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.

Alcoholic Politics

Quick round-up: from the archives of the Stoa, here’s a post from back when Paxo was asking CK whether he went to bed with a bottle of whisky (complete with the words to the CK-themed Skye Boat Song); here‘s William McGonagall’s reminder that “the abolition of strong drink is the only Home Rule”; and here‘s a general remark about Prime Ministers who drink too much.

To these we might add a link to Guido‘s fine (photoshopped? or not?) photo; and another entry in the survey of PMswDTM — William Pitt the Younger was known as a “three-bottle man” (port, usually, though the bottles were smaller in those days), and on one occasion shortly after the war with France began in 1793 Pitt and his lieutenant Henry Dundas were sufficiently unsteady in the chamber of the House of Commons so as to inspire this little bit of doggerel:

“I cannot see the Speaker, Hal, can you?”
“What! Cannot see the Speaker, I see two!”

[Hague, Pitt, p.220, p.308]

On the Piss

From today’s News of the World:

She [Carole Caplin] said that Mr Blair was drinking more alcohol since she had stopped advising him. He was not “an alcoholic” or “a drinker” but needed a break from drink when subjected to stress, she added.

Now, obviously CC’s an unreliable source for anything and everything, but if Mr Blair were drinking too much, this would support my general theory of British prime ministers, which is that after a few years in the job they start boozing heavily.I haven’t researched this with any care, but I think the theory holds for Asquith (“Mr. Asquith says in a manner sweet and calm / Another little drink won’t do us any harm”), Macmillan, Wilson and Thatcher.

There are exceptions. Winston Churchill may be one, as he was drinking the whole time he was in No.10, beginning with champagne for breakfast, and consumption may not have increased as time went by. I don’t really know anything about Lloyd George, but given his pro-temperance noises, he might be an exception. And I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say that John Major hit the bottle c.1996 or so, though if anyone thinks that he did, please say so.

But according to the general theory, at any rate, it’s high time Mr Blair hit the bottle, so we should keep an eye out for further signs.

Beer: The Cure For Depression

Oxford’s Psychiatry Department is circulating this leaflet, left, around the university. Turns out that when you turn over the page you learn that beer isn’t really the cure for depression after all, and that it’s better to take antidepressants (and, perhaps, to follow some other therapies) than to booze heavily in response to feeling gloomy. Got that?

It seemed, however, a nice image to accompany a blogpost to report that Guy Maddin’s new film, The Saddest Music in the World is a fine, fine film — since this really is a film about how a particular kind of Canadian beer, brewed in Winnipeg, will help to lift North America out of the Depression (and a reminder of just how Depressing the United States must have been in the Prohibition era).

Oh yes, and it said in the glossy cinema programme in reasonably big letters that “While rejecting accusations that he’s a mere pasticheur, Maddin resurrects long-abandoned film forms, stirring into the mix with admirably straight-faced conviction German expressionist lighting, Soviet montage, “golden age” Hollywood melodramatics and Busby Berkeley’s more fetishistic choreography”. That’s an opinion from one Michael Brooke, writing in Sight and Sound, and a reminder that my brother is one of the world experts on the films of Guy Maddin, which must be quite a strange thing to be.

Only seen three of them myself, but very much want to see Careful if I ever get the chance.