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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The alcohol debate in Scotland

In Scotland they are debating setting a minimum price for some alcoholic beverages. This is meant to fight the Scottish culture of binge drinking.

The theory is that with higher prices people will be less likely to buy so much alcohol. This theory is, however, unproven. Even the expert proposing this policy admits that there is no evidence that it will actually work.

Dr. Petra Meier, the expert, told a Scottish Parliamentary Committee:

The idea of modelling is you haven't introduced a policy, you're trying to project what is going to happen. It's like the weather forecast, you don't evaluate it afterwards, it's a model.

She also said that the world will be "looking to Scotland" to see if this policy will work. It's nice that she is willing to use the coercive force of the state to test out her theories. I mean really that has worked so well in the past.

I like how the whole debate here is disregarding one simple truth: price floors hurt poor people more than rich people. Any time the price of a good goes up without wages increasing it hurts the purchasing power of everyone in the society. Thepeople that can least afford to lose purchasing power are the people that have the least power to purchase.

That is to say, the supposed "social democrat" SNP are pushing hard for a policy that will do damage to the demographic they claim they want to protect. Or is it simply that they want to control our lives?

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on February 13, 2010 | Permalink


Like all social engineering policies it will only cost the government money. Cheaper booze will be brought in from Ireland and England , not to mention the home brew industry will grow proportionatly. The people that want their booze will sacrifice some other budget item with little remorse.
They will probably call it what it probably is.....just another tax grab.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-13 5:08:24 PM

Hugh, I agree it will hurt the lower income population more while having little affect in higher income people.

peterj, I agree. If the tax is high enough it will motivate peoplem to do what you say. If not then they will learn to live with it and the government in all it's wisdom and benevolence pocket the money for their pet causes that will help them get re-elected.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-13 5:15:34 PM

Sounds like a good idea . I think the sin tax approach has been tried once before in history . Let me think - ah yes Canada. At least a floor will save health money . I know I can`t afford to get sick and I also can`t afford it . If that unjustly prevents a majority from doing harm to themselves , maybe it`s the way to go . And no , short of smuggling , the duty on booze wipes out ' bringing it in across the border ' . And if the home brewing industry ever gets significant [ no chance - too much work ] , they`ll tax that to death also .

Posted by: daveh | 2010-02-14 8:17:32 AM

And no , short of smuggling , the duty on booze wipes out ' bringing it in across the border ' . And if the home brewing industry ever gets significant [ no chance - too much work ] , they`ll tax that to death also .

Posted by: daveh | 2010-02-14 8:17:32 AM

A floor will save health money ???. Better up your medication. Short of smuggling ??? I was talking about smuggling. Much like the illegal tobacco industry now rakes billions away from government tax coffers.(yes,Billions).
When government intrudes too far into what people enjoy, the middle finger gets more exercise and all the taxpayer funded health warnings (better known as the pissing contest)are ignored. The home brew industry does not leave much of a footprint and government can not tax what they do not see.
Much like the illegal pot industry that they waste billions on every year without making any head way or learning any lessons. Same pissing contest.(No...I dont use pot). We all pay for their effort in futility. It always comes down to the two absolutes:
Government is never wrong (while in power).
Government knows what is best for you, you will abide.

Unfortunately both absolutes are often wrong.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-14 10:57:12 AM

Most of the tabacco came from the Aquasasne Mohawks - I don`t think it`s happening to nearly that extent nowadays . Ditto the booze from the US I live about 1000 yards from Buffalo and used to bring in a case of beer on my front seat every week . No more . And don`t get caught smuggling it in . You`ll regret it . Wholesale smuggling - I just haven`t seen it ; at least around here. Maybe back in the woods where you are .

Posted by: daveh | 2010-02-14 11:19:28 AM

Maybe back in the woods where you are .

Posted by: daveh | 2010-02-14 11:19:28 AM

The last time they checked cigarette butts around various Quebec schools they found approx. 40% were contraband. Not sure what you read in that but I see it as a losing battle. If I smoked I would have no trouble buying them here in BC.
True capitalism.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-14 11:35:45 AM


The last time I crossed the border into Scotland by road and rail there is no "border" per se. You could freely bring highland malts back home from England with impunity.

