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Puritan Seeks Rent

More puritanical rent seeking reared its ugly head today, as oligarch Terry Leahy, boss of Tesco, called for more temperance laws including his pet favourite, price controls, in collaboration with chief temperance nutter Don Shenker, of course.

The selfish benefits Terry gets from this are obvious, but worth enumerating. He gets more money from selling beer at a higher price; his competitors are prevented from undercutting him by offering lower prices. He gets to look “moral”; he gets to say that he is doing something about the latest, well orchestrated, moral panic; so-called “binge drinking”. And in the process he helps to perpetrate the false consciousness upon which puritan campaigning depends- that is, that something which has always happened, in this case people getting pissed and sometimes causing bovver, is a brand new problem which is threatening to overwhelm and destroy civilisation.

Something else that depresses me about this is here on Leahy’s main Telegraph article. It has the inevitable, apparently obligatory, fat girls photo as illustration. The photo is there to represent a stereotype; it’s a pernicious form of propaganda. We are supposed to look at this photo and see the collapse of civilisation. The photos are always fat girls. Fat girls drinking.

Fat people represent excess (literally). They represent the out of control untermenschen who over-indulge and must be reined in. It is the mithering of the puritan class; capitalism gives people too much luxury and that is why they are “obese” (nobody’s ever chubby any more). And look, no class; they’re drinking! Drinking from the bottle! Drunks!

The idea that being drunk is fun is now verboten. You are still allowed to drink… in moderation. That is, you can have a little drink so long as you don’t become intoxicated. This is Britain. You’re not here to enjoy yourself. So the photo of three girls having a laugh comes to represent something else; the breakdown of the social fabric. The idea that these three lasses may just be having some fun at the end of a boring week’s work doesn’t enter into it. The mere fact that a photo which- on face value- shows some people enjoying themselves having a drink is used to illustrate an article calling for state measures to prevent them doing that shows just how perilously near to total puritanism we are.

The Libertarian Alliance have issued a press release decrying Leahy’s vintage whine and for a Tesco boycott. Good for them.

Whatever “civil” liberties the Coalitionistas may be offering us back, we need to be aware that the pressure on our private liberties, and particularly on using impoverishment as a means to control them, is going to be as least as intense, and probably more intense, than under NuLabour. In terms of puritanism, the combination of crusty conservatives and hardcore sandal wearers is likely to be toxic. “Binge Drinking” is an invented moral panic, but millions of people already believe it and will dutifully acquiesce to, and indeed support, this latest raid on our wallets. Tough times are ahead for personal liberty, I fear.


  1. JuliaM says:

    “…in this case people getting pissed and sometimes causing bovver…”

    It would be interesting to see if the sort of people who get drunk and cause trouble are the sort of people who, well, cause trouble anyway, even when not drunk.

  2. NickM says:

    Just got my ol’ desktop back up and running after too long a hiatus. So, I’m having a beer and seeing double – not quite. It drives a pair of 21″ trinnies at 2560×1024.

    Anyway, absolutely right Ian. The whole minimum pence per unit thing is horrendous. It is about the single most discrimatory thing against the poor I can think of for some time for it won’t affect that rather nice Chablis that the chattering classes have at dinner parties now will it.

    Also they are kickin’ off about the booze drugs and “dangerous sex practises”* in Brighton.

    Isn’t that why people go there. It’s fun and more than a bit bohemian. Lots of clubs and students and all that. What do they want, Salt Lake City on the Channel? Yes, I guess they do. But it’s pathetic It’s like claiming that Las Vegas hospitals have much higher than the national rate of pole-dancing injuries to treat. Or more “problem” gamblers. Of course they want monies to deal with this “epidemic”. Next they’ll be on about how Brighton has more chip shops than Nottingham or something.

    Ian, when I first came across your New Age Puritan schtick (oh, er missus – definitely dangerous!) I thought you were over-playing it a tad. I still think you were wrong – it’s worse than you said. It’s the rapidity that gets me – the rapidity of denormalisation. Del Trotter lights up a cigar in the Nags Head in a re-run and part of me thinks “but he can’t do that!”.

