Adam Smith on how Government Regulation and Taxes might drive a Man to Drink (1766)

Adam Smith

In a discussion of how taxes diminish a nation’s “opulence”, Smith has some interesting observations on the drinking habits of Europeans:

Man is an anxious animal and must have his care swept off by something that can exhilarate the spirits. It is alledged that this tax upon beer is an artificial security against drunkeness, but if we attend to it, we shall find that it by no means prevents it. In countries where strong liquors are cheap, as in France and Spain, the people are generally sober. But in northern countries, where they are dear, they do not get drunk with beer but with spirituous liquors. No body presses his friend to a glass of beer unless he choose it.

In our wanderings through the texts on the OLL website we have come across a surprising number of references to food and drink. Here is one by Adam Smith and we also have found a discussion by David Hume on turkeys (an obvious choice for a Thanksgiving Day quote) and Desiderius Erasmus on the importance of having Philosophers of the Kitchen. Now we have an Economist in the Bar.