Will culling bottle shops cut domestic violence?

According to La Trobe University economist, Professor Harry C

Alan Davies — Editor of The Urbanist

Alan Davies

Editor of The Urbanist

Beautiful abandoned railway stations from all over the world - this one's in Manhattan (click to see more)

According to La Trobe University economist, Professor Harry Clarke, there’s a “bone-headed argument making the rounds” that reducing the number of liquor stores in a neighbourhood will reduce domestic violence.

The bone-headed argument comes from Michael Livingston, a research fellow at the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre in Melbourne. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Livingston studied the density of liquor outlets in Victoria.

As you increase bottle shops in a neighbourhood you increase rates of domestic violence and rates of chronic disease. We know that they’re concentrated up to eight times more in poor neighbourhoods than rich neighbourhoods in Victoria.

Mr Livingstone acknowledges domestic violence is caused by a range of factors, but reckons reducing the number of packaged liquor outlets has got the potential to make a difference. “A lot of energy”, he says, “has gone into regulating the late-night economy, the pubs and bars, and that’s having some impact. I think packaged liquor is the next area that needs to be focused on.”

Geographical access to alcohol outlets has also been linked to other crimes. It’s part of a wider perspective that, for example, also argues the density of fast food outlets should be reduced in order to limit obesity and other health-related issues. It’s part of the same view that underpins Michelle Obama’s claim that childhood obesity in the US is linked to “food deserts” – poor urban neighbourhoods lacking stores selling fresh vegetables and fruit.

Note that Mr Livingston’s proposition isn’t to prohibit liquor outlets, but to reduce the number below the level the market signals it wants. It’s also proposed that this only be done in certain areas, specifically poorer neighbourhoods. It relies on the idea that buyers would be deterred because they’d have to travel further to buy their supplies – in effect the price would rise.

I don’t think it’s a good idea. Like Professor Clarke, I think reducing the number of liquor outlets would only have a small effect on domestic violence and other alcohol-related issues in the affected neighbourhood.

The reason is demand for desirable products isn’t much affected by increases in price (unless the increase is extremely large). This applies especially to something like alcohol which is mood changing and potentially addictive. That’s why, as Professor Clarke says, governments like to tax alcohol and cigarettes.

Were the number of outlets to be reduced, the most likely outcome is the sorts of buyers who drink excessively and behave criminally would simply pay the higher price. That is, they’d either travel further to get their bottles than they used to, or they’d adapt by, say, buying larger quantities less frequently.

There’s a parallel between Mr Livingstone’s proposition and Kevin Rudd’s alcopops fiasco. Faced with a higher tax on alcopops, teen drinkers simply shifted to cheaper forms of alcohol they could flavour with juice. There was no reduction in binge drinking. The Government didn’t get that teenagers drink for the effect, not the flavour.

Mr Livingston’s proposal isn’t equitable. All residents of poor neighbourhoods where liquor outlets had been culled would be worse off because their bottled supplies would in effect become more expensive i.e. harder to get. That would include the vast majority who no doubt drink responsibly and behave appropriately. It would be like a consumption tax that only applies to residents of poorer neighbourhoods.

It’s also possible such an initiative might result in a net increase in total kilometres of driving, given all residents in an affected neighbourhood would on average be further from a retail outlet after the cull. It’s hard to know because it would depend on how consumers adapted, but it’s certainly a serious possibility.

However in my view the really big downside is this sort of thinking deflects attention from root causes. Yes, in some areas there’s a correlation between the number of liquor outlets and the level of crime, but there’s not a significant causal link. It’s therefore not a solution. Much better in my view to focus limited resources on the real causes.

Other factors related to socioeconomic and cultural background are far more likely to explain differences in how people drink and whether or not they display anti-social behaviour, than proximity to a bottle shop. I worry policy-makers who cull liquor shops would think they’d already done the heavy lifting.

A good example of why I worry is Michelle Obama’s fascination with the dubious idea of food deserts. It’s a terrible waste of the enormous political capital she brings to the issue of childhood obesity. But hold your fire on food deserts for the moment – I’ll look at that next time (update: see here).

(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today)


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

26 thoughts on “Will culling bottle shops cut domestic violence?

