Monday, 17 January 2011

Compounding Failure Is No Way Forward On Teen Drinking

Last week, Jackart posted a flawless piece detailing safety problems arising out of legislating for compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets, it's well worth reading in its entirety. He did so to point out the natural occurrence of unintended consequences which always occur when the righteous, via their lapdog politicians, try to 'fix' things.

Mary Anne Sieghart has done a similar job in relation to teens and pubs. I think many of us can relate to the picture she paints here.

When we were teenagers, we started going to the pub from the age of about 14. We had to pretend to be 18, but most landlords didn't ask and the rest gave us a wink but served us anyway. The pub was an institution, a social hub. You wanted to be accepted by the regulars, so you behaved the way they did.

And because we were under 18, we knew we had to remain inconspicuous. The landlord would tolerate our presence as long as we didn't embarrass ourselves or him. We didn't dare get smashed or he wouldn't allow us back. And because we tended to meet the same group of friends in the same pub, being banned was not a good move.

The other thing about a pub was that it was mixed-age. The older regulars wouldn't exactly boss you about; they were more likely to take the mickey. But you respected them and didn't want them to think you were a complete fool. The aim was to be able to hold your drink. It would have been humiliating to get legless in front of them.
Quite. But then the modern temperance movement and health lobby got stuck in, and the rest - teens swilling cheap grog on park benches, for example - is history.

Of course, being a columnist for The Indy, Mary's solution to the problems caused by overweening regulation ... is even more regulation, this time in the form of raised duty on off sales and reductions for pubs. That is clearly not going to work considering Mary has already identified the problem, but she's a right-on type with elephant blindness, it would appear.

However, whilst meandering to her disappointing denouement, she has encapsulated the problem in one simple paragraph, even if she stumbled there from completely the wrong direction.

If we had invented a system that encouraged young people to drink too much, it would look like this. Strong spirits would be ridiculously cheap to take home. Bars and clubs would be designed to maximize the amount people drank. And young people would be deterred from entering the one institution that taught them how to drink well rather than badly.****
It is, indeed, a model which encourages the worst excesses in teen drinkers, but it is entirely caused by those who see alcohol as a demon, and teens as fragile as a soap bubble.

Current legislation can send a licensee to bankruptcy should he/she be caught serving a pint of IPA to a 17 year old, so consequentially 17 year olds don't drink in pubs, even surreptitiously. They will still drink, though, and it's arguable that teen money has had an effect in driving off sale prices downwards.

The best way, then, to get back to the days of youths forsaking the park bench in favour of venues which subtlely teach "how to drink well rather than badly", is to abandon the policies which drove them there in the first place.

Stop sending rugby playing 17 year olds into pubs on entrapment errands; free the police to punish unruly behaviour rather than licensees for serving respectful teens with a bottle of Bud; get the righteous out of the equation and allow the public to apply common sense within guided boundaries**.

The very last thing the state should do is what Mary has suggested - that being to apply more legislative tweaks to a problem they caused with previous meddlesome regulation. Or, as Jackart puts it ...

The message to Government is simple. STEP AWAY FROM THE LEGISLATION. WE WILL SOLVE PROBLEMS, NOT THE STATE, IF YOU LEAVE US ALONE.
He's most certainly not wrong, you know.

**Of course, if the government wanted to see the return of the quiet local for trainee adults to dare to enter, they could quietly knock Health Act 2006 enforcement on the head too ... but that would be far too imaginative for our current bunch of elected numpties to comprehend, I suspect.

UPDATE: Bobski has shamed me by articulating perfectly my first reaction to the Sieghart paragraph which I have enthusiastically labelled ****

Last sentence is spot on in my mind. Third sentence is slightly misleading, they are meant to make it easy to drink (bar access and stocked drinks) and more enjoyable while intoxicated but they don't force people to drink. Second sentence to me is something that isn't the issue, I am a free marketeer (so low prices are good) and alcohol has always been cheaper to buy at a shop and take home than drink out. Finally the first sentence of the above paragraph; I think that we have created a system that has increased the availability of alcohol and legislation has removed the old teaching mechanisms and made it more desirable to 14-17 years olds by telling them that they aren't allowed it.
Bravo!


15 comments:

cartermagna said...

Absolutely bang on.

Bobski said...

Damn. Beat me to it by two minutes.

Good post.

Mud in the Blood said...

It always strike me as odd how the very people who enjoyed these past freedoms are the one who most willingly give them up and then when the problems come, their answer is to tighten the screw abit more.

The state needs to do much, much less.

Curmudgeon said...

Yes, I saw that and thought it was a very good exposition of the traditional socialising effect of pubs, which we have now largely thrown away. Pity she had to spoil it by repeating the usual nonsense about how off-trade drinks have become cheaper, which they haven't.

As I've often said before, I think the role of relative price in the decline of pubs is greatly exaggerated.