Like Canada, the Scots are, by virtue of their socialized health care, state chattel and therefore not (ultimately) free to decide for themselves what they may ingest for fear of inequitably taxing the "system". Beside's, politicians have to be seen as doing something. You wouldn't want them prorogued would you?

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-02-14 11:38:44 AM

John , just before I head off to the track [ I gamble too ] , the Scotish , English ' border ' is not considered an international border , is it ? That would be akin to smuggling vodka from Saskatchewan to Ontario . And what happens if a Scot inequitably taxes the system - is he expected to suddenly mortgage his house if such a crime can be proven ?
Let`s not get into prorouging . I never eat them .

Seriously can anyone fault Harper for taking a pause in the non stop foolishness that Parliament has become . The phrase ' Much ado about nothing ' comes to mind and I predict it will help their cause in the end , once the Facebook fruitcakes and posing guarantors of democracy are realized to be rabble rousing dunderheads , not at all interested in the death of' democracy ' but more for a continuance of the absurdness that this country has become .

Posted by: daveh | 2010-02-14 11:58:08 AM

When people cant get booze they resort to black markets or cheap dangerous alternatives, this is what happened with prohibition. By making it more expensive all it does is create a prohibition on the poor. Not to mention those whom are poor and addicted will become even poorer due to increased cost, or as i said, resort to more dangerous alternatives. Stupid shit.

Posted by: Baker | 2010-02-14 4:19:53 PM

There`s nothing wrong with ' resorting to black markets ', Bakerman . It`s an appropriate way to push back on the nanny state . That`s why we should be pushing back on the fraudulently Liberal -arranged gay marriage laws for instance or outrageous health tax or the state controlled media or abortion laws or ridiculously favoring laws for ' aboriginals '[ Caledonia] or mandatory seatbelts or any number of things . If liberals had their way you`d get fined for passing wind on the street. But certain absolutes are necessary - murder , theft and just maybe reckless endangerment of oneself.

Posted by: daveh | 2010-02-14 5:24:05 PM

There's nothing wrong to use them by necessity i agree, but i would say in general they are a very bad thing as they enrich gangs and cartels, and should be avoided if possible. Not to mention product quality and purity is questionable in a black market.

Posted by: Baker | 2010-02-14 9:17:33 PM

I don`t know ; I might be with Floyd Looney on this one - 'A bit of TB bacteria makes it taste a bit richer ' ..

Posted by: daveh | 2010-02-14 9:36:42 PM

Baker, with alcahol taxes the other cartels are enriched; governments. Non-government cartels exist because there is a market for them and in all cases I can think of, is because of taxes or prohibition.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-14 9:58:00 PM

True enough, but they aren't the ones taking out by standards in the streets, or killing anyone opposed to them. (i know this could likely e argued but im taking a literal "here at home" sense). I would rather pay the majority of my money to a legitimate business owner, and a little bit to the government VS all to a criminal gang or cartel. If you want to argue differently, argue that alcohol prohibition created safety, cause its basically the same thing. And im not saying tax's are good, infact bad, as they encourage the black market which enriches criminal gangs which is very bad.

Posted by: Baker | 2010-02-14 10:12:23 PM

Baker, pretty right on. The gangs profit from illegal activity. It is only illegal because of a law or a tax. So we should speak out against those laws or taxes that create the environment in the first place.

Let's not forget that the state has a monopoly on the use of force. So you can be harmed by them if you don't play by the rules. In fact, if we analyze our lives we are restricted far more by state use of force than the fear of gang violence. Much of what we do in our lives we do because we don't want to get a ticket or get arrested. Speeding, not stopping completely at a 4-way, paying every penny of taxes, permits, licences, etc., are just some examples.

I also opt to pay legitimate business for goods or services, but what is sad is that with the stroke of a pen, the state can make a business illegitimate. Even if it once was a viable business serving a need in the community.

Or they can prevent a business from ever getting off the ground like the margarine producers in Quebec. Can you imagine the mass confusion that would surely have resulted had the government there allowed margarine producers to color it like butter? And the peril? Thank goodness they saved the people from all this hardship by banning it. Damn those criminal margarine producers that still tried to distribute it anyway!!

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-15 1:07:49 PM

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