question more complex than the cuteness of kittens:
The European Commission sounded a warning to Britain about the policy, saying it believed “minimum tax rates to be preferable to minimum pricing for alcohol”.

“Minimum tax rates put all products on an equal footing from a market perspective, whereas minimum prices can increase the profit margin of products with the lowest production cost,” a spokesman said.

Let us assume that all of the evidence is in fact sound: that there is an outbreak of binge drinking, that this is doing harm and that higher alcohol prices will reduce these evils and harms. How magnificently chocolate teapot do you have to be to insist that that extra money from the higher prices goes to brewers and supermarkets rather than into the Treasury? If you're going to sting the boozers because they've been naughty boys and girls then the least you can do is reduce the tax burden on others, no? Instead of pumping up the profits of some favoured sector?

Me? I am so tired of this crap that I can barely summon up the energy to curse them all as a pack of cunts.

But they are a pack of cunts.

P.S. As a special bonus, let me introduce the Turn-coat of the Day—one Andrew Lansley—who, in May 201o, said this:
All our decisions must be evidence-based, and on that basis, we do not currently support an introduction of minimum pricing.

It seems that Lansley has been bought off because, on Friday, the following was reported:
Mr Lansley said last night that he had changed his mind about the wisdom of minimum pricing.

He said: “I think it is important to send a signal that we will not have a situation where people are being continuously prompted to drink to excess.”

What's that jingling sound coming from your pocket, Andrew? Gosh—are they solid silver...?

* The Polly Conundrum is named after Polly Toynbee, of course, and asks this simple question: "are they pig-ignorant or are they lying?"

** DISCLAIMER: I did the covers for these books, and I stand to make a few pennies if you buy them.


Hollando said...

Is it possible that they are using it to make everyone forget about the dismal budget?

Techno Mystic said...

The most worrying thing for me is that they have made a policy based on power they think they have but which may have already been given away to the EU.

They really don't seem to know what powers they do and do not have.

john in cheshire said...

Do you think if I forward this to Mr Cameron it will help to change his mind?

Barman said...

The Prime Minister is to say: “Binge drinking isn’t some fringe issue, it accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in this country.

Ah, while 'binge drinking' is always associated with people fighting in A&E or puking in the gutter, they've re-defined it to mean anybody drinking more than their ridiculously fictitious recommended number of units per week...

So even if you just enjoy a few glasses of collapso at home every evening you too are in fact a 'binge drinker'...

Utter bunch of cunts that they are...

tinks said...

Great detailed post, something the politicians and tax-payer teeters could never achieve, cogent arguments with facts and balance.

From what I can see there is nothing between the main political parties, united in their contempt for the people who did or didn't put them there.

There is no justification for punishing the many for the grief caused by the few. It's power and control with added 'fuck you!'

The Great Repeal Act never came, the bonfire of the Quangos never materialised, the debt never got cut...

Cameron the Great Disappointment.

After years of a thoroughly nasty and psychologically flawed government, it's looking like nothing is going to change.

The political class are simply out of control.

Henry Crun said...

DK, you also forgot to point out in your Tesco beer vs water comparison, that the Tesco own brand lager is a mere 2%, so may as well just drink the water. The beer is only good for keeping slugs and snails off my vegetable patch.

As for the binge drinking drain on resources, have the police somehow lost the power to arrest people for being drunk and disorderly? Or does that fuck up their detection and arrest targets? That is, let's not arrest drunks because if we do we will exceed the arrest and detection targets that could be better used for people who put golliwogs on their windowsills.

Blue Eyes said...

As I've said elsewhere, I will be running more trips to France and setting up a home-brew kit, pending my emigration.

Anonymous said...

OT: An interview with Chris Mountsey from the 1960s.

Or maybe another Devil's Kitchen:-)