Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Have our leaders been drinking?

Ask yourself the following question: if you discovered that a sector of the economy had been colluding with one another to agree a minimum price for a good, rather than competing with one another, would you not be angry? Would you not accusing them of “price gouging” their customers? Would this not be a flagrant violation of competition law that ought to be investigated by the competition authorities?

Of course. It hardly takes a degree in economics or a sharp eye for injustice to see that.

Unless, apparently, the good is alcoholic. Then, apparently, the customer can go to hell, because what our beloved political masters want to intervene to raise the prices of alcohol.

And which political party is in the forefront of this paternalistic policy. I can barely bring myself to say it!

The Liberal Democrats have brought out an utterly illiberal policy that includes a proposal that we “Stop irresponsible drink promotions by introducing a minimum price for alcohol.”

Now price controls are a particularly pernicious tool with which to shape drinking policy. It is not, note, an increase in the cost of alcohol. Oh no! There will be no need for our beloved leaders to pay any extra for a bottle of Chateau Neuf de Pap. They can quaff all the Isle of Islay they like as they fashion ever-more-restrictive policies for the hoi polloi. Indeed, one has to wonder if they had consumed one too many bottles of Verve Clicquot before stumbling stupidly on this particular policy.

Because price controls will only affect those buying cheap alcohol. It is a policy deliberately targeted at the poor drinker; s/he who feels the need to avail him/herself of the three-bottles-of-white-for-ten-pounds offer at the local corner store, or those who cannot afford to drink anywhere except The Goose or a Westherspoon.

This policy means only one thing: to our political masters, it is poor people who are the problem. The wealthier classes never get drunk and cause criminal damage.

And it is not just some poor people. After all, if it were just some poor people that were causing the problem, the solution would be to target criminals and those who behave anti-socially. Price controls target everybody. The responsible father of two who wants to pop into the local for a swift pint on his way home to (Oh, lets rub this in!) cook a dinner for his hard-working wife and loving children will have to pay (Extra salt into wound!) more of his minimum wage income to unwind a little after his hard day.

But it’s good for him, right? After all, these poor people need nice, high-minded politicians to make moral judgements for them, to cajole them into behaving responsibly. It’s for their own good.

Frankly, it’s enough to drive one to drink!


Laurence Boyce said...

Great stuff Tom. Again! Please hurry up and take over the party.

Tom Papworth said...

It would corrupt me.

I'd be quaffing martinis and dictating to the poor before I knew what I was doing.