  1. David Gardner

    While i agree that limiting the amount of liquor outlets in a community will restrict the level of violence in a community, does it actually limit alcohol related violence rather than domestic violence. For instance, research suggests that restricting lockout timing, last drinks and shots results in lower levels of alcohol violence in clubs. While it may become apparent that less cases of domestic violence are apparent due to the restriction on the number of liquor outlets, these are only the cases of domestic violence seen by the public. The majority of domestic violence goes behind close doors.

  2. Wiz Aus

    CID, no doubt those for whom alchohol increases violent behaviour have deeper problems, but those problems are much harder to fix and take much longer (and worse, in some cases, impossible to do so, if they stem from less-than-ideal conditons when growing up). In the meantime, if there are “vaguely related factors” that we can at least control to a useful extent, it’s still worth considering doing so, for the sake of the victims.

  3. JamesH

    There’s strong statistical evidence that alcohol drives domestic (and other) violence in the Indigenous population. Not sure about the wider population, but at least for Indigenous drinkers, it is much more of a trigger than “a perceived slight on their manhood or not cooking dinner properly or putting too much sugar in the coffee”.

    Having said that, I suspect a proper volumetric tax on alcohol content would go a lot further towards reducing violence than limiting the number of outlets who sell cheap stuff. If the price goes up through taxation and sales go down then bottleos in areas with little disposable income will close of their own accord.

  4. CID

    What annoys me Wiz Aus is this constant tinkering with vaguely related factors. The complete lack of political and social will to tackle problems head on. Instead of really handling the problem of pissed idiots piling out of nightclubs at 3am and laying into each other, we change the closing time to 2am when what we should be doing is grabbing them by the scruff of the neck, telling them they’re being dickheads and deal with them properly with appropriate legal and medical means. We don’t blame them, we blame the booze and the venues that sold it to them. Everyone complains about the ‘nanny state’ but as soon they’re in trouble, it’s nanny’s fault for not being strict enough with them.

    The same thought process seems to being applied to this issue. It could come back to a general trend of not taking responsibility for our actions and now not even being told to take responsibility – everyone who does something wrong in recent times has a syndrome of some sort and extenuating circumstances, often coming down to being drunk or high when in fact the only syndrome many of them have is being a dickhead.

    Remember we’re talking about urban communities here – your hypothetical husband is, without that single new bottle shop, no more than a few minutes away from another. So where does it end? Who decides? Your hypothetical husband has a much deeper problem than booze. In vino veritas. If he does it drunk, he’ll do it sober if he feels ‘provoked’. I don’t have the answer, but I can’t see that this is even a part of it.

  5. Wiz Aus

    Alan – “But do alcoholics and people who drink and commit crimes – the whole point of the cull in the first place – make impulse buys?”

    For alcoholics – I would highly skeptical that reducing easy access to alcohol would help *existing* alcoholics. But it may reduce the rate at which people become addicted to alcohol. However for “do…people who drink and commit crimes…may impulse buys?”, my instinct would say ‘probably’, given that commiting crimes is essentially a form of lack of ability to control impulsive behaviour.

    CID, I agree it probably wouldn’t make *much* difference, though if the opening of a single new bottle shop in a neighbourhood led to just a single husband finding solace in now easily-accessible alcohol which led to occasional violent outbursts against his family, then I’d suggest that’s too high a price to pay for the convenience of other responsible drinkers. And as others have pointed out, nobody necessarily expects one single measure to solve a particular problem – complex problems will typically require a variety of solutions. The challenge is working out which ones pass the cost-benefit ratio test (and of course the political viability test). I don’t think we know nearly enough to say with any confidence whether reducing bottle shop density does so.

  6. CID

    michael r james… the reason bottle shops are often found in concentration is simple competition. If you want to get noticed, setup next to the one everyone’s noticing. It’s the same reason many cities have a jewellery district and a fashion district.

