20 August 2009

Tax hikes to save your soul

Ahh, the Tories have announced a policy!

They plan to raise taxes on alcohol to stop binge-drinking - these taxes will of course only apply to 'strong' alcohol - i.e. cheap ciders and beers, and alcopops, which aren't strong, but are evil

Now I have already had experience with this policy - they introduced it in Australia over a year ago (albeit with a ridiculous amount of legislative dithering, but still, at least they have a legislative) and it doesn't appear to have done much - it's too early to tell, but there's still a media panic over violence outside pubs and some pretty tough legislation aimed at it - which would indicate the soft option of taxation is doing squat

Now what I don't get is why don't countries follow the example of others? I understand why they won't accept the Netherlands' version of prostitution (or New Zealand's, or Australia's, or the USA's...) but when it comes to more regular legislative moves why don't they look at how other countries have fared? In Australia they started talking about selling school land to finance the state budget - meanwhile I'm suddenly thinking 'has no-one heard of Thatcher?', this is a country that loves sporting achievement, thinking about doing one of the things that went a good way to nearly wrecking British sports

I do of course know the answer to my question - it's politics. they don't care about long-term benefits, only short-term solutions and easy votes

So with that in mind is it any wonder that this tax hike will see cheap, strong, supermarket-brand alcohol rise in price while traditional alcohol (beer and wine, and presumably spirits) will 'fall in price' (according to the mail) and therefore 'save our pubs!!' Thus appealing to that broad group which is the conservative middle classes

Election won! And with a rise in tax to boot!

It's not that I particularly mind attacking crappy alcohol - but one) don't dress it up as for public benefit and two) also admit it's an easy revenue raiser, which it is, and there's nothing wrong with that

The fact is, alcohol will still be cheap enough - even if white lightning becomes more expensive than Cristal people will still drink to excess, I used to do it on regular beer, as do most students - a few pence here or there makes no real difference

The Mail justify this action by saying this legislation in Australia and Germany has reduced consumption of the worst alcohol by 'as much as fifty per cent' - yes, consumption...nothing in that article about crime or violence - all they did was screw over a few breweries while people drink whatever is cheaper

Have you ever seen someone who binge drinks stick to a budget? No, you will see them go out with twenty quid saying they'll only spend that, only to go out and have a rather cold and wet trip to the cashpoint an hour into the session, then wake up the next morning another fifty quid lighter - unless all alcohol (except perhaps Sherry) costs the Earth then young, naughty people will drink, because at the heart of the matter is that the government still want regular 'decent' people to drink freely and so will always ensure alcohol is affordable

You want to control people, then you have to actually control them - restart the temperance movement, enforce a 3-drink maximum across the country, but don't pretend that aiming at the cheapest, roughest booze will do anything but soothe your conscience

By all means aim at the young - you can address the problem of under-18s with tougher action, and should, but a pretty feeble attempt at social manipulation of young adults will do nothing - people always forget that most alcohol related violence is still perpetrated by adults, even if they are 'young'

Like I say, I don't have a huge problem with the action itself (which is probably why it's such a clever idea - who's going to protest?) - I just think it's virtually pointless and a cheap gimmick to gain votes, it's shameless more than anything

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