Alcohol, localism and the post-bureaucratic age


Cameron is planning once more to get tough on cheap booze. The Conservative’s have yet to give any clear policies on this matter, but a minimum price for alcohol might well be on the agenda.

Drinking alcohol and getting drunk are of course not problems in and of themselves. However, the antisocial side of its effects are best dealt with through the devolution of political powers to local levels. Sadly localism comes with its own problems, but short of the privatization of all land and the natural creation of contract-based communities, at present there might be no politically realistic alternative. With more representation and varying policies at the local level, people will have a greater say over where and how they live. Alcohol can flow to where it is most readily appreciated. This transfer of power should be done contemporaneously with an end to the national taxation of alcohol and a hefty reduction in centrally dictated regulations.

As for the more serious cases of alcoholism, once again the centralised state and politics does not have the answers. Regulations and prohibitions will not solve the underlying causes of people’s decent into alcoholism. Salvation ultimately comes from the strength of the individual and the support of institutions predating the modern state: family, friends and charity. And despite the Ian Duncan Smith’s constant calls through CSJ for the state to support these institutions, much better would be to leave them alone to flourish as they did prior to the massive extension of the state.

A minimum price for alcohol is hardly in the spirit of the post-bureaucratic age Cameron is so keen to promote. And this is ultimately the problem with this vision; he has has not signed up to the reduction of the central state that is essential if localism is to be anything more than another control upon our lives. A skeleton central government as the defender of our freedoms and local governments as the many and varied expressions of the will of the community could and should be the practical reality of Cameron’s post-bureaucratic age.

This would be no small revolution, and a serious blow to collectivism. Of course there are solid arguments that this does not go far enough, but in reality, it would be more than we can currently expect.