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Elites have alcohol problems too!

Johncheeversheen_2_726

Speaking of Tyler Cowen, I’m puzzled by this paragraph of his:

Guns, like alcohol, have many legitimate uses, and they are enjoyed by many people in a responsible manner. In both cases, there is an elite which has absolutely no problems handling the institution in question, but still there is the question of whether the nation really can have such bifurcated social norms, namely one set of standards for the elite and another set for everybody else.

I don’t know anything about guns so I’ll set that part aside. My bafflement is with the claim that “there is an elite which has absolutely no problem handling [alcohol].” Is he kidding? Unless Cowen is circularly defining “an elite” as the subset of elites who don’t have an alcohol problem, I don’t buy this claim. And I actually think it’s a serious problem, that various “elites” are so sure that they have “absolutely no problem” that they do dangerous, dangerous things.

Consider the notorious incident when Dick Cheney shot a man in the face. From Wikipedia:

Whittington was shot from 30 or 40 yards (40 m) away while searching for a downed bird. Armstrong, the ranch owner, claimed that all in the hunting party were wearing blaze-orange safety gear and none had been drinking. However, Cheney has acknowledged that he had one beer four or five hours prior to the shooting. Although Kenedy County Sheriff’s Office documents support the official story by Cheney and his party, re-creations of the incident produced by George Gongora and John Metz of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times indicated that the actual shooting distance was closer than the 30 yards claimed.

Wikipedia continues, “The incident has been the subject of jokes, satire and public ridicule.” But I don’t think it’s funny at all. The fact that it’s considered a joke, maybe that’s because of an attitude that “there is an elite which has absolutely no problem handling” guns or drugs.

And then there’s this member of the American elite:

440px-Ted_Kennedy,_official_photo_portrait_crop

On July 25, seven days after the incident, Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. Kennedy’s attorneys suggested that any jail sentence should be suspended, and the prosecutors agreed to this, citing Kennedy’s age, character and prior reputation. Judge James Boyle sentenced Kennedy to two months’ incarceration, the statutory minimum for the offense, which he suspended. In announcing the sentence, Boyle referred to Kennedy’s “unblemished record” . . .

I assume one reason for the unblemished record was that his driver’s license and car hadn’t been taken away, all the other times he’d been driving drunk.

Or check out the diaries of John Cheever. The man was obsessed with alcohol, and it ran in the family. From Wikipedia:

[In 1964] Cheever’s alcoholism had become severe, exacerbated by torment concerning his bisexuality. Still, he blamed most of his marital woes on his wife, and in 1966 he consulted a psychiatrist, David C. Hays, about her hostility and “needless darkness.” . . . [In 1969] Cheever’s alcoholic depression deepened . . . On May 12, 1973, Cheever awoke coughing uncontrollably, and learned at the hospital that he had almost died from pulmonary edema caused by alcoholism. After a month in the hospital, he returned home vowing never to drink again; however, he resumed drinking in August. Despite his precarious health, he spent the fall semester teaching (and drinking, both with fellow writer-teacher, Raymond Carver) . . . Cheever’s drinking soon became suicidal and, in March 1975, his brother Fred, now virtually indigent, but sober after his own lifelong bout with alcoholism, drove John back to Ossining. On April 9, Cheever was admitted to the Smithers Alcoholic Rehabilitation Unit in New York, where he shared a bedroom and bath with four other men. Driven home by his wife on May 7, Cheever never drank alcohol again.

Sure, that was then, this is now, but alcohol abuse definitely occurs among the elites. Just for example, Katherine Keyes and Deborah Hasin discuss the reasons why “DSM-IV-diagnosed alcohol abuse is associated positively with higher SES, e.g. higher income in adults and educational achievement in college-aged young adults.” They attribute this correlation to the fact that alcohol abuse is easier to detect among drivers (for example, they’ve had their license revoked), and lower-income people are less likely to drive a car. But even if the correlation between alcohol problems and income is zero or slightly negative, this still leaves lots of high-SES Americans—“elites,” in Cowen’s words—who are seriously impaired by alcoholism.

Cowen seems to have an image in which low-income alcoholics are ruining their lives, while heavy-drinking elites can handle their drink. But it’s not so simple. Sure, the more resources you have, the better you can handle the challenges in life. Whether it’s drugs or disease or challenges in your job, if you and your family has money, you’ll be more likely to get by. But the idea that elites can handle it, I don’t think so. And neither do these people.

Cowen also writes,

Our car crash problem – which kills many thousands of Americans each year — is also in significant part an alcohol problem.

But, as Keyes and Hasin report, there is a positive correlation between SES and having your license revoked. So, to the extent that alcohol is killing thousands of people via car crashes, this is actually is a problem with heavy-drinking elites who in fact have serious problems handling their alcohol.

