The Unbearable Ignorance Of Brit Politicians

The post-revolution Brit constitution must allow for the the incompetence of its politicians – here’s a current example.

The quality of pols in the UK is strikingly low – there’s no Brit equivalent of a McCain or Guiliani, or even a Clinton. Instead we have the likes of Brown and Primarolo And this guy, pitching to run the closest Brits have to a Green party:

It is said that Nick Clegg is clever, charming and ambitious.

He speaks five languages – “six if you count human”, his friends like to boast.

He has a high-flying wife, two young children and a glamorous circle of friends – this week, he met Halle Berry at a premiere for Sam Mendes’ latest film, at school he acted opposite Helena Bonham Carter and in his youth he toured America with the Theroux brothers.

This paragon offers a radical policy initiative:

Drugs…he says must be much better controlled…

…he thinks legal drugs, including alcohol, should be included in any new classification system. If you’re interested in reducing harm, you need to revisit the spectrum of drugs, both legal and illegal and categorise them according to the evidence…

But here’s the evidence (my emphasis):

…in 1993, a study of 12,000 middle-aged, male doctors led by Sir Richard Doll and a team at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, found that the lowest mortality rates – lower even than teetotallers – were among those drinking between 20 and 30 units of alcohol each week.

The level of drinking that produced the same risk of death as that faced by a teetotaller was 63 units a week, or roughly a bottle of wine a day.

By 1994, five studies had been published which showed that moderate amounts of alcohol gave some degree of protection against heart disease.

A year later, scientists at the Institute for Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen, who studied 13,000 men and women over 12 years, found that drinking more than half a bottle of wine a day – 50 units a week – cut the risk of premature death by half.

So the paragon is just another control-freak buffoon looking for a minority to persecute.

As November 5th approaches, it’s tempting to consider blowing up the Houses of Parliament to reestablish Brit freedom.

But revolutions based on violence have a poor track record.

Still, it would at least clean up the gene pool.


8 Responses to The Unbearable Ignorance Of Brit Politicians

  1. dearieme says:

    But, but, but. Then you’d have to admit that moderate amounts of sunshine do you good. That being a bit “overweight” is healthy. In fact, that the great bulk of pronouncements on keeping healthy are tosh. True, smoking is a bad idea, but that’s news that’s fifty years old.

  2. Rob says:

    Hmm. Let’s consider the facts:

    1) Alcohol in the UK is already regulated – as, indeed, it is almost everywhere. There are age limits on purchase and consumption of alcohol, and licenses are required to sell it. In practice, alcohol is easily available. The combination of regulation, taxation and market economics mean that alcohol is generally of high quality (i.e. not likely to be dangerous for any other reason than that it contains alcohol), with plenty of choice (a bewildering array of brands, types and strengths).

    2) Cannabis is illegal. It’s probably just as easily available as alcohol to those that want it, but they run the risk of criminalisation. It’s not taxed, although the effect of criminalisation inflates prices far more than taxation would. On the basis that only criminals can supply cannabis, the entire cannabis industry funds criminal enterprises.

    No politician in Britain could ever dare to prohibit alcohol, and Nick Clegg certainly isn’t about to do that. But in proposing that there’s some similarity between alcohol and cannabis, the door is opened to the legalisation of cannabis. I think this is more about building a case that if cannabis and alcohol are equivalent, we should think carefully about legalising cannabis.

    Let’s be clear about what he actually said: that the current system of drug classification is wrong, and has been manipulated by politicians to serve political purposes. He proposes an evidence-based classification system based on medical evidence, and proposes to break the link between ‘being a classified drug’ and ‘being illegal’. What’s wrong with any of that?

  3. gandalf says:


    What’s his basis for categorizing alcohol as a drug?

    If he means a recreation that makes people feel good, he’d need to include sex, long walks, etc and the body chemicals (endorphins) that trigger these pleasures.