    Now as far as me being a tool and accomplice to those who would do society harm… If the government can propose a scheme that is not so watered down and vapid to make it politically palatable as possible, thereby rendering it completely impotent, I may be on board. I couldn’t give a stuff about nanny state and the 2UE rhetoric, ban pokies. Outlaw ciggies. You’ll need to beef up the defences around the Lodge and setup some world-leading programs in it’s wake, but if you think pokies are the root cause of problem gambling, ban them. Don’t reduce the availability, or make it ever so slightly harder, take it away. Only it won’t work while there’s so many other ways to do your rent.

    Problem is, we’ve already banned domestic violence, haven’t we. And it hasn’t fixed it. Nor will making the perpetrators go another 5k’s for a case. And they will go another 5k’s. Or 10, or 20. I don’t know what the answer is, but this ain’t it.

    Wiz Aus, are you seriously comparing driving abilities and beating your family? That’s completely ludicrous. One is a skill that is demonstrably impaired when you’re drunk, the other is not. Your statement “..a significant percentage of the population would probably never commit domestic violence if they never consumed alcohol” is rubbish. Alcohol may be a trigger in some instances, but so is a perceived slight on their manhood or not cooking dinner properly or putting too much sugar in the coffee.

    Making it slightly more inconvenient to get a case of beer will not do a thing to the rates of domestic violence. I don’t doubt the statistical coincidence between rates of domestic violence and concentration of bottle shops, I just don’t believe one has much to do with the other. And even if I’m proven wrong, slightly restricting supply will do nothing.

  7. Alan Davies

    michael r james, Wiz Aus

    The density of liquor stores argument you raise is a good one and is why I said from the get-go there’d be some reduction in consumption from a cull – but I think it would be modest. I think it’s likely virtually all the reduction would come from the relatively light drinkers who’d no longer make impulse buys. But do alcoholics and people who drink and commit crimes – the whole point of the cull in the first place – make impulse buys?

    The other thing about the density of liquor outlets is to some extent it’s driven by competition for market share between different operators, rather than growing the cake.

  8. Wiz Aus

    And CID, let’s change your sentence a litte:

    “I can get a complete skinful and still drive my car without crashing it. Someone who will crash theirs will do it stone-cold sober. Making either of us spend an extra 60 minutes sobering up before driving will do absolutely nothing to modify either of our behaviours.”

    The first two statements may well be factually true, but would anyone seriously conclude with the 3rd? The point is that for the population as a whole, on average alcohol significantly increases the risk of crashing your car, or committing domestic violence. Indeed, a significant percentage of the population would probably never commit domestic violence (or indeed, crash their car) if they never consumed alcohol. Any individuals who will do so (or not do so) regardless are never going to make up a majority of the population.

    Personally I want to know why we aren’t funding our scientists to find drugs that make us feel as good alcohol but don’t have all the same nasty side effects (or perhaps better, that we can add to alcohol to neutralise the side effects).

  9. Wiz Aus

    What Michael said…the fact that at every stage the industries in question have protested loudly against proposed measures to regulate them is proof enough that they expect the measures to be effective in reducing sales. And while the idealist in me would love to support to the idea that education alone can solve almost everything, reality has repeatedly acted otherwise.
    Indeed, if Dan Murphy’s or LiquorLand or any other big chain came out in support in any sort of measure to reduce the density of liquor stores in a neighbourhood I’d fairly quickly concludes its because they’ve concluded it will mean more business for them (probably at the expense of independent stores, but sufficiently enough that they were obviously not expecting total alcohol consumption to be reduced). But I’m certainly not putting betting anything on that occurring.

  10. michael r james

    AD, Stiofan & CID,

    You are in denial of the most basic of evidence. What then is the reason companies put so many bottleshops in those areas if spreading them around would have zero effect on sales? Obviously the same reason why supermarkets put all kinds of junk next to the checkouts; if they are only spread around the store the sales are a lot less. It is impulse buys and opportunistic marketing where and when it is most effective. When residents are walking past (or driving past) a bottleshop every 50 m or so, with their flashing neon signs, on their way home, you don’t believe there is an effect on probability of tempting them into those stores?

    And CID you have blown all credibility with your statement:

    [Smoking is a classic case in point. All the tinkering around the edges with hiding them, putting them in plain packaging and so on won’t impact the number of smokers a jot. Even taxing them at an astronomical rate or making smokers go outside at pubs has minimal impact.]

