Jun 042008

I come home in the evenings looking forward to a quiet sit, a beer and a browse through my favourite blog, ClubTroppo

Now readers might recall that I’m loathe to promote bloggers in general terms, but I find ClubTroppo entertaining. If not always educational, it’s well constructed, there’s always something interesting or contentious to read and have a giggle at the comments which follow. Take today’s Missing Link, as an example. Under the ‘Issues’ heading, you’ll find a brief commentary and link to this piece by a presumed libertarian, on the recent alcopops tax increase by the Rudd government. (Just above my own inclusion into CT, which is always nice.) Have a read of the piece, form your own opinion and then go read the comments it inspired.

The spat-fest which eventuated seemed to come about from the overt expression by CT’s owner of his opinion on the piece. I’ve read the piece three times now, and still can’t come to a conclusion as to precisely what the writer intends. Is he criticising governmental policy because he can’t see the causal linkage? Is he promoting the statistical (undoubtedly cherry-picked) data presented by vested interest groups – distillers and the like – which appears to show the supposed causal link between alcopops, young drinkers and binge drinking, as bogus? Is he, as CT’s owner claims, adopting a "kneejerk opposition to making taxes on alcopops equal to taxes on spirits generally"? Frankly, I didn’t see the allusion, myself.

Clearly, judging from the links on the writers website and the protectionist stance taken by known libertarian commenters to attacks on the piece and it’s author, I think it’s fair to say the writer is a libertarian at heart. How staunch, I wouldn’t know because I’m not a libertarian. I hate labels anyway. Judging from the lashing the writer hands out to the Victorian government over it’s policy stance on alcohol fuelled violence, binge drinking and such, it’s clear he doesn’t regard the policies employed as valid. Nothing to counter the governmental stance, he just doesn’t believe the policies employed are valid.

He also cans the Australian Psychology Society’s submission to the Senate Inquiry on Ready-to-Drink Alcohol Beverages, but to my mind, fails to appreciate that the APS is not a consumerist organisation. Nor is it an industry or societal lobby group. The APS is a collective of medical professionals who voice a single opinion through it’s auspices. The submission which the writer cans doesn’t deal with the issue in question – Ready-to-Drink alcohol beverages. Only in the somewhat removed-from-the-argument issue of general potential for alcohol abuse to wreck societal structures. I suppose, from that perspective alone, criticism of the writer for jerking his knee might be warranted, but one would need to be nit-picking to get as het up about the claims or non-claims as the commenters/protagonists have done on Troppo.

Of course, there’s more to this issue than meets the eye, and as with practically everything to do with blogging in the OzSphere, the whole spat-fest dissolves, when critical analysis and a little local knowledge is applied, to it’s base constituents of ideological preferences. Those attacking CT’s owner are doing so because of their allegiance to conservatism. Those arguing for the opposite stance are either staunch CT fans, cyber-friends of CT’s owner, or devout anti-conservatives. It’s how the OzSphere works, unfortunately. The libertarian clothes the relevant protagonists are dressed in, aren’t providing any modesty.

To my mind, on the issue of Ready-to-Drink alcoholic beverages, the government itself has been shown as blatantly opportunistic on the issue of binge drinking, teenage or otherwise. There were statistics released today, which Rudd used to reasonable effect during Question Time, which support the government stance in reducing sales of alcopops. Of course, nothing said about increases in straight spirit sales or research outcomes from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which clearly deny the government’s stance on binge drinking increases over time or demographic. This entire issue, whether it be arguable on the basis of libertarian idiocy or otherwise, is a farce. Clearly, the increase in excise on alcopops is a revenue gathering exercise by the Rudd government to bolster it’s budget position, hiding behind a bolt of the same material as the libertarian supporters are dressed in on CT. Taxes do not impact on societal norms unless said imposts are uniform. On this I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Parish. What relevance his opinion has in relation to the Chris Berg piece escapes me. Consider the petrol excise. Thirty-eight-point-whatever cents per litre, no matter whether you buy E10, ULP, Premium or Goat’s Piss. Okay, servos don’t pump Goat’s Piss, but my point is made.

If alcoholic drinks were evenly taxed across the board in relation to alcoholic content by volume, the issue of teenage – or any other age – binge drinking would undoubtedly still exist. It’s like smoking. Tax what some people claim to be a baaaaad habit and socially unacceptable, and those so inclined will do their utmost to shove opposing opinions up the arses of their detractors. A little like how Ken Parish has approached support of his argument in the face of rather vitriolic attack from the libertarians. Idiots and otherwise. Nice stance, Ken. I still can’t see where you pulled it from that blog piece, but nice stance just the same.

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