Alcohol is widely considered to be a de-merit good with negative externalities imposing external costs on society. This is one of the reasons why taxes are imposed on alcoholic beverages. By increasing production costs to the firms providing these drinks, prices rise and hence the policy aims to discourage consumption.
During the recession, many businesses have seen demand fall and one sector hit particularly hard because of this and very high tax rates has been the local pub community. Duty on beer has increased since 2008 by some 42%. As such, many rural and suburban communities have seen their local watering holes close down and this has led to a campaign by CAMRA to force a debate in Parliament, as a means of protecting ‘one of Britain’s oldest and best loved institutions’. Data suggests that 12 pubs per week are closing down, thus the future of the industry is now under threat. This may also have further damaging effects on local communities, as it may adversely affect the social aspect of communities. Camra’s Chief Executive, Mike Benner said:
‘Whether situated in a small village, city high street, or on the edge of a housing estate, pubs are so central to our society that whole communities can grow around a particular pub.’
According to a study, pubs in Lancashire and the West Midlands have been hardest hit by the pub closures. If pubs don’t pass the tax increase on to consumers in the form of higher prices, then they must bear the burden. If they do pass the tax rises on to consumers then the larger chain firms can increase their market share by selling at a lower price. They are also facing growing pressure from the supermarket industry, which are able to sell cheap alcohol, also contributing to going to the pub becoming an ‘unaffordable activity’. The following articles consider this industry.
Pub closures spark beer tax plea The Press Association (30/4/12)
A dozen pubs close each week Telegraph, James Hall (30/4/12)
Calls for beer tax rethink as 12 pubs shut every week BBC Radio 1, News Beat, Steve Holden (30/4/12)
Pubs in the West Midlands hit hardest by pub closures ITV News (30/4/12)
- Illustrate the effect of a tax being imposed on a product such as beer.
- In this market, would the tax be more likely to be borne by the producers or consumers? Explain your answer and illustrate on the previous diagram why this is the case.
- Why are supermarkets able to compete local pubs out of the alcohol market? Do you think a minimum price will have any effect?
- What is a de-merit good? Illustrate the concept of a negative externality on a diagram.
- Explain how a de-merit good causes the market to fail. To what extent does the tax on beer solve the market failure?
- Why are there likely to be adverse effects on local communities? Could this have an adverse effect on economic activity in the area?