    Price, those graphic warnings on the packets, banning tv advertisements, anti-smoking educational material and social opprobrium all add up. Because the effect of no single thing can be proven, or in someone’s opinion one or other is “not significant”, then you believe it should not be done. Yet, for all your claims of ineffectiveness, Big Tobacco is fighting the plain packaging with everything it can muster.

    In fact a big reason why these things remain serious socially damaging habits (tobacco, alcohol, pokies) is exactly because of people like you being in denial and opposing, either actively or passively (as in “stop the nanny state”, “people will find ways around it”, specious economics) any and every step to reduce the availability. And it makes you tools and accomplices of the Big Money interests behind every one of these issues.

  11. CID

    I simply don’t buy the theory that ever so slightly restricting supply will decrease demand. Nobody’s proposing banning bottle shops in any given area, so the inconvenience will be a couple of kilometres at most. Is that going to dampen demand? Not one iota.

    Other ‘solutions’ mentioned here would be equally ineffective – a sign on the register? Give me a break. They’ve got signs on every poker machine but that hasn’t changed problem gambling. Restricting supply to a set number of litres a day? Laughably impossible to implement, monitor and enforce and again, completely ineffective unless there’s a monopoly within 50km.

    In vino veritas. Domestic violence is a abhorrent crime perpetrated by people pre-disposed to a violent pattern of behaviour, not an opportunistic lark akin to riding a shopping trolley down a hill after a night out. Keeping the offenders a little bit more sober for a little longer will not change the behaviour.

    The answer to domestic violence (and a raft of other problems) doesn’t involve tinkering around the edges, it needs hard and long work on the behaviour, not stuffing around with one of the, I would suggest minor, catalysts to the behaviour. I can get a complete skinful and never beat my wife and kids. Someone who will beat theirs will do it stone-cold sober. Making either of us spend an extra 10 minutes getting booze will do absolutely nothing to modify either of our behaviours.

    Smoking is a classic case in point. All the tinkering around the edges with hiding them, putting them in plain packaging and so on won’t impact the number of smokers a jot. Even taxing them at an astronomical rate or making smokers go outside at pubs has minimal impact. What has reduced smoking is a generation of education. But then smoking is not a mental health issue or a psychological flaw (nor is drinking for that matter) but beating your family is.

    Everything else is just meaningless, feel-good, empty gestures that are lazy and ill-thought out. It will take real commitment, over decades, to address domestic violence, none of this intellectual bull**it but common-sense practical action on the behaviour and the people who exhibit the behaviour.

  12. Stiofan

    @michael r james
    The decline in the consumption of alcopops was simply replaced by an increase in the consumption of “cider”. Bottleshops and bars have massively increased their range of “cider” offerings in response to the drop in alcopop consumption. As a long time drinker of cider (specifically, Mercury Dry), I was initially pleased by this. However, once I tried the new offerings, it became obvious that (a) they weren’t cider (in any meaningful sense) and (b) because they were so sweet and sugary, they were clearly aimed at the alcopop market.

  13. michael r james

    Jim (2.00 pm) slightly ruined it with his na-na-na but I loved it! Sounds a bit like he is doing a masters in post-deconstructivism or -structuralism or some ism. Larded with a big dose of langue dans la joue .

    AD, I think you’ve got to give up on this one. No one is buying it!
    Incidentally I also don’t buy that interpretation of the Alcopops story. First, independent of any actual outcome it was fully justifiable to normalize the price/tax of that type of drink to others. It should have never been otherwise and, as we know, a cynical exploitation of a loophole by the industry. Second, you can make that faux argument about turning to other forms of alcohol but it is doesn’t stand scrutiny when kids are out on the town–they are not going to buy separate ingredients including expensive litre bottles of spirit, etc and mix their own. They may do it for parties etc but there is no doubt the consumption of alcopops decreased and that was a good outcome.

    Michael: No Michael, there’s no gain when the consumption of alcopops goes down but the consumption of alcohol doesn’t. The teens just switched tipples. And I think you’re wrong about outlets – most people do buy it. AD.

