Wednesday, December 06, 2006
ICRUD, re-crud and the prohibitionist gene in America.
The human landscape is littered with the phenomenon of self-perpetuating bureaucracies, particularly those instituted to address specific threats or problems.
However, the human landscape is not filled to its brim with examples of self-perpetuating bureaucracies willingly dismantling themselves whether or not the threat or problem they were instituted to combat has abated. Rather, it is generally observed that these bureaucracies merely retool and diligently discover fresh nuances to expose and battle, thus ensuring their continued existence in our lives .. and the continued arrival of pay packets for their legions.
It would be foolish to suggest that society’s struggle against underage alcohol consumption has been “won,” primarily because it cannot be “won” in the manner preferred by those gazing upon it as a problem to be solved according to prohibitionist methodology.
It would be equally senseless to tar the sincerity and earnestness of those who genuinely believe that the scale of our youth alcohol problem is so immense that we must sanction a whole array of solutions, not all of which can have their dots connected back to the target, in order to succeed.
Willful disingenuousness is another matter. Consider this letter, which recently appeared in Indiana newspapers.
Reader: Tax could help people in need
Would you spend a nickel to ensure that there were sufficient mental health and addiction services available? If the alcohol tax were increased by just a nickel a drink, that increase would generate an additional $145 million in revenue.
We all pay for the costs of alcohol misuse and abuse, whether or not we drink. But the alcohol tax is a “user fee” that would only be paid by those who drink. The alcohol tax in Indiana has not been raised since 1981, meaning that alcohol is cheaper now that it was over 25 years ago.
Consequently, we continue to lose valuable revenue that could be used offset the billions the state spends every year on alcohol related costs.
Many good programs that serve persons with mental illness and addiction issues may close because of lack of funding. Is the mental and physical health of Hoosiers worth a nickel? A majority of Hoosiers, who support an increase to fund prevention and treatment programs, think so. It’s time to increase the alcohol tax.
— Lisa Hutcheson, Director, Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking, Indianapolis
Only in the last paragraph does longtime ICRUD director Hutcheson concede that the money she proposes collecting would in any way impact underage drinking in the form of funding prevention programs, but it is unclear from the text of her letter that a fundamental tenet of ICRUD is to raise the price of alcohol for all legal drinkers so that statistically few – i.e., the underage, illegal ones for whom laws against consumption already are in existence, awaiting enforcement – will be discouraged from purchasing and consuming the product.
That is, the product that they currently are prohibited from purchasing.
I will contend until the end of time that a society which permits a 19-year-old to work, pay taxes, go into debt, vote, be married (well, if heterosexual), have children and be killed in Iraq, but wishes to deny this same citizen the adult pleasure of legality when it comes to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, is a society hopelessly flawed in such a deeply fundamental way that further discussions of the matter are largely moot.
ICRUD’s very existence, and the gist of its work, is testament to a noble human instinct expressed in futile conceptual manner owing to an illogical founding premise, and perhaps in the end, it’s all something that can be explained by an innately American gene that suggests a propensity for hypocrisy and a failure to discern irony.
Rather than paying more to further the historically non-starting idiocy of prohibitionism, might we instead consider teaching our children the history and proper use of alcoholic beverages?
Or is that too much to ask of a nation that thinks it values education?