Binge drinking, it is argued, is an epidemic currently gripping
It has not been established, to my mind, with any certainty that binge drinking today is any worse than it was yesteryear. Indeed, the evidence suggests that Australians, on average, are drinking less. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Health Australia 2006), reported that in 2003 (the latest year for which cross-country data is available), Australians drank on average 9.8 litres of alcohol a year (the equivalent of 1.25 bottles of wine a week). This was the ninth lowest out of a sample of 22 countries. This is one-third less than what was consumed in 1973, and about the same as 1963. The long-term trend is a decline in alcohol consumption.
Yet some dear citizens have suggested that we need an alco-card to ration the alcohol we can purchase from the local bottleshop. Let us assume that such a project will cost $100 million to issue cards to all our dearest throughout
Clearly, under-age drinkers wouldn’t receive an alco-card, since they are automatically prohibited from purchasing alcohol. So clearly, the card applies to alcos older than 18 years. Should it apply to everyone? How do you tell if someone has a drinking problem — from the colour of their nose? What if you don’t have a drinking problem, are you still limited by a quota? Does the local priest need an alco-card if he is bulk purchasing wine for Holy Communion? Does the congregation have turn up with their cards? Did Jesus have an alco-card?Certainly, a small community may get together to ban access to alcohol. But it is not clear that a member of the general public, fully sober and rational, should be penalised because they like a nice drop after work. And finally, who would enforce it? Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s and I doubt it would today.
- Cost: $200 million including enforcement costs
- Expected impact on average earnings: Unchanged
- Expected impact on economic growth: Unchanged
- Impact on incentives: Big incentive to set up illegal alcohol sales. Random alco-card checks
- Impact on governement spending: Big increase in enforcement
- Impact on taxation: $200 million
- Winners: Green teas salesmen
- Losers: Everyone else