How to Reduce the Public Harms of Alcohol After the State Monopoly

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Mark Kleiman:

First, we could raise taxes. Doubling the federal alcohol tax from the current ten cents per drink to twenty cents would reduce homicide and automobile fatalities about about 7% each, saving about 3000 lives per year. It would cost a two-drinks-per-day drinker (at about the 80th percentile of all drinkers about $6 per month. (Fully internalizing the external costs of drinking would involve taxes nearer a dollar a drink.)

Second, we could make it harder for people who break the law when they get drunk to continue drinking, either by subjecting them to alcohol testing in programs such as South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety (twice-daily alcohol testing on probation) or by creating a “do-not-serve” list of convicted drunken drivers and drunken assailants and requiring alcohol sellers to check customers against that list (or putting a “do-not-serve” marking on the convicted person’s driver’s license).

Neither of these approaches would eliminate the drinking problem, or even the narrower drunken-violence problem, but the combination would substantially reduce them. And yet so far it has proven virtually impossible even to get such obviously rational policies on the political agenda; “drug warriors” and “drug policy reformers” alike remain stubbornly indifferent to means of reducing the damage done by the one intoxicant we’re not currently making war on.

This entry was posted in Health.

4 Responses to How to Reduce the Public Harms of Alcohol After the State Monopoly

  1. Ed H. says:

    So, we end the state revenue stream, replace it with a Federal revenue stream (not sure how that’s going to replace $600 million for PA budgets) and then spend a lot more money to nanny drinkers and alcohol sellers, and lay off a couple of thousand middle class sustaining jobs…

    PLCB privatization still sucks any and every way you look at it.

    • Jon says:

      Nope, replace it with higher beer tax. Or replace it by closing any of the $2.9 billion in fossil fuel subsidies. A 24/7 Sober program is cheaper to administer than the state monopoly, and a Do Not Serve list would be even cheaper.

      • Ed H. says:

        Really? I haven’t seen anything of the sort from any of the economic work done on it. Not to mention the loss of middle class sustaining jobs that the PLCB provides that the private sector would never duplicate.
        Every economic analysis I’ve seen based in real world numbers, says privatization is smoke and mirrors. Keystone Research Center/Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center have actually done the studies on the impacts. The lessons learned from other states that have privatized says its a bad idea.

  2. Jon says:

    Do Not Serve list? How hard is it to administer? You create a state database of everyone who’s been arrested for, say, 3 alcohol-related offenses, and stores have to scan everybody’s photo IDs against that list when they try to buy alcohol, to make sure they aren’t on it.

    Ed, I get that the sticking point is the jobs. That’s where KRC is coming from, that’s where you’re coming from, and it’s the strongest argument going for the anti-privatization side. The state store workers – like the beer distributors and the tavern license owners – argue that it would be hugely disruptive, and lots of people would lose a lot of money. And they’re right. I just don’t think that’s a strong argument when it’s up against all the benefits of greater consumer choice, higher restaurant profits and wages, downtown economic revitalization, and more jobs in the growing craft beer and whiskey industries. All that versus 5000 jobs? It’s no contest.