From time to time in my line of work, I have to read discussions on the policies that underlie law. While it is not the stuff you might first think to pick up before a long flight, it can be interesting as an elemental examination of what any given policy options are really about. Sometimes, though, there is a certain obviousness to it that makes you wonder about the motive for the report or the quality of the analysis that went into its preparation. For example, consider this passage from a summary report:
If a given community has very few existing alcohol-policy restrictions, any proposed new constraint would represent a sizeable proportional change in the overall cost of drinking and driving. If another community already has extremely strong alcohol restrictions, the same proposed new constraint would represent a much smaller proportional change in the full price of drinking.Well it would, wouldn't it? If regulatory obstacles are already in place inhibiting any behaviour, then any additional restraint will have less effect than the day the first regulatory scheme came into force. Is this really saying anything different when applied to beer as opposed to say, illegal speeding or regulations applying to lawn pesticide use? That is really only the law of diminishing returns. And the findings are also interesting: "Our findings suggest that jurisdictions that have been historically reluctant to regulate alcohol availability currently have the most to gain from implementing any given alcohol policy initiative." Would it not be equally true to find that any jurisdictions with a broad range of taxes and other restrictions could do with a level of deregulation without affecting abusive forms of consumption? Without going into an extensive study, Google tells us that the authors, however, appear to be abuse researchers rather than use researchers - or even public policy makers. So there is a safe bet as to the framing of the study, not to mention the hypothesis which was selected for testing.
Jay over at the Brookston Beer Bulletin noted this same study a few days ago and to him it it meant that further regulation was pointless. For me, additionally, it raises a question of the effectiveness of legal drinking age. We Canadians can have a beer at 19 - just like most of the world - so, in itself, there is no clinical abuse in an 20 year old just having a beer. If it is merely one variable within a larger group of others sharing a goal to be achieved, then why not adjust them to maximize freedom especially in any jurisdiction where they are particularly imposed upon?