The Politicians Are Playing God Again

Remember the warnings of the Jeff Goldbloom character in Jurassic Park? Nature will find a way. In a similar vein, it was Sir Francis Bacon who said that Nature to be commanded must be obeyed. These are both important lessons that politicians in their arrogance are slow to learn.

One of the key differences between libertarians and socialists, and by socialists I’m referring to central planners on both sides of the house, is that libertarians believe that society, and therefore those trading relationships between the members of society that we call the economy, is a force of nature.  The central planners on the other hand see society, and therefore the economy, as a machine where if only you had the right planners turning the right dials at the right time then you can make everything better.  History paints a very different picture.

In 1920’s America, alcohol was made illegal and the result was organised crime and speakeasies. The black market in the Soviet Union provided banned Levis jeans. When Jamie Oliver set himself on a crusade to improve school lunches, the kids went to the burger vans waiting outside. People found a way.

Do the politician learn? No. Today the SNP website proudly proclaims the introduction of price controls on alcohol in an effort to stem over-drinking.

Welcoming the Scottish Parliament’s final approval of the minimum pricing legislation, SNP MSP Bob Doris – Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee said:

“This is an historic day for the Scottish Parliament. Just as it did with the smoking ban, MSPs have led the way with a ground-breaking policy which will be of significant benefit to our society.

“The Scottish Government has shown real leadership on this issue – refusing to give up even when the main parties blocked this in 2010.

“But the overwhelming support of those who witness Scotland’s alcohol problems up close – the police, doctors, nurses, the ambulance service, public health experts, children’s charities and many more – has won over the sceptics.

Did the smoking ban work? Yes. People no longer smoked indoors. Did it stop people smoking? No. Did people find someplace else to smoke and drink? Yes. It is estimated that over 1.000 pubs have closed in Scotland since the introduction of the ban. And people wonder why there is unemployment.

This is called the Law of Unintended Consequence. Society, like nature, is so incredibly complex that the most seemingly benign and well-meaning of actions can have catastrophic unforeseen results.  Politicians have the arrogance to fall for the illusion of control.  Society cannot be controlled or conditioned. In cases where they have succeeded in convincing people that black is white, such as through the state educational facilities, we find children becoming adults incapable of dealing with reality which also has dire consequences.

The outcome of this price fixing has yet to be seen. However, I will go on a limb here and suggest that fixing the price of alcohol will not deter drinking just as it has not deterred smoking. It is quite possible that primary beneficiaries will be the alcohol industry and politicians who years from now will call this action a success even as the negative unforeseen consequences of what they have wrought burn around them.

Daniel Logan-Scott
This post was written by
Is a writer from Los Angeles, California and has been living in Glasgow, Scotland for the past fifteen years. His written works focus on the Cultural Philosophy and History of the Romantic Era (1776-1929).

2 Comments on "The Politicians Are Playing God Again"

  • Wannabelibertarian says

    I am sympathetic to Libertarian thought, especially since the banking crisis and subsequent bail out of the banks using tax and ‘quantative easing’. It is on health I find my contention, or at least I think I do.

    If pubs depended on smoking then doesn’t that indicate a dependency culture within our economy? A dependendency facilitated by nicotine addiction. Some pubs have evolved since the smoking ban offering edible food for instance.

    I am not saying I necessarily agree with the smoking ban in pubs as such, but I am saying that surely government must respond to dependency cultures in the economy when there is a threat to human health.

    I think to an extent society can be conditioned and I think tobacco experts would agree. I even think you say as much in another article.

    While it is a shame many pubs have gone under I do not think the jobs argument is that relevant.

    It is on public health that I realise I can’t be a true libertarian. Even in the absense of state intervention other forces seek to influence human behaviour and I believe this must be taken into account.


    • craig says

      Hi James,

      You raise some good points and health is something people get scared about letting go of but put it another way.

      If you have a right to your own freedom then surely you should have the right to you own health and to decide what you put into your own body? If someone didn’t smoke and still went to a smoking pub on a regular basis then it is of their own free choice.

      If people made the choice to not go into the smoking pubs then the people will have made their own choice and bans would have been made by the owners of said pub. However at no point does government need or have a right to get involved.

      You have the right to decide what goes into your body and you choose if you want to be around people who smoke.

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