A ‘Do Not Serve’ List for Problem Drunks Maximizes Freedom for Responsible People

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I was waiting for the pushback on the statewide Do Not Serve list idea, and it finally arrived in the comments.

Brett Heffner writes:

I am adamantly opposed to such a draconian Big Brother proposal. It would probably apply retroactively to offences occurring many years ago. How about summary offences like public drunkenness and underage drinking—would they count? This proposal would disenfranchise millions of Pennsylvanians from the alcoholic-beverage industry with no hope of a second chance. Too many places would lose too many reliable customers. What would be next, perhaps secret PLCB dossiers on ‘problem drinkers’ with secret additions to the do-not-serve list based on interviews with bar staff? It is a waste of precious resources to maintain ‘order’ and the alcoholic-beverage industry would strongly oppose it—as it should.

A few points in response: I think there’s room to compromise on sentence length and the numbers and classes of offenses that will land you on the list. Some people don’t deserve to get banned forever, but others do. I’d give judges the discretion.

Personally, I think if you get convicted three times for alcohol-related offenses (and I’m thinking property crimes, drunk driving, domestic violence, and other offenses where other people are impacted) then you have a drinking problem and you shouldn’t be allowed to buy alcohol.

Brett is right that the alcoholic beverage industry would probably oppose this, since their business strategy is based on the 80-20 model. 20% of the drinkers provide 80% of the profits. They make a ton of money off alcoholics and problem drunks.

The other reason to prefer this plan to the state monopoly is that most people are not problem drunks or alcoholics. Most people who drink alcohol do so in moderation and do not cause serious trouble for themselves or other people. It’s only a small minority of jerks and addicts who cause most of the trouble, and commit most of the crimes.

Instead of collectively punishing everybody for the sins of a smallish group of spoilers, why don’t we design regulations that maximize freedom and choice for responsible people, and then simply lock the irresponsible people out of the market?

This entry was posted in Miscellany.

4 Responses to A ‘Do Not Serve’ List for Problem Drunks Maximizes Freedom for Responsible People

  1. I’m glad to see someone pointing out that the alcohol beverage industry makes most of its profits on people with a rather serious medical & mental health problem.
    They also focus their advertising on that particular target market most of the time too.

    However, I see at this point, no way that a Do Not Serve law could possibly work efficiently or fairly, judging by a lot of the other laws implemented to prevent crime, but which have messed up in some really spectacular ways.
    As a society, we don’t seem to be capable yet of pure prevention laws that work properly.
    A do not serve list might sound like a good idea, but in practice, I think we’d find out in short order the many ways it would be flawed. For example, when the wrong people start using the list for unintended ways, and the civil litigation starts.

    On the other hand, I would be in favour of lowering the threshold for the legal limit after watching the Mythbusters episode where they test drove “tipsy but legal”!!

    • Jon says:

      It’s true it wouldn’t be perfectly enforcable, but all the ways that we try to regulate alcohol have major flaws. This seems to me to have fewer downsides than the alternatives, as it directly targets the people with the greatest propensity/history of causing problems while drunk.

  2. Gillian says:

    And realistically, does the state monopoly on liquor actually solve the issue of problem drunks and alcoholics? I think not. I remember living in State College and there was a person running for…I think State office…and her biggest platform was closing liquor stores on Sunday again. The argument was that it would in some way stem State College’s drinking problem. What a joke. Even drunks can plan ahead. The only people it stops from drinking are people like me who might like a bottle of wine but are, quite frankly, too lazy to go out of my way to a state store to get it more often than on a rare occasion.