Tuesday, September 30, 2014

People who drink too much

This chart is absolutely horrifying. It shows that 10% of Americans account for 60% of alcohol sales. The entire industry is propped up by its most loyal customers. That's not surprising; it's true of many industries. What is horrifying is how much those people drink: 74 drinks a week.

It's one thing to have a loyal customer base. It's something else for them to be killing themselves with your product. But the only way the alcohol industry can not murder millions of people is by accepting a 50% reduction in sales. Never mind blaming greedy corporations, such a thing isn't even possible in a capitalist system.The rules of the free market make it literally impossible for alcohol companies to provide a safe and healthy experience for all of their customers.

Under some kind of state-regulated scheme you could imagine a system where most people still get to drink once in a while, but nobody can drink that much. The only way to shape the market that way is government regulation. So the next time someone tells you we need less regulation, ask them if having 10% of your population literally drinking itself to death is good for the economy.

8 comments:

FuzzyDuck81 said...

The sad thing is, it probably actually *is* good for the economy - more people will be born (booze helps with that!) as replacement customers, and those people dying early have (hopefully but hey, we all know the stereotypes) contributed to the economy through taxes etc. but by dying early they're less of a draw on public tax-payer funded services.. this is even more true here in the UK with the NHS, as how much does it cost to keep nanna alive & in care, with a pension, from age 70-90 vs. alcoholic nanna dying at 63?

Of course, there's the whole question of morals, human dignity, etc.. but really, who cares about that when there's more profits to be made?

MCPlanck said...

The same is true about cigarettes - they don't actually cost the economy money, since people tend to die before they get old and rack up a lot of health care/retirement bills.

If only we could engineer the perfect person - someone who dies the day they stop working, just like your toaster croaks the day the warranty runs out. Wouldn't the Corporate Overlords love that?

FuzzyDuck81 said...

The world of Logan's RunCo!

And don't get me into my capitalist argument against slavery, it depresses me.

MCPlanck said...

Slavery's a bad deal for a capitalist. Who wants to own a declining asset? Better to just lease it. Indentured Servitude FTW!

Anonymous said...

74 drinks a week?
I am suspect of there data. Who can drink 10 drinks a day every day and still function well enough to have funds to purchase more alcohol?

This is your brother _ I probably drink too much but, even at my worst I couldn't compete with those numbers. By the end of the second week I would be hospitalized.

A few years ago a friend of mine died from long term excessive alcohol consumption. Trust me, he drank a lot! But even he would not have survived a year at 74 drinks a week.

Seriously I think the data is skewed.

MCPlanck said...

I remember seeing Brad with a beer in his hand - constantly. He was doing a 12-pack a day.

craftycoder said...

Everybody dies of something. Why do you care what kills them? Alcohol doesn't snuff out people in their prime earning years, save for accidents. Those are not the people you are concerned about anyway. Society really doesn't need ALL its old people. We just need a representative sample. As long as we have that we won't lose the value of their experience and if a portion of them choose to drink themselves to death, so be it. We ride motorcycles. Other's smoke. Some enjoy prostitutes. Other's sugary diets. All those things kill us eventually. Death, it awaits us all.

MCPlanck said...

I am concerned about all people; and their economic capacity does not factor into that equation. Society does, in fact, need everyone, insomuch as that is the definition of society. It's like saying a tree doesn't need all its leaves. Sure, it will survive if you cut half of them off; but no one would look at a tree and say, "too many leaves!" The definition of the tree includes its leaves, however many it has. So does the definition of society include all its members.

I'm not saying people should avoid dangerous behaviors; I didn't even suggest banning alcohol. What I was pointing out is that a system that exists to exploit market opportunities will exploit market opportunities, irrespective of whether we want those opportunities exploited.

This leaves us with two options: defining the free market as the ultimate arbiter of what kind of society we want, or government regulation being the arbiter of what kind of society we want. I would rather get together with my neighbors and determine what kind of world we should live in than randomly pick an arbitrary mathematical model as the final definition of the good life.

We no longer live in a world dominated by scarcity. We have sufficient technology to care for everyone on the planet to a standard that allows for the maximum human expression. We have actually had that technology for several hundred years. We just choose not to use it that way; we choose to let some suffer with almost nothing so that others can have more than they need. And we chose that because we were told that if we didn't, we would all have nothing. But that's not true.

The free market doesn't work the way we were told. Economics doesn't work the way the conservatives want it to. Lowering taxes does not produce more government revenue, and increasing economic inequality does not produce greater total economic gains. It's all just a big lie. The above failure of the free market to produce a set of affairs anyone finds desirable (I take it for granted even the alcohol industry is a bit horrified by someone drinking 74 drinks a week) is just more evidence that the entire capitalist economic enterprise is built on myths.