Saturday, November 24, 2012

Who's the Humpty Dumpty here?

Anti-alcohol obsessive Professor Doug Sellman doesn’t want for chutzpah.
In this morning’s Dominion Post, he tut-tuts about the terms “moderate drinking” and “responsible drinking”, calling them “Humpty Dumpty terms”.

A Humpty Dumpty term, presumably, is one that means whatever the user chooses it to mean, as in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass. Effectively, Sellman is saying such terms should be taken with a grain of salt.
Funny, then, that the same man doesn’t hesitate to make grotesquely alarmist statements about “heavy” drinking. In 2009, Sellman made the absurd claim that 700,000 New Zealanders – the equivalent of the combined populations of Wellington and Christchurch (pre-quake) – were “heavy drinkers”.

I think he’s guilty of Humpty Dumptyism himself. He asserts the right to use the arbitrary term “heavy drinker” while simultaneously pooh-poohing the notion that anyone might be capable of “moderate” or “responsible” consumption. He can’t have it both ways.
In my book, anyone who consumes alcohol without suffering adverse health consequences, breaking the law or suffering relationship problems can accurately be described as a moderate, responsible drinker.

That describes the vast majority of New Zealanders. But Sellman and others of his ilk are so fixated on the conspicuous minority who abuse alcohol that they are blind to its social benefits.
Perhaps I should add health and economic benefits too, because as Canterbury University economist Eric Crampton pointed out in the same newspaper story, drinkers on average earn more than non-drinkers, light drinkers have a lower mortality rate than non-drinkers and light-to-moderate drinking produces better ageing outcomes.

Crampton is possibly the only person on the public payroll prepared to counter the incessant barrage of hysterical anti-alcohol propaganda emanating from academia and the health bureaucracy. Thank God there are still one or two independent thinkers in the universities.


Eric Crampton said...


Judging by the comments section on that Press piece, I'll be facing a hostile crowd on Wednesday night. Should make it more fun.

Karl du Fresne said...

Yesterday's Dominion Post reported that police in the Invercargill area had pulled up 5000 drivers in a four-day drink-driving blitz. Only one was over the limit. Say no more.