Friday, 17 October 2008

Tippled Over

This week, Google, in their most ingenious step thus far, installed an anti-drunk emailing system. So, the premise is when it's "that time of night" (or morning for many of us) your gmail account aims to stop you emailing your ex-girlfriend and sobbing your heart about how you would want them back. (I recently undertook this 'experiment' while fairly done in: surprisingly, it will not improve your chances.)
This is the test. As Leslie knows from me trying to do the shop's takings at the end of a day, maths is not a major strongpoint with me-maths that deals with squiggly shapes and formulae fine, 8 + 7 is not going to happen in under 43 seconds. I don't think I could answer most of these questions sober. With a calculator.

But it got me thinking (over a nice cold pint)-alcohol is incredibly ingrained in our culture, why?

Why are certain drugs illegal? Why are some legal? Why have some been socially acceptable and then not? But the main question I was asking that leads us to these, why is alcohol the most popular drug of our time? Answer-1) It's not, it's that old psychotropic, coffee-about 2.5 cups a day in the UK per person per day. 2) Price. Alcohol is very cheap and what people put in their bodies is really down to economics.

During the Opium Wars, the, ahem, competition between private sellers, companies and governments forced the price down to incredibly cheap levels-ergo lots of people took opium. Gin was popular in British Colonies to mix and keep away malaria (supposedly, as it turned out, no) and suddenly there was demand from returning soldiers. Ergo half of London got smashed on gin for a year or so. 

Incidentally, the Opium Wars are called so for a reason-there was quite a bit of war. China and the British went to war over what was effectively a corporate invasion of Imperial China. The product was heroin. During the "Mother's Ruin" Gin invasion of England in the early 1700s, there was a massive demand for gin, but a very high duty for import. So they made a supply at home, the taxing of this home stuff caused rioting and massive protests. 

From these two things we can learn certain lessons-drugs are a commodity. Commodities have supply and demand. If they are banned and there is demand, there will be black market. Black markets tend to be ran by people who aren't very nice. The legal drugs are as dangerous, if not more.

All our jails stuffed with drug users and no drug dealers. The US spends $45 billion a year on fighting drugs. Yet you or I are free to go and smoke cigarettes (and suffer all the bad health effects) or drink till we can't see (ditto). This is not anything new I know, this is a tired old argument about what makes something taboo or non-taboo (taxation, thanks for your answer) but it's worth being reminded once every while.

I'm not finger wagging. Just questioning why. And I'd hoped to make you laugh but got lost in my very tired ramble somewhere-so let Bill Hicks and Brass Eye do that for me. I'm away for a pint and six grams of Klarky Kat. Ciao,

Mark


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