Free Alcohol

If you could get alcohol for free, what would happen?

I thought so.  But this was a thought experiment, not a party invite.  Consider this: the Government bans alcohol and then makes it available for free at pharmacies, in regulated doses to registered people.  Kind of like some people propose for illegal narcotics. What would happen?  Would we still drink? Would alcohol still have allure?


Some booze, (although not this little red rocket ) gets its cred from being pricey. Some people love to drink Grey Goose and Moet (although, I imagine, probably not in the same cup).  If you believe these price snobs, there are no good bottles of wine below 30 dollars. They believe that alcohol pricing is so finely aligned with to quality that a) there is no such thing as a bargain and b) marketing has no influence, none at all!  These snobs would probably turn Buddhist if the only alcohol was free.


Bars would go out of business. They’d muck around with entry fees, try selling other substances, get done by the cops, and complain to the government. Smart bar owners would keep their tavern going by selling mixers for you to put your pharmacy alcohol in.  Enterprising barmen might develop cocktail lists that have everything in them except the grog, which you would pass to the barman over the counter.


Music and atmosphere would become much more important to a night out.   Not only would bars be judged far more on the experience they deliver, but I reckon live music would take off.  People (alright, I know, what i really mean is dorky white men) find it difficult to dance while sober, but everyone can stand there and watch a band.


Economics says kids would probably find it even easier to get their hands on liquor.  If it’s free, people won’t value it, and it should be easier to take from an adult.


People would have all sorts of theories about the quality of the Government alcohol.  Even if it was pure ethanol, there’d be rumours about its special propensity to make hangovers, generate spews and its god-awful taste.  People would set out to improve on it.  There’d be backyard stills in sheds all over the suburbs.


The rest of the world would presumably still be full of Budvar, Johnnie Walker, Bordeaux, Guiness, etc.  People would begin elaborate ruses to import and distribute.  Border Security would be full of dudes with tinnies of Asahi sewn into their jocks.


Saudi Arabia is booze free, and the citizens like nothing more than to exit the country and get on it.  Much like some people hit up South-East Asia for quality smack, Columbia for quality coke, and Vancouver for the BC buds, Australians would become a nation of drug tourists.   Airline ticket sales would soar.  We’d be even more unpopular all over the world as 22 year olds with no drinking experience got out of control in Irish Pubs from Senegal to Saigon.


Share your thoughts below!

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Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

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