Drinking Licenses

This is slightly off-topic, but I wanted to address this bizarre suggestion by Mark Kleiman in his mostly sensible article

If someone is convicted of drunken driving, or drunken assault, or drunken vandalism, or repeatedly of drunk and disorderly conductÖif, that is, someone demonstrates that he is either a menace or a major public nuisance when drunkÖthen why not revoke his (or, much more rarely, her) drinking license?
Of course, the ‹personal prohibitionŠ imagined here, like the current age restriction, would have to be enforced by sellers of alcoholic beverages, who would have to verify that each buyer has not been banned from drinking, just as they now have to verify that each buyer is of legal age to drink. Obviously, such a ban could not be perfectly enforced. But reducing the frequency and flagrancy of drinking behavior by problem drunks somewhat is far better than not reducing it at all. A ban on drinking by bad drinkers (unlike the current ban on drinking by those under 21) would have an obvious moral basis. Evading it, for example by buying liquor for someone on the ‹Do Not DrinkŠ list, would be clearly wrong and worth punishing. Moreover, offenders would not easily be able to drink in bars, restaurants or other public places, which means they would be less likely to drink and then drive or cause public disturbances.

Out of all the good stuff in Mark’s article, it was this bit of nonsense that attracted Matthew Iglesias, who, in an otherwise sensible post calls Kleiman’s license proposal “clearly on point.”
Just take a moment to think through the logistics. Mark admits that it could not be “perfectly enforced,” but the question is rather how it could be enforced at all.
With a driving license, since the licensing agency checks for age when issuing it, the license become a reasonably good proof of age for most purposes. And when people check it to see if you’re old enough to do something, they don’t know (or care) whether that driving license has been revoked. If it has been revoked, that doesn’t change what your age is, so it doesn’t matter. On the other hand, if you get pulled over by a cop on the highway, he’s not going to just look at your license — he’ll enter it into a computer to see if, among other things, your license has been revoked.
So picture a drinking license regime. Everybody who wants to drink or buy alcohol has to have a drinking license. And not only does every grocery store and liquor store checkout line, plus every bar and restaurant have to check to see if someone has a drinking license with them, but they also need to verify that it hasn’t been revoked (or the whole point of the system is worthless). This means that they have to compare it against a national database, most likely involving an expensive network of terminals placed in all those locations (including, of course, the beer vendors at football games and street fairs and the flight attendants on airlines, and….) Or, alternately, they have to use some kind of system of recording all purchases (like the registry in pharmacies) with your name and address to be later verified so you can be arrested later if you purchased alcohol on a revoked drinking license.
Does anybody really think that a system like this makes sense for alcohol?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.