Thursday, January 14, 2016

More Liberal Alcohol Guidelines

Following my recent comments on the government's new alcohol guidelines, I have a blog post on The Conversation in which I consider them from a Millian liberal perspective.

In short, I argue that there's nothing objectionable about warning people of the dangers of alcohol, but that the guidelines would better respect individual autonomy if they simply presented the risks of different levels of consumption, allowing people to decide for themselves how much risk to accept. In other words, I think it's somewhat objectionable for the government to take it upon themselves to decide for everyone that 14 units per week is the right trade off between benefits and risk, even though the guidelines aren't actually coercive.

There's a slightly longer version of much the same argument, but with a bit more Mill in it, over on my department's blog.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Alcohol Guidelines (Again)

I already mentioned the new government guidelines last week (here), but now that they're out some further comment...

Recommended limits are indeed reduced to 14 units per week. One thing that I found interesting is that, aside from the reduction in the limit, the way that it is communicated has also changed.

At one point, the recommendation was 21 units per week for men. There was a worry that people would 'save this up' and consume all 21 units on a Friday night. Consequently, the advice was changed to 3-4 units per day, to underline that it couldn't be 'saved up'. Now, however, the worry is that people are drinking every day and not allowing their body 'recovery days' and so we're back to weekly guidelines (with an explicit recommendation not to drink every day).

I guess this is just another case that highlights the difficulty of imparting nuanced advice - based on scientific findings - in simple guidelines. That said, an older piece from Lee Jones - here - questions to the extent to which the policy really is evidence-based. He suggests that politicians have a moralistic agenda and cherry-pick evidence (and ignore counter evidence) in order to serve their purposes.

Clearly not all politicians take this view though. I wouldn't normally approve of Nigel Farage's pronouncements, but he's suggested that we all have a glass of something to protest against this state nannying.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Alcohol Guidelines

Long-term readers will possibly recall my interest in alcohol policy, chiefly minimum pricing.

It seems that new UK guidelines could reduce the recommended maximum for men, as well as recommending two 'dry' days per week and stressing that there is no 'safe' level of drinking. I don't have a problem with any of these measures; people need to be given the information necessary to make responsible decisions for themselves. It's only when the government starts to coerce competent adults for their own good that I think we ought to worry.

It was also pretty decent of them to delay these guidelines until after the Christmas/new year period too ;)

Another recommendation is to include calorie information on alcoholic drinks. Aside from helping to combat obesity, by helping people to policy their calorie intake, I've long suspected that this might do more to encourage some people to drink less than the existing warnings about the health effects of alcohol...