The New Campaign against Booze

A Home Affairs Select Committee has urged an end to happy hours and a minimum price for alcohol, according to the BBC.


The BBC’s Mark Easton, on his blog. tried to establish the link between price levels and consumption for various European countries. He then went to show a graph of the UK’s average alcohol consumption taken from a 2004 Cabinet Office Report. This is my posting


The figures for costs of alcohol should be measured against the per capita income. Norway may have the highest alcohol prices in Europe, but it is also has per capita income nearly double that of the UK. Relative to income alcohol is no more expensive than in the UK.

When considering putting the price of alcohol up, please also remember that it is inelastic with respect to price. That is a very large increase in price is needed to get a small drop in demand. It is thus a great way to increase tax , but a poor way to reduce consumption.


The graph of the last century of alcohol consumption is very revealing. In the early part of the twentieth century, the sharp fall in alcohol coincided with a religious revival and the temperance movement. It was started in the nineteenth century by organisations such as the Salvation Army and the Methodists. In other words, it was a massive cultural change, where it became socially unacceptable to even touch alcohol. The steep decline in religion in the post war period was accompanied by the rise in alcohol consumption.


Is this a fiscal solution being proposed to a cultural problem. The outcome of a minimum price will be monopoly profits for the supermarkets and the booze companies.

It is true that a lot of crime is committed by those intoxicated, but the solution is not to increase the price of alcohol. The solution is to change people. The Revival of the early twentieth century, (begun before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914) saw both a fall in alcohol consumption and a fall in crime levels, that continued through the Great Depression. But it was not lack of alcohol that reduced crime, but a common root in the Christian Faith.



Follow up Tuesday 11th November


The posting of yesterday failed to get through the BBC filters. Don’t know if was the positive message about religion, or the powerlessness of government. Let us see if this one gets through.


Mark Easton fails to pick up the most important point of alcohol consumption over the last century. It fell from 1900 to 1932, stabilised until around 1960, then shot up to around 1980. The government influences (licensing laws and tax rates) cannot account for these dramatic changes.

For this reason alone, changing licensing laws and imposing a minimum price will not have much impact.


Here is the graph mentioned in the above report.






Please tell me if I have missed anything. I remember (not personally, you understand) that the licensing laws were made more draconian during the Great War, which can account for some of the steeping of the reduction. Also, as men used to drink far more than women, and younger men more than older men the loss of nearly a million men, (5% of the adult male population) would account for some of the slide as well. But take the 1900 to 1914 trend through to 1930 and you still have a fall of over 50%.





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