I’m curious about the general stance towards alcohol, from Lesswrong. It
(1) lowers the quality of life, and life expectancy (3rd highest cause of preventable death in the US), for almost all people drinking, or closely linked to people who drink,
(2) costs a fair bit (The money spent per year in europe on alcohol-related damages could fund a manned mission to mars),
(3) and offers little to no positive effects (Only proven short-term effects are temporary loss of motor control and some brain functions like balance and memory, anything else seems to be a placebo).
So, I’d like to know if you’re for or against limiting alcohol (through laws lowering sales, altering public opinion etc.) and why.
That “offers little to no positive effects” comment suggests to me that you have limited personal experience with alcohol. The primary benefit I (and I think most drinkers my age) derive from alcohol is social: it helps me make new friends and connect more closely to existing friends. Lots of people drink, and it’s easier to become friends with those people if you also drink. If that isn’t enough LW lingo for you, drinking is a Schelling point.
Also, what do people have against placebo effects? Quoting myself seems dangerously egotistical, but “a placebo effect is still an effect.” Maybe someone should write a top-level post about this.
I’ve had enough experience to compare interactions with and without alcohol, and I’ve noticed it’s much more difficult to connect with anyone who’s been drinking, even if I’ve also been. Merely personal, but with no alcohol in my regular life, I still gain friends easily, now having gained far above my Dunbar’s Number. Have you tested if it actually is more difficult if all parties are sober?
I’m against this particular one, since as a placebo, something lacking the negative effects while achieving the positive placebo effects would be much more awesome.
Doesn’t agree with my experience. I generally find that people are more relaxed and open when not sober.
I am also generally skeptical of arguments of the form “if we counterfactually modified aspect X of the world to aspect Y, the world would be more awesome, therefore we should start trying to change X into Y” because they ignore transition costs. (A simple example is X = imperial units and Y = metric in the US.) The world would probably be a better place if the social role of alcohol was replaced by a less destructive drug, but I don’t think it’s feasible to actually force such a replacement to occur, or at least I don’t think it’s a good use of political resources.
Moderate drinking can offer some health benefits. Plenty of sources, here’s one.
Just because many abuse alcohol does not mean it cannot confer health benefits in controlled doses.
One should also distinguish between different kinds of alcohol. Unpasteurized beer or organic dry wine, for example, I imagine is way less likely to be a problem for one’s health than cheap beer or wine with all sorts of additives and shortcuts with the process.
Alcohol causes temporary loss of motor control and some brain functions, and this is exactly the point. Any mistakes can be blamed on ‘being drunk’, and thus people are able to cast of the shackles of social inhibition, and enjoy themselves more unimpeded. Our society is rather oppressive when it comes to making mistakes or looking ‘low status’ in normal situations, so alcohol is the perfect way for many people to compensate, and allow themselves temporary spans of time where they’re less afraid to make mistakes or look incompetent (and I would argue this general fear of making mistakes or looking incompetent is one of the main plagues in society, preventing all sorts of people from improving their lives).
Call it placebo if you want, but placebo is great if it works. Anything is great if it works.
I’ve never noticed it used as an excuse, and to me that seems a lot like saying “I was biased!”, to cast away blame. Though I have a different frame of reference—here you’re accountable for anything you do, sober or drunk, including making mistakes/looking incompetent. Where is the line drawn where you can just shrug off any blame? I can’t think of any rational reason to want to drink, then, unless you want to… Act incompetently and get away with it? Is this then a good thing?
I agree on the placebo bit, anyway.
Does increasing the tax on alcohol count? I’m in favor of that (at least in the US), for basically the reasons given by Mark Kleiman here. Problem drinkers are a relatively small fraction of the population but they account for a relatively large fraction of the alcohol market—one statistic that Kleiman mentions elsewhere is that (in the US) half of all alcohol is consumed by people who average 4 or more drinks per day.
It’s one of the more effective ways of lowering consumption. It’s not the problem drinkers that cause the worst effect though—it’s the casual drinkers that cause the most damage (for example by overestimating themselves and driving). Taxes would still work on most groups, so yes, it definitely counts.
Does this put me in the “Against” category too? I don’t care if people drink alcohol in moderation, but I’m in favour of minimum alcohol pricing laws for Kleimanesque reasons. But minimum pricing is unlikely to reduce most groups’ alcohol consumption by much, as only the cheapest booze would go up in price.
I’d actually put you in “for”, as you’re favouring a suggestion that raises prices and lower consumption. For this I’d say effect is more central than opinion. And no, it wouldn’t lower it much—on average just under 7 percents, but it’d reduce health care costs as well.
Oops, I’d misread the voting question (as a question about being for/against alcohol rather than being for/against limiting alcohol). Good thing I didn’t vote yet!
Neutral. I don’t drink and I think it’s a waste of money, but I think worrying about it is an even bigger waste of money.
Also, I don’t work for the government.
I’m against legal alcohol prohibition, for lots of reasons. And of all the things I could devote effort to altering public opinion about, alcohol isn’t a priority.
That said, I don’t drink, and I don’t tend to serve alcohol at parties (though if guests want to bring some they’re free to, and I made an exception at my wedding because to do otherwise seemed inhospitable), and I tend to push back on the assumption more generally that social interactions have to be lubricated by alcohol. If alcohol became as unpopular tomorrow as, say, chewing tobacco is today, I wouldn’t mind.
Well, hedonics is a positive effect. Kind of. Would probably go for altering public opinion.