  14. Jim Moylan

    Alright, I’ll take my head out of my rectum and make some usable remarks (rather than simply engage in smart-arse commentary)

    I do indeed note Alan that you are postulating that higher ‘access costs’ will equal higher costs for the user. However this is such a delimited postulate (in structural terms) that it can never be more than of indeterminable utility.

    For example – if you reduce the number of outlets there are a number of variables that might be termed as inclusive variables:
    purchase of greater quantity at each instance,
    purchase of lesser quality to enable the purchase of the same quantity:
    substitution of other drugs:
    alteration of drinking behaviours (in pub utilisation):
    variation between mobile and static populations:
    variation between base financial position:
    variation across sex:
    variation across recreational and heavy drinking sectors etc etc etc.

    Without proposing a bare (atemporal) schema that address at least a fair number of these inclusive variables then the postualte advanced is near meaningless.

    Of course you can propose a sparse schemata that has been drawn down from a meaningful (and more complex) structural analysis and then reify it according to a detailed knowledge of some particular historical events – but as this is Foucault’s way of operating (and so would constitute a post-structural analysis) it might be a bit beyond the scope of a newspaper article.
    (2) 😉

  15. Jim Moylan

    michael covered a bit of the territory I was going to address (onya mate)

    Alan is engaging in a bit of economic analysis of an extremely reified economic form (after Coase, Trebilcock, Posner et al)
    it is of a sort that first raised its ugly head in the analysis of contract law in the US (and has thereafter spread like cholera).
    Economic analysis (like this) represents a structural appreciation of a very delimited scope that is entirely theoretically abstracted from all other forms of ‘structural theory’ which are, in the main, the reserve of the neo-marxist theoreticians (Suassure, Barthes, LeviStraus, Bourdieu, Foucault).
    Practitioners of ‘economic theory’ are almost always members of the establishment engaged in commentary on their own institutions and powers they daily articulate as professors and academics. Practitioners of structural theory were all reactionary theoreticians engaged in a critique of impositions of power.
    So – the #$%@ economic theorists usurp the academic integrity and hard work of the structural analysts every time they open their mouths and spout their disarticulated nonsense.

    So, my response, Alan, is: poppycock!

    Less bottlo’s probably would result in less drinking,
    which probably would result in less domestic violence (these represent attributable and testable postulations linked with a valid inference).

    Less (local) bottlo’s equals (general) higher prices is (syllogistically) an invalid postulate.

    Na-na-na-na-na-na. (also an invalid postulate)

    Jim: As I said in reply to Michael r James @ #8, I’m not contending that fewer bottlos equals higher prices. I’m saying it equals higher costs to get access to grog. BTW I believe this is the first time anyone has ever found a way to mention Foucault on these pages AD

  16. calyptorhynchus

    …And one be unemployed, uneducated &c but remain an upstanding, non-violent and law-abiding person.

    By your logic there would be nothing wrong with having large numbers of gun shops in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

  17. michael r james

    Bit off-topic but having my memories sparked (see earlier post) I googled it and:

    [maitaitom on Nov 16, 05 at 8:17am
    I don’t know if this place is around anymore, but in the 90s we received a recommendation for La Taverne du Sergeant Recruiter on Ile Saint-Louis.

    Had Tracy and I followed our instincts, we would have gone AWOL as soon as we walked in, but, alas we did not. The place was a dump and the food pathetic. But at least the service was bad, so it was consistent.

    To be perfectly Franc, it not only was it the worst meal I’ve ever had in all my trips to Paris, it was the worst meal I’ve have ever had in Europe.

    This is a restaurant that hopefully has been court-martialed and is no longer on duty.
    francophile03 on Nov 16, 05 at 8:34am
    Someone (firsttime visitor to Paris) posted recently on another forum that the La Taverne du Sargeant Recruiter (sp.?) was their favorite restaurant! Hopefully this means that the service and food have improved greatly since the 1990’s.
    LadyOLeisure on Nov 16, 05 at 9:11am
    We ate at La Taverne du Sergeant Recruiter back in 1998 (I think) and it was especially fun (but maybe that was because we were seated next to a German couple who were particularly friendly and funny). It was a pretty basic menu with choice of about 3 main dishes, and while not haute cuisine in the least, it was worth its price (which was about $20US pp at the time). I still recommend it to people as an inexpensive and enjoyable place if you don’t want to fuss with menu choices. As I recall, “starters” and “desserts” were served “family style” (in our case for us and the table next to us) and the wine choice was perfectly palatable house red or house white and our glasses were never empty . It seemed a good place for first-timers at any rate. ]
    [maitaitom on Nov 16, 05 at 9:17am
    ” posted recently on another forum that the La Taverne du Sargeant Recruiter (sp.?) was their favorite restaurant! .”

