Should the Poor be Blocked from Buying "Super-Strong" Alcohol? (2013), by Sean Gabb

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Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, speaking on BBC Radio Leeds on the 18th November 2013.

The background to this discussion is a joint venture between Wakefield Council and West Yorkshire Police, to prevent the sale of "super-strong" alcohol to poor people, thereby preventing them from making nuisances of themselves. This will be an entirely voluntary scheme, in which shopkeepers will be invited to take part. According to Sergeant John Rogerson, "We'll also monitor the premises of retailers who haven't signed up for increased levels of anti-social behaviour, public order offences, licensing offences and shop theft. If there are any increases, we will notify the licensing department and deal with any offences appropriately."

Sean Gabb says:

  • This is an attack on the poor. "Super-strong" alcohol is defined at anything over 6.5 per cent alcohol by volume. The average £8 bottle of shiraz bought by the middle classes is twice that strength.
  • The alleged problems are probaby the usual lies rolled out to justify coercion.
  • Where someone is drunk and disorderly, there are already adequate laws in place. Let anyone who makes a public nuisance of himself be arrested and charged and tried and punished, and let his example be made a warning to others. 
  • In a free country - which this is not - no one should come to the attention of the authorities unless he is suspected of a clearly-defined crime.
  • This scheme is a collective punishment of the poor, who have just as much right to drink as anyone else in England.
  • It is also based on threats of police harassment of any shopkeeper who declines to join in.
  • In general, it is the work of a middle class, puritanical attack on the rights of poor people. Everyone behind it should be sacked, and their department shut down.