    Anyway Brighton’s “War on Fun” is over at Julia’s gaff…

    Brighton of course boasts our first Green MP…

    *Now they could never say “unprotected gay buggery” could they!

  3. IanB says:

    Late in the 19th Century G K Chesterton and some mates set up the Anti-Puritan League. They didn’t do much, just published a few pamphlets. I’m seriously considering starting a new Anti-Puritan League. I think we need one. I’m thinking things are far more serious than I used to think as well.

  4. IanB says:

    Also, on the gay sex thing. I’ve been thinking for some time, but not really said so because it sounds, well, a bit ridiculous, but I think that at some rapidly approaching point the Progressives are going to turn on the gays. That is, all the old-fashioned parrrrrrtieeeeeeee! gays are going to find The Righteous turning on them, and only nice New Model Suburban Married Couple Gays are going to be “approved of”.

    I really think the gays ought to be watching their backs, because their friends in power might well not be such good friends after all.

  5. Great article, Ian.

    It’s good to know there are still a few of us who can see through all these manufactured ‘problems’. It’s a fact, verifiable by ONS figures, that alcohol consumption has been falling for 6 straight years, yet the more it does, the more shrill the puritans become and the more urgent the action required.

    You’ve got me thinking of a possible article myself so if I write it I’m going to be quoting bits of this.

    Interesting theory about the potential threat to gays too. You could well be onto something there.

    If you start this anti-puritan league, count me well and truly IN.

  6. Pavlov's Cat says:

    Deja vous with that other utter cunt Tim Martin of Wetherspoons and his cheerleading of the smoking ban.

    Knowing it would close down the smaller independant pubs and drive more people into his Mc’Pubs

  7. Ian B says:

    Thanks Dick. I think the lesson from the Classical Temperance Movement is that, however much they pretend to be seeking merely “moderation”, the more moderation they get the more they want until it’s out-and-out prohibition. After all, at what level of drinking does Shenker decide they’ve “won” and close his shitty organisation down? Anything above zero will always be too much.

  8. NickM says:

    I’ve been having similar intuitions about homosexuals soon being in their sights.

  9. RAB says:

    I wonder if Sniffing Glue will be making a comeback. That was the scare story De Jour at the time of the last recession.
    Then during the boom time, it was never mentioned. Funny that!
    I suppose it was down to drugs like Skunk and Crack became so relatively cheap that the kids didn’t need to bother with that sort of crap.
    Which of course is the flaw in this manufactured hysteria over binge drinking.
    Put up the prices, take whatever measures you like, but you wont stop human nature, the market will just ajust itself.

  10. Agreed, in some respects the Lib-Cons won’t be “quite as bad” as Labour, but on the old alcohol thing, the Tories will probably be worse.

  11. Ian B: “I really think the gays ought to be watching their backs..”

    Excellent choice of words there.

  12. CountingCats says:

    “Binge Drinking” is an invented moral panic,

    The term itself is deeply dishonest. To you and me binge drinking brings to mind something along the lines of a three day bender, but the reality is it has been redefined, so what “they” call binge drinking the rest of us call having a couple of beers on Saturday night.

    Use piccies which look over the top and the Great British Public won’t realise the legislation is aimed squarely at them.

  13. NickM says:

    That last crack was below you ;-)

  14. Lynne says:

    I’m punching above my ideal weight therefore I’m a moron. The fact that I have degrees in Archaeology and English is grossly outweighed by my above average embonpoint factor? Ooer missis!

    I like the odd pint of real ale which is rarely on sale at Tescos according to the advertising crap shoved through my letterbox. I don’t like the over carbonated, own brand or commercialised cat’s pee (no offence intended) that is on eternal special offer. Drinking is one of mankind’s oldest pleasures and most of us are adult enough to know when we’ve had enough. What we don’t need is some supercillious, money-grubbing twat using the over-powered nanny state to put a mammoth sized crimp in it.

    I don’t need to put an embargo on shopping at Tesco. I never shop at Tesco on account of the fact they are unconscionable, tax dodging, aggessively litigating shits.

