Adam Smith, optimist

Were the duties upon foreign wines, and the excises upon malt, beer, and ale to be taken away all at once, it might, in the same manner, occasion in Great Britain a pretty general and temporary drunkenness among the middling and inferior ranks of people, which would probably be soon followed by a permanent and almost universal sobriety.

Wealth of Nations, IV.3.ii.

8 thoughts on “Adam Smith, optimist”

  1. Another great Scottish optimist on the subject of alcohol.

    Amazingly up to date, too:

    The man that gets drunk is little else than a fool,
    And is in the habit, no doubt, of advocating for Home Rule;
    But the best Home Rule for him, as far as I can understand,
    Is the abolition of strong drink from the land.

  2. No mention of what effect it would have had on the upper-classes, probably because Smith thought it was a given that they would be permanently tanked-up duty or no. After all, Pitt the Younger was a six-bottle a day man.

  3. I thought Pitt was a three-bottle man?

    (We’re talking about bottles of port, incidentally, though do bear in mind that an C18th bottle of port was a bit smaller than one o today’s bottles — largely, I think, though I might be wrong, because the glass tended to be quite a bit thicker. But even if Pitt was only a three-bottle man, that’s a lot of port, and it’s one of the reasons he died when he did.)

  4. 16 fl oz (old pint) bottles of course, and the port might not have been fortified. But still a lot on a daily basis.

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