Skewing statistics: Booze, money and sex

Policy-based evidence making at its finest


Comment Sorry to bang on about these things again but yes, they're lying to us. No, this isn't just the normal drink-induced paranoia common to such as I - we really are being lied to again and again by those who claim to be our lords and masters.

We've had Lord Adonis pompously announcing that he's minded to change the drink drive laws. Instead of the 80 mg limit we should move down to 50, possibly even 20 for learner drivers and HGV. We should also adopt the continental practice of having weaker punishments than the automatic 12 month ban for breaching that lower limit. He's even said he's waiting for a report so that he can consider the evidence. That evidence being that we've a lower accident rate than any EU country other than Malta, a place that hardly has any roads. What's really happening is that the EU has decided that drink drive limits must be harmonised, so harmonised they shall be.

No, this isn't now going to spin off into a rant about how appalling the EU is (despite the truth of such an assertion). It's going to carry on about how we're continually lied to by those who would rule us.

We've had innumerable reports over the years insisting that booze itself lays tremendous costs upon society. The latest ones claim that the costs are higher than any benefit that comes from either tax or booze consumption and therefore taxes must rise tremendously. Except - and the same is true of similar reports on the costs of baccy - they leave out the most obvious benefit: people enjoy smoking and boozing. That's why they do it. Quite how much that enjoyment is worth is difficult to calculate of course but we can put a lower limit on it quite easily.

No one forces the consumption of either tobacco or alcohol. The purchase of them is therefore a voluntary exchange and it's a very basic point about trade that voluntary exchanges only take place when both sides believe they are getting something of more value than what they are giving up to get it. I value my pint more than the £3 (£4 in London perhaps) than I'm giving up to get it. I value 20 tabs more than the £6.50 I have to earn to purchase them. The value in enjoyment of these things must, by definition, be more than people spend upon them. At which point all the calculations of their being more expensive than any benefits they bring fail.

To take just a few recent bits and pieces: it's now a criminal offence to pay someone who is “controlled for gain” for sex. The burden is put upon the punter to know that the dolly for hire is so controlled. Whether this is a good idea or not isn't my point - it's that the evidence presented to push for it was absurd.

We had the likes of the Poppy Project doing surveys of brothels in London. They asserted that the presence of lots of foreigners selling sex was evidence that lots of foreigners were held as sex slaves. Completely oblivious to the obvious point that - on the don't shit on your own doorstep principle - that most if not nearly all tarts do their tarting away from home. There is, after all, something of a social price to be paid for joining the oldest profession. With the rise of budget airlines doing it in another country is simply an extension of that movement away from one's immediate social circle before offering cock care for cash.

Well, if we thought that the likes of Julie Bindel (for yes, she was of course part of this) were bright enough to understand the point we would be accusing them of lying over this. But it was enough to get the law through Parliament and there we all are, stuck with it.


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