    If he means a chemical substance that, taken in excess, may cause physical damage, he’d need to include tea, coffee, water, oxygen, CO2, and most other ingested or inhaled substances.

    Surely if he wants to decriminalize cannabis, he need only say so.

    If a range of scientific trials already prove it to be safe, that should not be a problem. However a quick scan of Wikipedia (not always to be trusted of course) shows solid -seeming studies suggesting health risks.

    So the guy is more of an idiot than I thought: he either doesn’t know, or misrepresents, the science behind alcohol consumption; he’s using a sophomoric debating trick to conflate it with pot; and he’s getting the science on the latter wrong too.

    Alas poor England (and Scotland and Wales).

  4. Rob says:

    I’m afraid that I lack the medical knowledge to explain exactly what makes alcohol a drug, or not. However, in its observable effects, alcohol certainly has effects far more profound than, say, water. When was the last time you heard of someone drinking a bit too much water then staggering around the street picking fights with passers-by? The regulation of alcohol and similar substances has been a major part of government for millenia, which suggests that the weight of tradition is on the side of regulated alcohol.

    I’m a liber-something (I’m fed up of having to distinguish between the various brands of ‘liberal’ and ‘libertarian’), so I’m personally in favour of letting people take whatever drugs they like, something which they are presently unable to do. I think that the model which is currently applied to alcohol – age limits, licensed premises for sale and consumption – would represent a good model for other substances which have profound mood-altering effects. Certainly the extension of such a model to these other substances would be an increase in liberty – I’d be able to smoke a joint in peace if I chose to do so, something I can’t do at present.

    Would I like to see fewer regulations on alcohol? Perhaps, though it’s hardly top of my list – there are plenty of other laws are far more deserving of abolition. From what I can see, Nick Clegg appears to think that way too.

  5. gandalf says:


    I suspect that until the advent of the Nanny State, the control of alcohol was for revenue rather than for the health purposes.

    But of course our eating, drinking & smoking habits are our own affair, provided we take responsibility for negative effects on others.

    Oddly, you can get intoxicated by water – I did once during a long distance run & there’s a Wikipedia entry on water intoxication, so it must be true. It’s not fun though, so I don’t see it becoming popular.

  6. Ian Bennett says:

    Gandalf said “But of course our eating, drinking and smoking habits are our own affair, provided we take responsibility for negative effects on others.” Might I add the requirement that we also take responsibility for negative effects on ourselves; that if our behaviour makes un unemployable, we don’t get to run to Nanny for welfare; or if it causes health problems, we don’t rely on taxpayer-funded health care.

  7. john b says:

    You’re misreporting Doll’s study. There is no evidence (and nobody sensible has ever claimed) that drinking 20-30 units of alcohol a week has any health benefits compared to teetotalism – rather, those people who are teetotal are more likely to die than drinkers *for reasons not directly connected with their consumption of alcohol*.

    Clinical studies show that cannabis and alcohol are *highly* comparable in terms of effect – both carry small risks of causing serious health damage, but both have negligibile health impact in moderate quantities.

    The main different is that alcohol abuse can have a negative impact on people other than the user, whereas cannabis doesn’t (unless you count ‘having to talk to someone dull’ as a negative impact…), and hence alcohol is *more* deserving of government regulation, assuming you take Mill’s do-what-you-like-as-long-as-you-don’t-hurt-others line.

  8. gandalf says:

    john b

    I don’t think I’ve misreported Richard Doll’s study.

    The Daily Telegraph clip in the post is confirmed in some detail by a summary in the European Journal of Clinical Research which you can find here:

    Your claim that people who are teetotal are more likely to die than drinkers *for reasons not directly connected with their consumption of alcohol* is anyway tautological.

    And I’m sure alcohol and cannabis have quite different effects on the metabolisms of their consumers, since one is ingested and the other inhaled.

    Anyway, the point of the post is that if the aspiring pol wants to legalize pot, he should just say so.

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