Trooper Thompson said...

Mud,

good point. I guess they just love licking boots and having a fascist state ruling over them. It's not a rational desire, but if they were rational they'd learn something from their own experience. They won't do this, because they prefer to frig themselves into a frenzy over swastikas and black uniforms.

Anonymous said...

The kids are still going TO the pubs, but not going inside.
They are bringing their own booze and standing outside the pubs getting plastered.
Since the smoking ban most of the 'action' is outside the pub where the publican has no control over what is going on.
At least years ago you had to look and behave old enough to be in a pub having a drink.
The smoking ban has given the 14/17 year olds the green light to buy cheap drink and go and get in with the crowd outside the pubs.

Anonymous said...

We have reached the new era of 'The blind leading the blind' now in many pubs.
Gone are the days of reading brass plagues in the corner, 'In memory of Burt who drank here for 65 years'. Because Burt is now sat at home on his own.
Gone are the withering looks or friendly chats with your elders where you quickly learnt pub etiquette because he/she have effectively been banned and sentenced to loneliness.
I doubt if there is a single piece of legislation in this Country ever that has done more to ostracize the elderly than the smoking ban.

Roger Thornhill said...

I started drinking age 17 (cos that is when we started to drive to nice country pubs...) in such an establishment. Best behaviour. No inebriation. Respect soight from elders/regulars. This we obtained. It was part of our rite of passage to adulthood.

Will said...

I'm dumbfounded that anyone could think that tinkering with the price will achieve anything good. Prices ALWAYS increase. The good old days these righteous puritans hark back to had even cheaper alcohol. They have no rational argument.

I am Stan said...

Yo Dickie,

I`m listening to 5 live on the subject of the Coagulation`s minimum pricing farce.

So far they`ve wheeled out ex alcoholics who are demanding a price hike, one lady pointed out to them (the ex alcoholics) that the vast majority can control their drinking and asked "why everyone should be punished because of their lack of control", which is the whole point really is it not.

Of course they`ve also brought in the big guns, the one issue quangocrats, armed with dodgy statistics, puritan zeal and a rent seekers desperation they`ve invoked the "think of the chiiiildren" mantra.

This guvmint really sucks, they`re shaping up to be worse nannys than the last lot of thieves.....BAH!

FUCK ME I`M BEGINING TO WONDER IF THERE`S ANY POINT IN FUCKING WORKING FOR A LIVING, I WORK A SIXTY HOUR WEEK AND ITS GETTING TO THE POINT WHERE CAN`T AFFORD TO DO FUCK ALL OR GO FUCKING ANYWHERE AFTER I`VE PAID ALL MY BASTARD BILLS AND FUCKING TAXES FUCKING HELL WHATS THE FUCKING POINT IN ALL THIS SHIT SOON THANKS TO THE BASTARD PURITANS AND MONEY GRABBING FUCKING GUVMINT I WONT EVEN BE ABLE TO AFFORD A FUCKING PINT.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

I need a drink!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Tip of the iceberg ,once the bansturbating fuckers get their foot in the door they shriek for more legislation ,and the wankers in parliament and Brussls roll over and hand it over to them ,just like that.
Stinks of lobbyist corruption, the whole festering pile of government.

Bobski said...

Something I that that both you and I have overlooked is the change in the style of pubs.

As business for pubs has gotten tougher the worst hit have been (physically) small independent pubs while there has been an increase in large (again in terms of floor area), pub+restaurant chains like Wetherspoons.

The responsibility of what goes on in a 'happy-plastic' is usually left to a bar manager and rarely do they have the authority of the licence owner.

As ever it comes down to reducing red tape and taxation so that more small businesses can open.

junican said...

Bobski.

I have been saying something similar for quite some time:

1. The Pubcos were happy with the level playing field provided by the full ban.
2. They saw a means to 'see off' independent pubs.
3. The comprehensive ban inhibits new start ups.

What the pubcos failed to built into their calculations was that ALL pubs would be hit. Needless to say, your average politician saw none of these implications.

Bobski said...

@junican

"Needless to say, your average politician saw none of these implications."

There are politicians (average or not) with foresight now?

When did that happen and why did no-one inform me?

Anonymous said...

This feels similar to how I, and my friends were way back at primary, were we used to suck on the honey suckles that were on the school grounds. The school disaprooved of this, told us we couldn't, they told us they had put pesticide on the plants. None the less, we still wanted those honey suckles, and we would go ahead and take that risk of the honey suckles being poisoned to have them.

This is the same case with this new legislation, making alcohol more difficult to get doesn't cure the fact that underages still want it. They will just take more risks and put themselves at more danger to get it, that they wouldnt have to if the age stayed at 18 and the tax stays as it is.

Its ironic how the generation that caused this culture is quick to dissociate themselves from their own past, simply to get votes to keep their politicians salary.

Keep it 18, and things will work themelves out. Im fully with you on that one.