As the pro-pot movement gains steam, Reihan Salam lays out the case for regulating alcohol more strictly in Slate. “Prohibition Lite”, as Salam calls it, would would consist of raising the price per dollar of getting drunk. In the U.S. it currently costs between $5 and $10 to get drunk, but that price could drop as alcohol companies become bigger and more vertically integrated. More:
To get a sense of what the world would look like if that price fell significantly, go to a typical town square in England on a weekend night, where alcohol-fueled violence is rampant, or to Russia, where the ruling class has used cheap vodka as a tool to keep the population drunk, passive, and stupid for generations.We shouldn’t be satisfied with keeping the per dollar cost of getting drunk where it is today. We should make it higher. Much higher. Kleiman and his colleagues Jonathan P. Caulkins and Angela Hawken have suggested tripling the federal alcohol tax from 10 cents a drink to 30 cents a drink, an increase that they estimate would prevent 6 percent of homicides and 6 percent of motor vehicle deaths, thus sparing 3,000 lives (1,000 from the drop in homicides, 2,000 from safer highways) every year. Charging two-drink-per-day drinkers an extra $12 per month seems like a laughably small price to pay to deter binge drinking.
Nobody, for example, who’s seen the unforgettable photos Maciej Dakowicz took of the Wales nightlife can doubt that alcohol can be “crazy dangerous.” On American college campuses, binge drinking is a persistent problem, and nationwide the substance abuse culture now claims more lives than ever.Though the original Prohibition was arguably much more successful than Salam allows for in his column, Americans may not be ready for even a “lite” version of it. But there is some good news: In England, cultural changes are bringing alcohol use down already. The Economist reported in February on the rise of “dry pubs” in England, noting that there has been a year-on-year decrease of average household consumption. That’s a welcome development, and one we’d love to see other countries imitate. With or without a sin tax on alcohol, we need a cultural change when it comes to alcohol consumption.