When you consider the proposals for minimum pricing on alcohol that the government is presently proposing, you inevitably will ask whether or not this is the best solution to what we perceive to be the problem of alcohol abuse.
While it may in the short term address the symptoms it does not address the cause. The fact is that those in a lower socio-economic group tend to abuse alcohol and indeed drugs, both prescription and illicit, on a far higher level than people who are better off. Maybe the government thinks that poor people have a preselection to self-harm or that they are just plain stupid?
Nevertheless, if you raise the price of alcohol, consumption within the country will inevitably drop. All the so-called experts have done countless studies to demonstrate that this is the case in all countries. Therefore, it would be fair to assume that by increasing the price it will lower overall consumption and lead to less damage to both society and to individuals.
While this may be the case, it does not at any stage address the underlying issues which lead to an individual’s abuse of alcohol or drugs. I suggest that people are increasingly likely to drink and abuse drugs when they are devoid of hope, a sense of purpose, self worth and connection with others. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that somebody who has a very good job, high social standing and all the trappings of a good life is far less likely to engage in self-destructive behaviour than somebody who has none of the above.
Ireland already has the most expensive alcohol in Europe yet it has not diminished our tendency to drink far more than is healthy. Sure, putting up the price will reduce the amount of alcohol that is consumed but it is a fact that people in lower socio-economic groups drink more per head than those with plenty of money. The bottom line is, when you’re having a difficult life you’re more likely to seek solace and escapism in substances which relieve the pain of your existence. This may sound melodramatic but there is more than a grain of truth in it
Instead of attacking one of the symptoms of disastrous government policies i.e. alcohol abuse, the government should concern themselves with addressing the causes. They are unlikely to do this because it shines a very bright light on their total and utter incompetency in relation to the duty of care to the marginalised citizens of this country. A section of our society is falling apart right in front of our eyes. People’s quality of life has been massively affected by government policies which do not address the needs of the people but rather the needs of the financial companies. Notice I do not say financial institutions because there are anything but institutions. They are privately owned, for-profit, companies who we give permission to decide how much money circulates within the economy, who gets it and for what purpose and as a result dictate the parameters within which the government are allowed to operate.
The fact that the number of children in Ireland living in persistent poverty has doubled in the last seven years to over 154,000 and the number of prescriptions for antidepressants ‘medication’ has increased by over 200 percent in the same period, should tell the government all they need to know about how well our society is doing. Not surprisingly, the biggest cohort of alcohol abusers are those under thirty-five years of age and there is a pretty good reason for this.
Twenty years ago it was conceivable that after you got your first good job you would consider saving in order to buy a house or an apartment. Now, the majority of people at that age simply accept that they will never be able afford a house or an apartment not to mention the deposit required. Consequently, whatever money they make they blow on having a good time now and let the future look after itself. Carpe Diem has become the mantra of the young. Sadly, this will come back to haunt both of them and society in general in the not too distant future.
You see, this government like so many before it continues to judge its success on matrixes that are provided to them by the financial companies and those idiots in the department of Finance. Statistics after statistics are rolled out with monotonous regularity to tell us how well were doing, how the economy is growing again and how much better this government are compared to the last lot. What they will not do however, is measure their success against the things that matter to the people who elected them.
I suggest that the number of children in permanent poverty, the waiting times for medical procedures, the number of children in classrooms, the cost of third level education, the amount of disposable income left at the end of the month, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the affordability of housing, the increasing prevalence of zero hour contract jobs and the abolition of corruption and cronyism within government are just some of the real issues that matter to the majority of people in Ireland and it is against these, that the government needs to be judged and held accountable.
The government wouldn’t dare to measure their success against these because quite simply, by any reckoning, the the government would be seen for what they are i.e. an abject failure. In their perfect little world, an “in depth” report by a bunch of so-called experts is sufficient evidence for them to conclude that putting up the price of alcohol will solve the problem of alcohol abuse. I disagree. While it may reduce per capita alcohol consumption it will not even begin to address the socio-economic circumstances which lead to its abuse. In all probability, it will lead to an increase in the abuse of illicit and prescription drugs which no doubt, they will ‘tackle’ sometime in the future, if they get re-elected, by appointing a task force populated with supporters of their parties.
If the government genuinely gave a damn about the welfare of the people of this country they would need to stop listening to the highly paid sycophants around them and open their eyes to the reality in front of them. The people are suffering, the children are suffering and the very fabric of our society is being torn asunder.