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.