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There should be a word for when you see someone making money out of an invention or idea that you thought of but couldn’t capitalise on. People try to comfort you by saying ‘ideas are floating on the ether’ or some such bollocks.

Occasionally that feeling happens in reverse. You come up with an idea that you can see will be used, and even though you disagree with it strongly there is nothing that can be done to stop it. You think to yourself ‘I hope I haven’t just released this idea into the ether’ and then you remind yourself that that is all bollocks.

Welcome to the drinking licence.

Hopefully when you have a night out it goes well, you meet up with some mates tell a few jokes and have a good time and go home. However everyone who drinks for a while will have one of those nights where through another’s fault or your own the night goes wrong. Unfortunately this happens far too often and effects too many people in Britain.

Considering that 60 – 80% of all violent crime has alcohol as a contributing factor,1 the police know that on a Saturday night the majority of people they will be arresting are drunken idiots who were lucky enough to have taken an option that avoided stitches.

The people who are less fortunate contribute to the failure of the NHS. Alcohol related disease costs the NHS three billion pounds a year.2 Out of all emergency department admissions; 40 percent of them are from injuries caused by alcohol. This rises to 66 percent over the weekend.3

There are other ramifications, everyone who lives in a nice flat in the city centre knows that their doors will stink of urine when they go out to get there Sunday Times. This doesn't dissuade them from their own outrageous behaviour; spraying a wine bar with 2,000 pounds worth of Champagne anyone?

Drinking is one of those rare problems in Britain that isn't class biased.

One similar problem is driving. It is a pleasurable pastime that causes tremendous problems. Speeding causes fatal accidents, stretches the resources of all the emergency services and causes traffic jams which make us late to our morning meetings.

The main difference between driving and drinking are not in the effects they have but in the way we legislate them.

When you break a driving law you get fined and you loose some points off your licence. If you are a persistent offender who puts other people at risk and strains the emergency services' resources you are banned for a few months, years or for remainder of your life. In comparison to other European countries our strict road laws work. You are three times more likely to be killed on a road in Portugal than in the UK.4

Therefore this is my proposal:

Everyone in Britain who wants to drink must, at the age of 18, apply for a 'Drinking Licence'. To serve anyone without one is punishable with a fine against the landlord or off-licence.
Literally every transaction will require you to show your card or to have it behind the bar.
Foreigners wishing to experience the delights of British ale will have a limited duration drinking licence attached to there visa.

If this had been enacted in Britain when I was 17 I would, I think, have avoided a huge amount of embarrassment in my life. The dangling threat of never being able to drink again could have prevented me on those few occasions from having one too many. Losing your drinking licence it would be the equivalent social stigma to having an 'I can’t handle my drink' sign hung around your neck. The drinking ban might even help curb the numbers of deaths caused by drinking, currently standing at approximately 5,543 per year.

Why then am I against my own proposal?

I have been arrested and cautioned for drunk and disorderly behaviour twice.
Thank God no-one was seriously hurt.
Even though I behaved disgracefully on those nights I was effectively let off. Even if I had continued to behave like that I wouldn’t have been locked up; the worst a magistrate could have done was to fine me and give me community service.

I have had to learn to control my drinking.
I no longer drink spirits at all and I definitely don’t drink if I feel angry.

Having been able to freely put these restrictions on myself I have grown up. Making decisions of this nature contributes to our development of responsibility; as soon as I controlled my drinking I could control other aspects of my life. If the personal will to improve ourselves is enforced by a government body we become children. We loose our ability to see value in a law other than the punishment our rulers deal out when it is broken. There comes a time when we can no longer be taught how to behave and we have to learn for ourselves; its called adulthood.

Modern government not only drives to economise by withdrawing services but also by making money from fines. Chief examples are ASBO’s that take away the need for the full judicial process whilst enforcing fines for continued misbehaviour and speed cameras that free up front line police whilst charging exorbitantly.

My proposal fits this mold perfectly.

The idea is out. It is in the 'ether'. In the near future the government will introduce this.

Sorry.

References

1 http://www.portmangroup.org.uk/alcohol/49.asp (the drinks companies try to put a lid on things!)
2 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1844363.stm
3http://www.paramedic.org.uk/news_archive/2004/09/News_Item.2004-09-03.3116/view
4http://www.statistics.gov.uk/StatBase/ssdataset.asp?vlnk=7254&Pos=&ColRank=1&Rank=272 (Pan – European study on road deaths)

Other sites of general interest:
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=922 (Drinking statistics quoted from year 2000 (it is worse now, just so you know.))
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/article.asp?ID=495&Pos=5&ColRank=1&Rank=192 (the most up-to-date and comprehensive data)

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