  15. Stonyground says:

    As I have posted elsewhere, the great thing about alchohol is that it is really easy to make. I have a recipe somewhere for a brew called ‘wheat whiskey’, it is not distilled but it is very strong. If the government start introducing minimum pricing I shall start producing it on an industrial scale and giving a lot of it away.

  16. NickM says:

    And therein Stony lies the rub. When Gorby decided to curb the drunkeness of the Russians stocks of sugar mysteriously disappeared.

  17. RAB says:

    Archaeology eh? I almost did that, but it is a guarantee of being poor for the rest of your life, so I did Law instead. Not that that did me much good in the money stakes either mind!
    Lynne, have you heard the current theory, that mankind stopped being hunter gatherers and settled down to farming, not to get a stable supply of bread, but to have a reliable source of wheat and barley to make beer?
    Getting pissed is the very foundation of Civilisation!
    I’m fond of a drop of Grolsh myself. Lidl has been doing a case of 18 for £7 lately.

  18. RAB says:

    Oh for fucks sake! I just came across this…

    The western Taliban are at it again!

    It’s the sub headline I love though. She has been banned from inviting any men round for the night, except her brothers and the emergency services!
    Seems Incest and entertaining Public Sector workers is ok then?!! :-)

  19. Lynne says:

    I’m a lapsed archaeologist because, yeah, unless you are one of the tiny elite it’ll never make anyone else rich and I got sick to death of incessant mud baths, backbreaking work and bailing out trenches. Funding has continued to dwindle and there’s far to much politics involved these days. Over the last few years my involvement is purely on a pro bono basis, helping out the local group excavate their Iron Age settlement. They dig enthusiastically and I enthusiastically supervise from a deck chair. Suits me fine.

    RAB, that beer theory works for me and makes far better sense than many theories I’ve come across! Hunter gatherers tended to be more robust and lead healthier lifestyles and were less prone to disease. It doesn’t make sense that they’d suddenly swap that merely for bread, heavy toil and poorer diets. But then there begs the question – did they already have their own beer? It’s quite possible. The mesolithic hunter gatherers were very likely displaced by the migrations of neolithic farmers (settlements produce more people than a nomadic existence) chopping down the forests that once covered the UK and destroying the hunter gatherers ranges. In order to survive they may well have turned to farming themselves. Better beer would have been a bonus… :D

  20. NickM says:

    So you just couldn’t dig it?

    Permission – nay request – to shoot me for that.

  21. DeNihilist says:

    Anti Social Behaviour Order?

    My Christ, Burgess had it dead on!

    You guys are fucked over there,

    yet you can still laugh……

  22. Lynne says:

    Oh crap…did I really lay on that lecture? Sometimes it gushes like a fountain. Sorry.

    As for digging, it’s strictly for moles, hippies and utility maintenance crews…

  23. Ian B says:

    Sometimes it gushes like a fountain. Sorry.

    Your doctor can help you with that, Lynne.

  24. Lynne says:

    He did. He prescribed a gag.

  25. Lynne says:

    Unfortunately, due to government cutbacks, NICE decided I should buy my own. I bought some chocolate instead which kept me quiet for a while…

  26. RAB says:

    You have my deepest sympathy Lynne.
    Two friends of mine are in the Archaeology Dept of Cardiff University.
    They have spent every summer for the last 30 years living in a tent digging something up.
    They never get to go anywhere warm and exotic cos the Dept cant afford that. It is usually Northumbria or East Anglia. They describe themselves as intellectual Navvies.

    And as for pay, well…

    They had a meeting once, deciding on how to word the adverts to attract more students and one wag came up with…

    Come to Cardiff and study Archaeology. Dont worry about the Student Loans, you are never going to earn enough to have to pay it back!

  27. RAB says:

    I presume you mean Anthony Burgess and not Guy Burgess, DeNihilist? ;-)

    I recommend, Earthly Powers and Any Old Iron too, if you’re interested.

    Yes we can still laugh. It is just about all we have left, but the Puritans are coming for that too, arn’t they, IanB ?

  28. DeNihilist says:

    Ah, yes, Anthony.

