I blogged before about vertical excitement. The latest term to cross my mindspace is vertical drinking, which refers to patronage of bars with cheap drink, limited seating, and few or no food options. It seems some bureaucrat thinks a crackdown on such establishments is due because these bars don’t merely enable but actively encourage drunkenness. This concern over our beverage habits echoes recent consideration of levying a new tax on soft drinks, which would purportedly serve as both a healthcare measure (by decreasing consumption) and a means of closing a funding gap should healthcare reform ever be enacted (don’t hold your breath).
As usual, a plethora of competing issues opens up. Politicians have apparently learned little from the experience of Prohibition or the failed so-called War on Drugs. Taxing and/or criminalizing behaviors deemed unsavory or unhealthy has never been a path to success in achieving the stated goal — even if the stated goal is honest. People simply circumvent or flaunt the law or pony up the dough to pay the sin tax; little or nothing changes in the underlying behavior. Further, whether a matter of deep culture or the result of the thrum of marketing machinery, the public’s desire to imbibe booze or carbonated sugar may by now be beyond the power to resist, at least for most of us. Despite a misplaced faith in the ruggedness of the individual and his or her associated free will, it’s more true that we are all products of our environment and its conditioning. Once the soft drink was successfully bundled as an indispensable ingredient of every meal, it followed that everyone would accept and even expect soft drinks rather than seek something better or neutral, such as water. And since booze has long been established as a primary social behavior (which overcomes the initial wretchedness of the flavor of booze by making it an acquired taste), it’s virtually a foregone conclusion that nearly everyone with means and opportunity will try drinking and have to work out some equilibrium with it.
Do drinking establishments that promote vertical drinking (that is, drinking until the patron passes out and goes horizontal) create or answer the demand? It hardly matters. Nor does it make sense to try to regulate or legislate drinking behaviors. People gonna do what they’re gonna do.