Joan McAlpine, a professional rhetorician for the Scottish National Party (SNP) has a piece on CiF today in which she quotes her party colleague, SNP government health minister Nicola Sturgeon’s anguished warble:
“It cannot be right, that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit spending just £3.50.”
We do not know if Sturgeon tagged on “Won’t somebody pleeeese think of the children!!” for good measure.
So, reluctantly, I have to return to this issue because I think the principles at stake are larger than just a policy decision on alcohol.
It is neither, Ms Sturgeon, right nor wrong that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit for £3.50. It simply is the case. What’s more, if he can, it is none of the State’s business.
It is the State’s responsibility to conduct medical research on our behalf and to let us know what they find out. Having done their best to advise and educate us, the public, their responsibility ends. If Mr McPublic wishes to ignore that advice, that is his problem, not the State’s problem. It is time governments understood that we are their clients, not their subjects.
Frankly, it is bizarre to even put a price on the “weekly recommended alcohol limit”. Even the phrasing of this is bizarre: surely a ‘limit’ is a warning not a recommendation, but let’s not get drawn into semantics. The chief problem with this line of thinking is the obsessing over the cost.
Let’s double it. Would it be fair to say that “it cannot be right, that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit spending just £7.00” then? No, this cannot be right! Let’s double it again.
Wow. Now, for a mere £14, a man can exceed his “weekly recommended alcohol limit”. This cannot be right! That’s only £2 a day. A Starbucks latte is just £2.30. So, for less than the price of a cup of coffee, a man can exceed his “weekly recommended alcohol limit”.
Shall we double it? Where will this line of thinking end? How much should it cost a man to exceed his “recommended” limit of weekly alcohol consumption? The trouble with nanny-statists is that they can’t accept that it is impossible after a point to control human behaviour, so they keep increasing the dose because their first prescription didn’t work. They never stop to think that perhaps they’re administering the wrong medicine. Few possessed of the petulant moral certainty required to be an “expert” lobbyist ever do!
Now I can hear some of you thinking that, intuitively, she must be right because the State certainly does have a compelling reason to control our drinking behaviour. After all, excessive and abusive consumption of alcohol causes no end of social problems. But I agree with several of the commenters in yesterday’s discussion that we already have laws to deal with public violence, domestic abuse, vandalism of property, drunk driving, etc. Prosecute people to the full extent of the law on those charges and don’t let their being drunk be an excuse.
The way to stop people drinking too much is to make ‘drinking too much’ have consequences which they are unwilling to bear. You cannot control people – much less stamp out social problems – by toying with prices. It’s a pipe dream.
What’s more, since increasing the minimum price doesn’t affect the well-off, the entire premise is based on the idea that poor people or young people are predominantly the problem. If it is poor people who cause all the trouble – not drunken students or drunken yuppies – then we should be told in blunt terms. If the issue is ‘young people’ … well, they shouldn’t be buying alcohol at any price! Trying to price a can of lager out of a teenager’s range is an admission that the prohibition on selling him/her alcohol of any description at any price has failed. If that direct approach can’t be enforced or isn’t effective, what on earth makes these “experts” think an indirect approach – a long-shot at best – will work?
They don’t. It won’t. But hey, they have to do something!