Adventures into the Alcohol Nanny State
By Patrick Hedger, Policy Analyst, FreedomWorks
Around the time that most college and graduate school kids were off enjoying Spring Break, I attended the Alcohol Policy 16 Conference held just outside of the Beltway in northern Virginia. For three excruciatingly long days, attendees heard from presenters from across the globe on a variety of alcohol-related topics, ranging from “Preventing binge drinking on college campuses” to “Pricing alcohol to offset social costs.”
By the end of day one, I could use a strong cocktail to help me process everything I had just heard.
While the program offered many seminars that applied to all aspects of alcohol and the related industry, I couldn’t ignore how much of the agenda was centered on regulating alcohol use among the freshly 21 and over demographic.
Workshops trained on how attendees could manipulate policy makers at all levels of government to advance alcohol regulations, and educated on the ways in which universities can monitor students’ behaviors and report them to federal authorities.
Undoubtedly, most of the several hundred in attendance left the conference with an arsenal of wild new ideas on how to restrict the consumption of a perfectly legal product among adults in a (supposedly) free society.
There is nothing wrong with educators and community leaders gathering together to discuss how to educate young Americans on the dangers of alcohol over-consumption. But this conference went far beyond an open forum and expanded well into a “how-to” brainstorming session on getting alcohol out of everybody’s pint glass, regardless of age or capacity.
Attendees at the Alcohol Policy 16 Conference (sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control) nonchalantly compared the legal consumption of alcohol to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as the horrific crimes of child abuse and molestation. But beyond the incredibly offensive hyperbole, the real shock lies in the attendees’ passive consensus that free-markets and voluntary association are akin to a disease epidemic. As if restricting the sale and use of alcohol is a matter of the public health, because the government knows your limits better than you do.
So how do the CDC and its ivory-tower allies from around the world suggest we cure America’s alcohol epidemic?
According to the presenters at the taxpayer-subsidized Alcohol Policy 16 Conference, the government should attack the contagious germs of liberty and individual sovereignty.
In a session titled, “Global Perspectives on the Status of Alcohol Policy,” panelists called into question the very notion of national sovereignty and identity. They discussed the control of alcohol policies at an international level, and establishing “global frameworks” for “monitoring and surveillance” of alcohol related activities.
That’s right. A taxpayer-subsidized conference openly advocated for a global law to regulate and restrict your purchasing and consumption of alcohol. (And you thought living in a dry county was inconvenient!)
Another panel, titled “Can Alcohol Tax Policy Further Public Health Objectives?” demanded a “necessarily massive” federal alcohol tax increase of several hundred dollars annually for each American consumer, intended to cripple the alcohol industry by providing a disincentive for Americans to purchase and consume alcohol.
The three-day infomercial for the Nanny State continued with a panel called “Rationale for lowering the illegal BAC limit for driving to .05,” which called for policies that would create permanent criminal records for adults who enjoy beer, wine, and spirits safely and responsibly. Under the proposed laws, a 160-pound male consuming a little over a single pint of beer at dinner would spend the night in jail.
One panel even encouraged Universities to observe and report students holding private parties at off-campus residences to the police.
On my way out, I picked up a taxpayer-funded Department of Health and Human Services pamphlet calling for citizens to use Town Hall Meetings to pressure state and local governments to pass legislation further restricting access to alcohol. Is that even legal?
The list of ridiculously burdensome and intrusive policy suggestions from the conference goes on and on. But despite the flashy presentations by well-credentialed professors and politicians, there is nothing new about these ideas. They are simply a continuation of the legacy of Prohibition, a case study in the dangerous unintended consequences of the government trying to regulate human behavior.
As a recent college graduate myself, I can confirm with certainty that most young Americans barely listen to the laws currently in place, and likely will ignore any stricter laws or expensive new taxes. The millennial generation responds to incentives, not threats from some global authority.
If the government wants to seriously prevent dangerous drinking in our communities, they can start by removing the regulatory barriers to creating jobs. Keeping Americans employed ensures that people have a personal incentive in being personally responsible.
More jobs and more individual freedom? I can drink to that.