Saturday, 13 March 2010

Adam Smith on alcohol pricing

Via Fausty, I come to Dick Puddlecote commenting on our disgusting politicians, who, having given away almost all their real power, revel in the one thing left to them - the power to fuck with us. Knowing that alcohol is recession-proof and in need of ever more of our money, they have hit upon a ruse.

In order to show that there's nothing new under the sun, and also to assert both the fallacy of their thinking - or what passes for such - and their criminal lack of learning with regard to basic economics, I present some words from Adam Smith's 'Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations' :

"It is a losing trade, it is said, which a workman carries on with the alehouse; and the trade which a manufacturing nation would naturally carry on with a wine country, may be considered as a trade of the same nature. I answer, that the trade with the alehouse is not necessarily a losing trade. In its own nature it is just as advantageous as any other, though, perhaps, somewhat more liable to be abused.

The employment of a brewer, and even that of a retailer of fermented liquors, are as necessary divisions of labour as any other. It will generally be more advantageous for a workman to buy of the brewer the quantity he has occasion for, than to brew it himself, and if he is a poor workman, it will generally be more advantageous for him to buy it, by little and little, of the retailer, than a large quantity of the brewer. He may no doubt buy too much of either, as he may of any other dealers in his neighbourhood, of the butcher, if he is a glutton, or of the draper, if he affects to be a beau among his companions.

It is advantageous to the great body of workmen, notwithstanding, that all these trades should be free, though this freedom may be abused in all of them, and is more likely to be so, perhaps, in some than in others. Though individuals, besides, may sometimes ruin their fortunes by an excessive consumption of fermented liquors, there seems to be no risk that a nation should do so.

Though in every country there are many people who spend upon such liquors more than they can afford, there are always many more who spend less. It deserves to be remarked too, that, if we consult experience, the cheapness of wine seems to be a cause, not of drunkenness, but of sobriety. The inhabitants of the wine countries are in general the soberest people in Europe; witness the Spaniards, the Italians, and the inhabitants of the southern provinces of France. People are seldom guilty of excess in what is their daily fare. Nobody affects the character of liberality and good fellowship, by being profuse of a liquor which is as cheap as small beer.

On the contrary, in the countries which, either from excessive heat or cold, produce no grapes, and where wine consequently is dear and a rarity, drunkenness is a common vice, as among the northern nations, and all those who live between the tropics, the negroes, for example, on the coast of Guinea. When a French regiment comes from some of the northern provinces of France, where wine is somewhat dear, to be quartered in the southern, where it is very cheap, the soldiers, I have frequently heard it observed, are at first debauched by the cheapness and novelty of good wine; but after a few months residence, the greater part of them become as sober as the rest of the inhabitants.

Were the duties upon foreign wines, and the excises upon malt, beer, and ale, to be taken away all at once, it might, in the same manner, occasion in Great Britain a pretty general and temporary drunkenness among the middling and inferior ranks of people, which would probably be soon followed by a permanent and almost universal sobriety. At present drunkenness is by no means the vice of people of fashion, or of those who can easily afford the most expensive liquors. A gentleman drunk with ale, has scarce ever been seen among us."


alison said...

And as the polls stand we're set to get another ten years of them too. Imagine the possibilities for them! Let's face it we live under a socialist dictatorship and it would appear that is how it will stay forever and ever. Srsly. I don't see a way out of this unless the maleable Tories win.

Trooper Thompson said...

The problem is of course that the tories are the same, as this stoopid debate shows. The only hope is that they are, as you say, maleable.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Wow! That has stood the test of time, hasn't it?

Trooper Thompson said...

It certainly has. Unfortunately so has much of the erroneous thinking he identifies.