Wednesday 21 March 2018

The temperance lobby's problem with supply and demand

With minimum pricing starting in Scotland in a few weeks, state-funded temperance groups are looking for new dragons to slay. Advertising is the number one choice, but our old friend 'availability' is also a priority.

From the BBC...

Scotland's poorest people suffer most from having easy access to alcohol in their area, a new study has suggested.

Researchers at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities found those on the lowest incomes were more likely to drink too much if availability was high.

They have suggested the Scottish government should look at cutting the number of shops selling alcohol - particularly in areas of low income.

Sigh. We have been through it time and time again. As I said when a similar piece of junk was published in 2014...

Look, areas of high demand will have more supply. That is as true of alcohol as it is of any other product. If supply was sufficient to create demand then alcohol retailers would open more and more off licences everywhere until they were evenly distributed across the country on a per capita basis. They don't do that because they follow demand instead. Off licences are more densely concentrated in certain areas for the same reason that bookmakers, coffee shops and Polish food shops are more concentrated in certain areas, ie. because that's where the customers are.

Just as the alcohol retail industry cannot expect to increase aggregate demand by opening a new off licence, temperance activists should not expect to reduce aggregate demand by closing them down. Alas they do expect that because they're simple folk who believe, like every temperance crusader before them, that demand for alcohol is somehow created by the sneaky alcohol industry. Hence their quixotic battle against availability and advertising that flies in the face of everything we know about the workings of markets.

Alas, the BBC couldn't be bothered to ask somebody with half a brain to explain how supply and demand works. 

The team's findings suggested that interventions to reduce drinking which focus exclusively on consumer behaviour - such as media campaigns and warning labels on bottles and cans - were unlikely to make significant improvements to health. 

That's a bit awkward for their 'public health' colleagues given that the third part of their neo-temperance agenda is putting cancer warnings on alcohol, but never mind.

They argued that radical policy changes were needed to address health inequalities in alcohol-related harm. Changes, they said, should include reducing the availability of alcohol. 

Of course they did. What do you expect from these people? Either they are stopped or they continue their whirlwind of destruction until alcohol is illegal.

If they genuinely believe that people drink excessively because they have five off licences within walking distance rather than three then they are profoundly stupid. If they don't believe that, they are deceitful activists. Either way they should not given a platform to spout their obvious nonsense unchallenged.

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