It's rather Chris Snowdon over at the IEA who is the policy wonk to talk to on the issue of minimum pricing for alcohol. The general view seeming to be that the public health wallahs have got the bit between their teeth and they're not going to listen to anyone else on the matter at all.
For us, over and above the more normal points about being liberals, so therefore everyone gets to do what they want to do even at risk to their own health, the bit we cannot understand here is the insane economics of the proposal:
New evidence commissioned by the government from its own health advisers has concluded that ministers should introduce minimum unit pricing of alcohol to tackle the grim medical, economic and social toll of drink-related harm.
The in-depth study has found that drink is now the biggest killer of people aged between 15 and 49 in England. It accounts for 167,000 years of lost productivity every year and is a factor in more than 200 different illnesses.
It leads to such huge harm that the lost economic activity it produces, through early death and disability among workers, is more than that for the 10 most common cancers combined, the review found.
Its publication, by Public Health England (PHE), is an embarrassment for ministers because it says they should embrace a policy that they have rejected due to an alleged lack of evidence.
Assume, as we don't, that these dire predictions of looming disaster are correct. And also ignore the point that if people wish to drink until their livers explode instead of surviving to drool the last years of their lives away in a nursing home well, that's up to them. Let us follow the argument to where raising prices will reduce intake - we are really very sure that this is the way demand curves work, that people buy less of more expensive things (something the minimum wage fanatics would be advised to understand).
We are thus going to, deliberately, make alcohol more expensive. Why would we do this with minimum pricing and not tax rises? For consider the effect of the two.
A tax rise raises the price. And the tax then flows into government coffers enabling either more spending or, if people are being sensible, less taxation of other nice things. Seems like a reasonable result.
Minimum pricing raises the price that a manufacturer must charge. But it does not increase said manufacturers' costs in the slightest. Minimum pricing thus fattens the profit margins of the producing industry. And what possible public purpose is served by making one specific industry more profitable?
That is, even if all of the lead up to, the logic supporting, something must be done about booze pricing, minimum pricing is still the wrong answer. So, why is it that so many are gaga for it?
If we were in a more corrupt country than Britain is we would assume that PHE was in fact a false flag operation paid for by the manufacturers of cheap gut rot - yes, some of us have lived and worked in places where that would be the logical assumption. Britain isn't that corrupt, it's, amazing though it may seem, one of the least corrupt places on the planet. Thus PHE are simply in error, victims of some strange groupthink perhaps.
But why is it that their solution involves fattening profit margins not the Treasury?
And here is Chris Snowdon on the subject:
At least taxes have the virtue of financing government expenditure. Minimum pricing, by contrast, is a deadweight cost. It raises prices and clobbers the poor while benefiting no one. That is why governments of both left and right have quite sensibly rejected it.
Quite is. So why is minimum pricing so bloody popular?