Taboo Pressure

October 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

BC recently changed their drinking and driving laws. The Union BC Municipalities are petitioning the BC Government to adopt a progressive alcohol tax that adds more tax to higher alcohol items. Both are in the hopes of reducing and limiting’ irresponsible drinking’. My thoughts are pretty simple; neither gets to the heart of the issue and therefore neither will have the desired effect.

First what is ‘irresponsible drinking’?  I think we can all agree that having a couple of glasses of wine or beer with friends is not the problem. Neither is getting piss drunk and puking all over yourself. The problem is getting piss drunk and either getting behind the wheel of a car, or exiting a bar and starting fights or damaging property, or drinking yourself silly and beating up ones kids or spouse, of drinking while you’re on the job or pregnant, or simply drinking yourself to death. By the way this was not meant to be a comprehensive list. In other words it is the social cost of over indulgence.

None of the above instances are economically motivated, nor will they be significantly derailed through economic actions. I believe that it simply encourages other illegal behaviours like smuggling, experimenting with expensive narcotics, breaking & entering, that sort of thing.

Rather I believe that these issues are cultural.  We are brought up understanding that drinking is a taboo (n. a prohibition imposed by a social custom or as a protective measure – Merriam-Webster Dictionary). One that our parents relish and joke about, but kids are forbidden to do. What happens is that we create a taboo. A taboo that is alluring and seductive. A taboo that it accessible and energized by peer pressure. If your buddies are trading shots you are likely to do that to.

Pricing will play a role in eliminating the problem but won’t solve it. My guess is that deconstructing the taboo will significantly reduce the social motivation for over consumption. By the way deconstructing the taboo won’t happen if it comes from the ‘authorities’. It seems that is a sure-fire way to encourage the opposite behaviour.

The next question is how and who will have the political motivation to do make  the ‘how’ happen.  Love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thanks for reading this.

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