    Well, our friends told us it was good back then, too. We hated it. That’s why the only review that truly counts is your own review. But below is something I culled from the “master of gourmet” Rick Steves’ website, so I think I’ll stand by my previous statement.

    “…….La Taverne du Sergeant Recruteur…. famous for their rowdy, medieval cellar atmosphere. They serve all-you-can-eat buffets with straw baskets of raw veggies (cut whatever you like with your dagger), massive plates of pâté, a meat course, and all the wine you can stomach for €36-38. The food is just food; burping is encouraged. If you want to eat a lot, drink a lot of wine, and holler at your friends while receiving smart-aleck buccaneer service, these food fests can be fun.

    “If you’d rather be surrounded by drunk tourists than locals, pick La Taverne du Sergeant Recruteur.”

    Somehow, I doubt the quality has improved after reading that stellar review. Bon Appetite!]

    To take the simplistic econometric approach one would say that banning such a restaurant would unfairly inhibit trade and, (struggling here) force tourists to go to another distant locale..or something. And of course in the absence of this resto, prices in other nearby restos would go up because of the lower competition. Ultimately this would affect local property prices because of the ..err.. lower desirability…blah, blah. But actually no, tourists would simply choose another of the 20,000 regular restos in Paris or one of the ca. 40 perfectly civilized ones on the same island.

    The point–not too much of a stretch IMO–is that sometimes, simply banning or reducing the density of undesirable establishments can have a desirable outcome. And in my example, as in poorer neighbourhoods, reduce nasty after-effects on idiot tourists (who would in general better enjoy themselves elsewhere) and improve street behaviour/aesthetics.

  18. hk

    Maybe a more constructive step would be for the planning permit for the purveyor of alcohol should require a sign next to the cash register giving contact details for anger management sources for those intelligent enough to know they have anti-social behaviour attributable to drunkenness.

  19. michael r james

    There are several unsupported leaps of logic in your and Clarke’s case. Clarke says: “that reducing the number of liquor stores in a neighbourhood will reduce domestic violence.” I believe what Livingstone would add to make that statement correct is

    “that reducing the number of liquor stores in a neighbourhood will reduce domestic violence in that neighbourhood .”

    Nimbyist maybe, but apparently supported by the data as your quote from Livingstone reports. You haven’t actually countered it. The argument about costs is also just a wild rather irrelevant stab in the dark: why should prices go up? Are prices in such outlets, almost all of which are owned by giant chains, significantly different across a city, or especially across a locality. I don’t think so. I think the more relevant factor is “convenience” and how this promotes consumption.

    The point about driving to an outlet also is a leap of logic: the reason why the retailers put such a density of stores in a locality is because the local traffic (foot or wheeled) supports them. It is just as compelling logic to think that if there were far fewer local stores those who currently use them–a lot of such visits likely being adventitious rather than planned–would not and the overall consumption in that locality would decrease. Remember, one of the big issues is drinking and the subsequent behaviour on the street.
    Having said all that, of course it is better to tackle the primary cause. But that is a huge social issue and would take decades and the will to tackle it (not evident in Anglo societies). If reducing alcohol outlets in problem neighbourhoods can have an impact, then why wouldn’t you do it, why shouldn’t we do it? (I cannot see a single compelling piece of convincing logic in your article. Sad to say but I think again the facile econometric arguments here are quite unproven, or certainly not the most important.)

