Should There Be A Minimum Price For Alcohol?

Should There Be A Minimum Price For Alcohol?

If you were a sane or reasonable person, or someone aware of concepts such as “evidence”, the answer would be be a clear and obvious no.

After all, it’s a deeply regressive violation of individual liberty that hits the poor the hardest, and doesn’t work in reducing alcohol consumption: there is no relationship between alcohol prices and alcohol related harm. So, it’s pretty obvious that “the only significant effects that sin taxes have are to make the poor poorer and black marketeers richer”.

Still, never let the facts get in the way of some good old fashioned wowserism.

The latest tactic by the neo-prohibitionists is to talk about a “social cost” of alcohol, citing a peusdo-study claiming it to be $15 billion. Of course, this study has been so comprehensively debunked and shown to exaggerate the cost by over $10 billion at the very least, that it has become an international laughing stock that no-one outside the strongest of die-hards takes seriously, but don’t let that stop the wowsers trying to regulate our lives – and receive millions of dollars in taxpayer funding.

So it is refreshing to read Tim Wilson in the Herald Sun speaking some sense to power on how all minimum pricing will do is replicate the failure of past policies:

In 2008, the Rudd government increased taxes on pre-mixed sugary alcohol drinks alcopops by 70 per cent.

The objective of the alcopops tax was to cut drinking levels among younger Australians.
Rudd justified the measure because young drinkers were more sensitive to prices.
Rudd was right. Price sensitive young people stopped buying alcopops.

But young people swapped from alcopops to bottles of spirits and mixed spirits with soft drink themselves. But the most spectacular consequence of the alcopops tax was something no one predicted.

Instead of buying more expensive alcohol, some young people substituted cheap booze for illicit drugs.

University academics argued 2010 data showed some young people were popping ecstasy pills instead of alcohol.

But the cost won’t just be on young people.

If all alcohol is forced to a minimum price, bottles already at the new minimum price level will increase their prices to differentiate themselves.

We also know that once these price floors are in place they only head in one direction – up.

But the biggest issue is that they act as a tax on the poor. Political progressives have argued against consumption taxes because the poor pay a greater share of their income on consumables than the rich.

Under floor prices, more tax will be paid on cleanskin wine families drink with a cheap bowl of pasta, than French champagne popped at top-of-the-town cocktail parties. That’s not just inequitable, it’s immoral.

And it’s a demonstration of the sneering elitism that minimum price floor advocates have to average Aussies.

Click here to read the full piece.

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