Let people have a drink!

By Stephen Hoffman

Ronald Reagan wisely once said the nine most terrifying words in the English Language are “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help”.

The basic premise of this is that government intervention often makes things worse. This is because it leads to bureaucracy and nonsensical regulation that are inefficient.

Furthermore, government intervention often has a chilling effect on individual freedom as it involves the state telling you how you should lead your life and how your money should be spent. No more so is this true when governments try to interfere in lifestyle choices. A good example of this is minimum alcohol pricing.

To set a minimum price for alcohol is to try and set a government price for a market product. This is simply wrong and not an area the Government should have any say in whatsoever. To do so undermines competition and also is a way of the Government trying to change people’s behaviour by increasing prices.

It is not the job of the Government to tell people whether they can or cannot drink alcohol. It is our bodies’ and our mouths’ and this is not the property of the Government. To artificially inflate prices making it harder for people to buy alcohol is undermining our freedom of choice.

Minimum alcohol pricing treats all individuals who drink alcohol as guilty until proven innocent, just because a few people drink to excess and cause damage. However the vast majority of people are responsible drinkers. Consequently, it is illogical, illiberal and wrong to punish the majority for the sins of an extreme minority.

To go down the wrongheaded thinking of minimum alcohol pricing why don’t we ban people from driving, as a minority of people who drive, drive dangerously? Or what about banning people from supporting football teams, as a tiny minority are hooligans?

Government should not be in the business of telling you what to do, whether it is what you eat, drink or the car you drive. This should be based on free choices allowed through a free market in the interest between the buyer and seller.

Furthermore, minimum alcohol pricing could make drinking the preserve of the rich. Through increasing the price those who are poorer will find it harder to buy a drink. It’s an example of the law of unintended consequences when it comes to government intervention. In this case it’s an example of the Government interfering in the free market and in effect making drinking alcohol the preserve of the rich.

Thankfully the UK Government, despite the bleating of some, has turned its back on minimum alcohol pricing. It should have never been considered in the first place though, the fact it was, shows an element of paternalist thinking in parts of the Conservative party which would interfere unnecessarily in how people want to live their life.

Quite rightly, Conservatives for Liberty is dead set against this, and the more people who support Conservatives for Liberty the less chance ideas like minimum alcohol pricing will see the light of day.