    Of course, as per other comments, alcohol-fueled problems are everywhere in the developed world but less of an issue in continental European countries. Though it depends on one’s definition of “problems”; France still has one of the world’s highest incidence of liver cirhhosis (but it has decreased a lot and the government has had a long campaign against ultra-cheap booze which is the big culprit). In France you can buy alcohol in all supermarkets and small convenience stores (and in petrol stations on highways!). Where I lived–there were a lot of restaurants popular with tourists–the street problems were 100% due to Anglos (well maybe a few percent Germans), who either cannot hold their booze and/or overindulge when it is cheap or provided free with meal. Indeed I believe there was a bit of a Nimbyist action against the resto in my building because it had a buffet system of “all you can eat and drink” and the result at late night and next morning were often disgusting in what was otherwise a very upmarket street: Ile Saint Louis. Several times I had to hose down our foyer (except there was no hose and I had to do it by bucket). If this type of resto had not existed then this problem would have gone away, and frankly if it went somewhere else in Paris we locals would not have cared.

    Michael: Re yr 1st para, I always took it to mean Livingstone meant in that particular neighbourhood and my words reflect that. Also, I made it clear (or so I thought!) I wasn’t talking about a literal price rise but a rise in the cost of accessing liquor outlets – in effect a price rise. AD

  20. CID

    Getting pretty bored with lazy academics who try to short cut research with purely statistical links, as in this case. If I were to look at the data I bet I could find a statistical link in low socio-economic areas between Holden Commodores, Ugg boots, Rugby League fans, A Current Affair viewers – the list goes on – and domestic violence.

    Mr Livingston may be right, but has the responsibility to go a lot further than that before we start implementing condescending and discriminatory policy such as he proposes.

  21. Wiz Aus

    I’d certainly want to see more productive methods of attempting to reduce alcohol consumption in poorer areas tried before reducing the number of shop licenses. For a start, there are plenty of countries in the world with generally much more liberal attitudes (and hence laws) regarding liquor but, from what I’ve observed, generally less of a problem with alcohol abuse.
    But if it really turns out that license restrictions is the only truly effective means in this country, I’d rather see something like a restriction on the total volume of alcohol that stores are permitted to sell in a given period, rather than restricting the number of stores.

  22. Russ

    Karl, lower income areas have more liquor stores because people on lower incomes spend less on alcohol, and a liquor store is a cheap method of purchase. You might as well argue that restaurateurs and bars are taking advantage of people with high income’s status seeking and cash by opening expensive drinking establishments that exclude the lower classes. And they are, but drinking in the middle and upper class isn’t correlated with other social problems.

    The specific question Alan is asking is whether the marginal health benefits of reduced drinking and violence with fewer liquor stores is greater than the costs of increased travel and time, and the administration of the law. I suspect the answer is no, for the reasons he cites: that people will buy more alcohol less often or just travel further, that it could lead to an increase in drink driving. Reduced competition will probably lead to higher prices, which might reduce consumption, but the benefits go to the sellers; a simple increase in the tax would be more socially beneficial.

  23. Karl

    Isn’t it a sad state of affairs though that major companies such as Woolworths will specifically target and flood lower socioeconomic areas with liquor stores because people on lower income [allegedly] consume higher levels of alcohol?

    It’s like those service stations which are nearby schools which stock a dazzling array of sweat treats packed with sugars and all sorts of nasty ingredients in order to capitalise on this market. I know lots of schools and communities, in particular those with higher levels of low income and indigenous people, struggle with this sneaky profit driven tactic employed by these companies.

    You can argue the libertarian “freedom of choice” all you want, but the simple fact remains that major companies are taking an unfair taking advantage over at-risk persons in our society, and this shouldn’t be tolerated.

  24. malibbis

    You make a few salient points here – there’s the blanket blaming of the booze for domestic violence, which may have other causes; driving further to buy alcohol has the potential for increased drink driving; then there’s the culture of drinking itself in the Australian context: if we were more like Europeans appreciating wine in refined environments, rather than guzzling beers in barns designed for just that purpose, we would still have domestic violence, corruption and all the associated problems, but with a certain panache about it!

  25. EKDV

    Not necessarily. One can have a drinking problem (i.e. drinking too much for one’s health and be unable to stop drinking) but remain an upstanding, non-violent and law-abiding person.

  26. calyptorhynchus

    Isn’t alcohol a root cause?

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details