Monday, 2 August 2010

Liberalisation works but that won't stop the New Puritans banning your pleasures


Some will have watched the programme on Channel 4 this evening pointing out the extent to which out drugs policies – all of them – are failing. I’ve long been equivocal about our approach to drugs but this has been on the basis of disagreeing with the tactics rather than questioning the strategy. This programme hasn’t yet changed my mind but I now doubt the efficacy of the draconian, ban everything, ‘bang ‘em up in jail’, catch the drug lords and take all the money strategy we now employ.

Many of you may well agree with me on this – but believe me the politicians (from every party) who use the term ‘soft on drugs’ as a cheap vote vacuum will be revving up the opposition to the politician who says ‘legalise it’ or ‘don’t ban it’. Even when the evidence of liberalisation’s success is there before them, politicians, egged on by a coalition of the ignorant and the scared, still don’t see it. As I pointed out a few days ago, we’re about to ‘put and end to the 24-hour drinking culture’ despite:

Alcohol consumption has fallen since the liberalisation of licensing laws – yes folks we’re drinking less

Alcohol-related emergency admissions to hospitals have also fallen since the liberalisation of licensing laws

Levels of violent crime – and especially alcohol-related violent crime – have fallen in the same period

Yes folks – liberalisation works. And draconian restrictions change nothing – despite the smoking ban and the endless scares about the habit nearly a third of 18-24 year olds admit to smoking (and if you ask me that’s an under-estimate). The number of smokers continues to decline (mostly because smokers die younger rather than because of people quitting) but not at any faster a rate than was the case before the ban. All the ban has done is closed a load of pubs and annoyed a lot of people – it isn’t saving many lives.

Yet people still don’t seem to be listening. Here’s Guido Fawkes reporting on Kit Malthouse (Tory Deputy Mayor of London and Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority):

Behind the paywall at The Times, Deputy Mayor of London Kit Malthouse has been expounding on the ‘need’ for state intervention to combat alcohol consumption. The chief of the Met Police authority suggests twice daily alcohol testing for problem drinkers with “intensive monitoring and enforcement to ensure compliance”.

He gleefully explains what happens to those who dare breach a prohibition order in a similar scheme run in the backwoods of South Dakota: “The sanction is immediate and certain – straight into the cells, no argument, no court, no lawyers.”

It seems the new prohibitionists are everywhere despite every scrap of evidence suggesting that a more liberal approach is more effective (see above). And there’s more to come – fatty foods, soft drinks, driving, red meat and staying up late are all in the sights of the new puritans. As Mr Puddlecote will remind us – we told you so.


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