Monday, 2 March 2009

Salmond should learn from the Gin Acts

The early eighteenth century gin craze was driven in part by the upper and middle class having set an example that the working class were encouraged to emulate; then it was Queen Anne and her ministers drinking fashionable gin, and promoting it, that caused a filter-down of the habit.

The habit became a social problem, and a series of Acts (1729, 1736, 1743, 1747 and 1751) were passed to impose higher duties, licences and restrictions all designed to raise the cost of gin and thereby decrease consumption. They mostly failed. Small producers and retailers were driven out of the market, and the Weatherspoons and Yates of the day grew wealthy.

Sounds familiar?

As Salmond considers measures to raise the price of alcohol in Scotland, he would do well to study England's Gin Age. In the end it was not legislation, but a rise in the price of grain and a fall in wages that killed the gin trade.

1 comment:

DBC Reed said...

The great Henry George suggested getting rid of all licensing laws so you could buy booze everywhere, like at the barbers,whatever.
The aim would be to get the price down so far that you could n't make a living just from selling liquor; you'd have to sell food or whatever to make a living. The legendary cafe culture. A variant of putting the pushers out of business.
Don't hear much of this counter-intuitive idea,nor of his Single Tax on land to bring the price of property down.Too simple by half.