Why don’t we fix the amount of alcohol which can be legally sold and issue tradable permits to sell it, like we do with pollution?
Such “cap and trade” systems helped create commercial incentives for reducing emissions, including greenhouse gases.
Democratically accountable regulators could be in charge of setting the level of the cap, raising or lowering the annual amount in response to its health costs.
Having a market for alcohol sales permits would mean they went to the highest bidders, able to make the best of their allocation.
This would create a powerful commercial incentive for companies to sell alcohol at higher prices, rather than simply sell the most by discounting.
In doing so it would incentivise those adding value to alcohol through taste or in the hospitality they offer around it.
This would, arguably, be good news for niche alcohol players with unique product offerings rather than bulk producers.
The renewable energy market is now worth around $1trn, in partly thanks to cap and trade together with other regulation.
Regulation by its nature prevents certain business practices, but it can also create commercial opportunities.
A form of market regulation which helped align environmental and business goals might do the same for health. ■