David Cameron is often right about a lot of things, he has in my mind successfully modernised the Conservative Party. But boy, when he’s wrong, is he wrong! Minimum pricing on alcohol isn’t a new debate, but it is one I’m going to wade into. Mainly due to a brief argument I had with Chris last night, but also because I’d like to articulate why it is a deeply illiberal idea.
Being a liberal sometimes puts me at odds with the Conservative leadership, and 99% of the time at odds with the Labour Party.
Chris, like David Cameron advocates a minimum price per unit of alcohol in an attempt to curb binge drinking and reduce the costs to the state of alcohol related crime and NHS treatments. But they are wrong to do so…
For starters, let’s get one thing straight. The state has absolutely NO business telling its people what it can and cannot put in their body. We are autonomous beings, we do not need the state interfering in the private sphere. I have talked about this kind of interference before in a post about legalising drugs, the same principles obviously apply. (Once again I get to use a favourite quote of mine!)
If freedom means anything it must surely include the freedom to engage in activities which others may consider unwise. This includes smoking, overeating, not exercising, driving “off road” cars in cities, even winning goldfish. A Liberal society is one where people should be free to make their own mistakes. – David Laws
The state should remain neutral, it should not be advocating an Aristotelian good life, proclaiming that drinking alcohol is morally bankrupt. It is exactly this kind of moral hypocrisy that the Conservatives should be looking to shed.
Moving away from philosophy of the matter and onto the practical side of a minimum price scheme, it still remains an abhorrent idea. Who do you think suffers from a minimum price? The poor.
Chris suggested that “It won’t most hit the poor, it’ll most hit those who drink to excess.”
Chris is wrong here to suggest that it will hit those who drink to excess and not the poor. There will of course be cases where those who drink to excess also happen to be poor. But guess what, as Zadok points out “The figures actually suggest that it’s the rich who have the drinking problem, not the poor, so why is Minimum Alcohol Pricing being pushed when it would have no effect whatsoever on the richest?”
It is the poor who would be hit by a minimum price, they would have to forgo other parts of their income to continue their drinking. Drinking is an addiction don’t forget, so it would not be easy for them to stop. A minimum price will have no effect on the binge culture of Britain. It will further demonise and hamper the poorest in society, whilst the rest of us won’t even realise it has been brought in.