Monday, April 21, 2008

Good for advocacy, Bad for Liberty

Even the most diligent and harshest critics of the nanny state mentality are sure to be surprised by the European Union's latest target. The effects of secondhand drinking are now an apparently serious subject of governmental study. Upon further consideration, it's only a logical extension of an interventionist mentality intent on molding individuals to fit within a desired power structure. Perversely, blaming the substance exonerates the most noxious in society.

The campaigns to combat the effects of ‘passive smoking’ are widely credited for Europe’s growing number of smoking bans. Now alcohol is in the sights of the public health lobbyists, and they have invented the concept of ‘passive drinking’ as their killer argument.

I have seen a leaked draft report for the European Commission, which is due to be published some time in June. It makes claims about the high environmental or social toll of alcohol, the ‘harm done by someone else’s drinking’. The report is likely to inform proposals for a European Union alcohol strategy later this year.

Dr Peter Anderson, the report’s lead author, who has a background in the World Health Organisation (WHO) and plays a leading role in Tobacco Free Initiative Europe, tells me that the concept of social harm takes the alcohol debate beyond the traditional limits of individual choice and addiction. ‘You can make the argument that what an individual drinks is up to them, provided they understand what they are doing and bearing in mind that alcohol is a dependency-producing drug…. But when you talk about harm to others then that is a societal concern and justification for doing something about it. I think that is an important argument. If there was not harm to others then the argument gets a little less powerful’.

[..] The idea that almost any activity – drinking, eating, speaking, even thinking – can cause harm is often blown out of proportion and used to generate frightening figures and policies.

Most violent crimes are committed by men; should males therefore be subject to special restrictive laws? Domestic violence mostly takes place in private homes; should privacy be abolished? Claiming that aspects of everyday life, such as drinking, automatically leads to ‘harm’ takes away from the responsibility of individual lawbreakers for what they have done, and thus makes for bad policy. Should all 85 per cent of Europe’s citizens who drink – that’s at least 387 million of us – face restrictions because of the tiny minority who commit the 2,000 homicides dubiously attributed to alcohol?
Do read the whole article.

HT: Curmudgeonly and Skeptical.

cp: The Broom

1 Comment:

natasha said...

Ooh, if prohibition makes a come-back, I think I'll switch careers and become a bootlegger. I'll make a fortune.

Really though, I don't get the term "secondhand drinking" - senseless. Ok, drinking and driving - not good. But how does my staying at home and getting quietly tipsy hurt anyone?

Personally, I think secondhand flatulence is a bigger issue. No one should have to breathe the pollution created by another's intestinal issues.