    Last I heard, his Clockwork Orange, both book and movie were still banned in Britian. True?

    For a people that were the first to throw off the yoke of imperialsm, it disheartens me to see this crap that you have to contend with.

    Is this the future for the rest of us?

  29. RAB says:

    And the answers are…
    Nope and I hope not.

    The book was never banned as far as I am aware, though the film was withdrawn by the makers and author of their own volition. I saw it on the TV not so long ago, and hated it. It was so corny compared to current reality.

    You have a funny take on history. Britain always gets accused of imposing Imperialism (especially by British lefties) not throwing off its yoke.
    What Imperialism did you have in mind? Roman? they left of their own accord and had been pretty much invited in anyway.
    Norman? they got assimilated pretty fast.
    The Anglo Normans beat up on the Celtic fringe, but that is still an ongoing battle.

  30. Lynne says:

    RAB this is so true. I do not believe that archaeological academia ever heard of basic pay. Most people do it for the love of it. My love affair cooled off around the time I wanted to buy my own place so I ran away to join the civil service – steady salary but more boring than deathwatch beetle.

  31. DeNihilist says:

    RAB, true imperialism, as in being ruled by a king and such. There are theories on this side of the pond, that the idea for democracy came from the 5 nations of central North America, and were imported back to you guys from the early explorers.
    But if I remember my history right, the timeline is off by about a century or so. Though the actual configuration of the parliament is very like the 5 nations set-up.

  32. RAB says:

    Um, well I’m not going to argue with you DeNihilist, you seem like a nice dude, but I still think your grasp on history is pretty shakey.
    You seem to confusing Monarchy with Imperialism, not the same thing at all.

    When we got rid of Charles 1, we had a short period of Republicanism under Cromwell.
    We didn’t like it (bunch of miserable fuckin Puritans who banned xmas etc) so we got his son, Charles 11 back instead.
    His powers were severely curtailed, in fact no real political influence at all, but still influential in a social and figurehead sense. We are a Monarchy still, subjects of the Queen, not citizens.
    I have no idea what this 5 nations of central north America thing is all about.
    Surely you dont mean the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs?!!
    The only major players after the conquest of the New World were, Spain, Portugal England and France, all monarchies.And only England had shed the idea of Divine Right of Kings and the Ancien Regime. The rest were still to have their bloody revolutions much later than us.
    Democracy, as you should know comes first from ancient Greece and then via Rome, despite them being only nominally “democratic” in that they were slave states except for the elete, and even the elete had a hairy time towards the end of the Roman Empire, suffering a fascist dictatorship or six.

  33. CountingCats says:


    They were never banned, either one of them. Kubrik took the movie out of distribution in the UK, but that was for his personal reasons. The book has always been readily available.

    As for the 5 Nations influencing European democracy? Nah. We had republics and proto democracies for hundreds of years. I am afraid I am unaware of any influence the Iroquois Confederacy may have had.

    As for Imperialism and Monarchism being linked, Rome was ruling in North Africa and from Spain to Asia Minor while still a republican democracy.

  34. DeNihilist says:

    Well Rab, you know us colonists, not very up on our histories eh? Thanx for the teaching. Yes, confused about monarchists (thought that was a butterfly) and imperialists. :)

    Cats, not sure where I read about CO being banned, but I did read it somewhere!
    OK – Kubrik, from strong pressure –

    Now legal again, as of Kubrik’s death – 99 -

    Thought the 5 nations contribution to democracy was more in line with procedures and rules.

  35. NickM says:

    5 nations!

    Sorry guys for a moment I thought you were on about the Rugby! Now 6 nations obviously. I’d like to know more though about pre-Colombian North American history. Because it winds me up that new-agers have an even more sterotypical view than a 1930s western. They regard the injuns as a homogenous mass and not a staggering array of cultures and societies- farmers, pastorilists, hunter-gatherers – all sorts.

  36. [...] are offering 30×440ml cans of assorted beers and ciders (mix-and-match) for 18 quid. Not for much longer I fear. The thing that struck me is that nastiness will put a crimp on Christmas and wedding dos and all [...]

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