Gee, ya think? Yet again: not an accident, not a coincidence. Part. Of. The. Plan.
Most of today’s regulatory framework for alcohol traces back to the immediate post-Prohibition years. The basic assumption was that alcohol consumption is bad but unavoidable. The goal, then, was to regulate in ways that led people to drink less, via high taxes and inconveniences, without returning to the bootleggers and speakeasies of the disastrous Prohibition era.
Though things have lightened up a bit since then, that’s still the basic philosophy today. Alcohol discussions tend to turn on things like liver damage, impaired driving, violence and so on.
These negative consequences are real. But as Slingerland makes clear, they aren’t the whole story. There are a lot of less-heralded positives.
All simply part of the yin-yang tug-of-war that suffuses every last aspect of life on this planet. A properly Constitution-calibrated government would never dream in interfering in such niggling personal choices, without reference to either negative or positive consequences as justification. That’s because a properly Constitution-calibrated government would know that such choices are simply none of the government’s business, and would therefore stay in its own lane.
Of course, drinking isn’t all upside, but that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s not all downside, either — yet we regulate it, essentially, as if it were. We need a more balanced approach.
And it isn’t just alcohol. As our culture has veered in an increasingly bossy and punitive direction, the tolerance for any sort of downside is vanishing. The “playground movement” at the beginning of the last century argued “better a broken arm than a broken spirit.” Today’s society takes a different approach.
Just letting children play unsupervised outdoors can draw a visit from Child Protective Services nowadays, and bureaucrats aren’t the least bit concerned with protecting the children from having their spirit broken by too little play.
During the pandemic, we saw a degree of safety-ism that discounted the value of humans getting together in the face of tiny or even notional risks, leading to absurdities like ocean paddle-boarders being arrested for paddling maskless. There’s much more value in the activity than risk in being unmasked at sea.
The list of cases where killjoys focus excessively on the negative is huge, and anyone reading this can think of many examples. But what do we do about it?
Oh, that’s the easiest question of all to answer, although in perfect accord with that tug-of-war between yin and yang thing I mentioned earlier, it simultaneously presents us with the toughest choice: kill the killjoys, until the ones we haven’t gotten around to yet are too terrified to open their fat yaps ever again.