Sweden’s government-controlled alcohol stores and strict regulations help save lives, lower crime and cut down on sick days, according to a recent study by Stockholm University.
The Scandinavian country, which is regarded as a shining beacon of socialism, only sells alcohol above 2.25% alcohol by volume in the 400 government-run Systembolaget stores. The exception is beer with alcohol content up to 3.5%, which is sold in grocery stores throughout the country.
Systembolaget’s opening hours certainly are restrictive for anyone in need of a late night booze run. Its doors are closed all day Sunday, only open until 3p.m. Saturdays, 7p.m. Thursdays and 6p.m. on Fridays and the rest of the week, according to the study conducted by Thor Norstrom et. al.
The cost of drinking in bars in Sweden is notoriously high too, even for visitors from London. The average price for a beer in a Stockholm bar is almost $8 as I’ve found to my cost– forcing many weekend revelers to party before heading out for the night.
Norstrom et. al’s study projected two scenarios in which Systembolaget’s monopoly over retail alcohol sales was broken and replaced with systems more commonly seen throughout the rest of the industrialized world.
If Systembolaget was replaced with 800 government-licensed speciality alcohol shops, the study said that alcohol consumption would increase by 17%, resulting in an annual increase of 770 alcohol-related deaths, 8,500 assaults, 2,700 drink driving offenses, and 4.5 million additional sick days in the country of a little more than 9 million people.
Even more startling were the study’s projections if Sweden’s grocery stores were allowed to sell all alcohol. As has been the case in Great Britain, the study said that fierce competition among the large chains would lead to lower prices.
Anarchy in the U.K.
British-daily newspaper, the Independent, recently reported that alcohol-related hospital admissions in the U.K. have risen by 825 a day in five years to almost a million. Cut-price alcohol sold by grocery stores and drinks deals in bars have been blamed for much of the damage.
The Stockholm University study said that if Sweden went the same route, it would expect an additional 2,000 deaths, 20,000 assaults, 660 drink driving offenses and 11.1 million extra days of sick leave per year.
The study also pointed out the Systembolaget doesn’t advertise, but it seems likely that private retailers would. It cites a previous study by Saffer and Dhaval that said advertising of beer, wine or spirits raised consumption by 5%.
In Sweden’s case it seems that government intervention, more than education has helped limit alcohol-related problems that have blighted equivalent countries in recent years.
In times where government control of any area of life is being fought by the right in the United States, Swedes make little fuss about government-controlled alcohol. The system works, but is it an abuse of peoples’ freedoms or the government performing its duty to benefit the majority?