Wednesday, 24 July 2013

"The important but unglamorous task of treating citizens like adults"

This is a keeper. A Guardian editorial from 2004 on the subject of alcohol...

For an institution trying to shed a "nanny state" tag, the government is not having much luck. Yesterday's publication of an alcohol harm reduction strategy for England will only add weight to the nanny jibes, coming in the wake of a similar exercise involving junk food. The new alcohol strategy includes a wearingly familiar series of policy recommendations. But in this case the nanny image is undeserved. That is because alcohol abuse is one of the silent demons of modern life, costing billions of pounds and scaring thousands of lives every year.

The facts are as staggering as a double vodka before breakfast. Up to 1,000 suicides annually are linked to alcohol abuse. A third of all domestic violence incidents, 360,000 each year, are related to alcohol. There are 30,000 hospital admissions for dependence and 22,000 premature deaths annually. The social costs are just as staggering: divorce and homelessness are frequently linked to drinking problems. But this rarely attracts the moral outrage that surrounds many other evanescent panics.

The question is, does the damage to the country from alcohol justify further government intervention? The philosopher John Stuart Mill answered that question: "The limitation in number of beer and spirit-houses, for the express purpose of rendering them more difficult of access, and diminishing the occasions of temptation, not only exposes all to an inconvenience because there are some by whom the facility would be abused, but is suited only to a state of society in which the labouring classes are avowedly treated as children or savages".

Similarly, given that millions of people in the UK regularly consume alcohol without problems, any prohibitive increases in taxes will disproportionately fall on blameless moderate drinkers. But increased powers for the police and councils to revoke the licenses of flagrant abusers are justified, as is a tougher line on offenses resulting from drunkenness. Further than that, the government is left with the important but unglamorous task of treating its citizens like adults and engaging them in civilised debate.

Good to know that's it's the world that went mad, not me.


Mark Wadsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Wadsworth said...

"and scaring thousands of lives every year."

Classic typo.

thethoughtgang said...

I can only assume that someone, since then, has pointed out that the drinking of booze has a further whooly undesirable consequence which the Graun simply cannot countenance... that someone, somewhere, somehow is making a PROFIT. *shudders*.

Ivan D said...

Since then, the Guardian has become a comic and there has been a massive increase in the number of state funded public health busybodies. The solution to the proliferation of busybodies is simple and obvious. The UK press does seem to be useless beyond redemption but as readers are increasingly turning to more reliable sources for news it is possible that the MSM will not survive for too much longer.

Junican said...

It seems to me that the MSM in general, and the Guardian etc in particular, are searching desperately for something controversial to sell copies. The easy way is is to shout abuse at a particular group of people and wait for the reactions. All the better if there are organisations which can present press releases with 'proof' of the correctness of the abuse.
The horror, however, is that this view MUST lead to more and more of the same thing, until reasonable people call a halt to it. But don't expect politicians to do so because they themselves live by exaggeration and slogans. This why we need a different political system.