Pious nonsense about drink

I’M surprised that nobody here has blamed the SARS outbreak on alcohol.

Suicide, family break-up, violence, pregnancy, depression – you name it – drink is the cause.

Ireland is having one of its hand-wringing, navel-gazing, shame-faced bouts of introspection and it’s having a very negative effect – on me.

Because in its wake will be a whole new raft of laws and regulations that will allow the state to interfere in the way Irish people choose (I said choose) to live their lives.

Pub hours will be tacked back. More repression will be aimed at young people. Advertising will be banned. And so on.

And you know what? It won’t make a whit of difference.

Because alcohol is a drug. And the most spectacularly failed public policy of the past two centuries is the idea that you can ban drugs.

You can’t.

And the pursuit of such a policy has been absolutely disastrous. In America, there is now 2.5 million people in prison. The spectacular profits to be made from illegal drugs have left a generation of America’s poorest people criminalised, brutalised and more marginalised than ever.

The US is spending billions of dollars across the globe from Colombia to Afghanistan. Millions of people have been displaced by drugs wars. Entire economies are being destabilised by the drugs trade.

And the effect?

The price of drugs is falling everywhere. That means that the more you try to ban drugs the more valuable they become.

It means that despite the greatest superpower in history spending throwing in its weight, its money and its guns to stop drug supply – they can’t even make it scarce enough to put the price up.

All of this is simple enough for the biggest dunderhead in the class to grasp.

The free sale of alcohol has been a great success. Before anyone has anything else to say about it, they should acknowledge that fact.

Let young people drink

SOME fool of a professor proposed that Ireland should increase its drinking age to 21 years.

It’s a sad reflection on the times that he wasn’t laughed out of town.

What might the effect of such a policy be? You don’t need to do much research – just look at 17-year-olds.

They drink under hedges, down by the canals, beneath underpasses. Then the authorities put the bar up and make it harder for them to get drink.

Then young people just climb over pub walls and steal it. Or steal it from home. Or get their older brothers to buy it. Or brew it themselves. Or fifty other ways as well.

The effect has not been to stop them drinking. The effect has been to treat young people like lepers when properly they should be going to the pub with their parents.

I’ll agree with the professor on one thing. Scrap the 18-year-old law. Then parents and children can form their own rules.