And there’s more to the story. One of the notorious aspects of law enforcement on America’s roads is that if you run someone over in your car, the law will rarely do much to you unless you were blind-drunk at the time. Here’s one of many examples:

Tot-hurt-in-crash-at-Brooklyn-bus-stop-may-not-recover-family-says-Sunday-NY-Daily-News

A motorist jumped the curb and slammed into a bus stop and scaffolding in East Flatbush on Saturday, striking up to 10 pedestrians. Four people were hospitalized in critical condition, including a woman and her young son. According to the Post, Denim McLean, whose age has been reported as 2 and 3, is brain dead. . . .

Police told DNAinfo that the driver, 48, “accidentally” hit the accelerator instead of the brake as she approached a red light at Utica and Church: “As she swerved to avoid colliding with the traffic around her, the vehicle jumped onto the sidewalk, hitting up to nine pedestrians, police said.” . . .

Witnesses told the Daily News that the unnamed driver, who was hospitalized along with a passenger, was speeding before the crash. That she jumped a curb and hit multiple people with a vehicle is not in dispute. Nevertheless, NYPD apparently concluded its work with characteristic haste. As early as 10:27 p.m. Saturday, less than four hours after the incident, the Post reported: “Police do not believe the crash was a crime.” A Post follow-up published this morning reads: “Cops said the driver passed a breath-alcohol test and would not be charged.”

This does not contradict Cowen’s point about the interaction between alcohol consumption and dangerous driving, but it does suggest to me that a focus on alcohol (rather than the dangerous behavior that is exacerbated by alcohol) has the problem that it lets a lot of killers off the hook. Here are some numbers:

Kenneth Cole, Gerald Green, and Jason Williams were all killed by motorists in the 67th Precinct since last November, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. While the precinct wrote 45 speeding tickets in 2012, and 71 citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian, officers issued 5,219 summonses for tinted windows, and 2,216 for seatbelt violations. . . .

With 48 killed and 5,377 wounded, Brooklyn saw more pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths than any other borough in 2012, according to NYPD. With one known prosecution, Charles Hynes led all NYC district attorneys in charging sober drivers for taking a life.

People have problems with alcohol, guns, and cars. Elites who think they have “absolutely no problems handling the institution in question” are not exempt.

46 Comments

  1. Entsophy says:

    I love Tyler Cowen, but it’s important to remember that he’s only half Economist. The other half is “Rain Man”. So every now and again says stuff like this.

    For Elites, guns hold the same status as cars do for Manhattanites. They’ve never owned or used one, and when they do need them they hire body guards/drivers to handle it for them. Then they impose gun restrictions/high gas taxes and can’t fathom why anyone would even care. The 10’s of thousands of raw recruits that Paris Island takes in each year and turn into the deadliest worriers the world has ever seen (Marine Riflemen), aren’t elites. They’re just the poor peons who presumably need wise elites like Cowen to figure everything out for them.

    The irony of course is that I’ve seen thousands of those low class recruits, who supposedly need their hand held when purchasing large soda drinks and whatnot, carry those fire arms into a combat zone and successfully exercise about 100 times more independent responsibility than I’ve ever seen a University professor exercise in any context whatsoever.

    The second amendment was added in part, to protect common people from elites. If even a Libertarian like Cowen can entertain thoughts along these lines, then the signers of the Constitution were right to provide some protection.

    • Rahul says:

      With all due respect to Marines, independent responsibility is not the only skill valuable in society.

      Marines can be great. So can professors. No need to slight one or the other; they contribute in different dimensions.

      Introduction of Marines into this discussion is a total non sequitur.

      • Entsophy says:

        Definitely true. My point was the ability to handle real world responsibilities is nowhere near as correlated with “I graduated from Harvard University!” style elites status as Cowen thinks it is. Sure Harvard graduates shoot themselves in the foot less often, but that’s because they have to money needed to distance themselves from guns altogether.

        If the situation required a gun though, then I’d trust a random Marine from the backwoods of Tennessee far more I would a random Harvard graduate who grew up in some Manhattan penthouse.

        Or take for example Barbra Walters. She is easily in the top .1% (maybe even the top .01%) in terms of money, career achievement, and status. Yet she’s scared to death to drive a car and has never had a drivers license in 8 decades of life. The fact that she’s never caused a car accident doesn’t prove she can handle car driving responsibilities better than hillbillies.

        • Nick Cox says:

          This comment about Ms Walters is just as bizarre as your presumption that people are down on U.S. Marines. If it’s true that she doesn’t drive because she is fearful of the consequences, that’s a highly responsible decision. There is no reason to make snide remarks about her. (Barbara, not Barbra.)

          • Andrew says:

            Nick:

            As a bad driver myself, I agree with your comment.

          • Entsophy says:

            Relax, reread the comments again. No one is attacking Barbara Walters or University Professors. Is there anyone on the planet who doesn’t love Barbara Walters?. Nor do I think anyone’s down on Marines; they were an example of the “everybody else” that Cowen was referring too. They were used to illustrate the ridiculousness of his “guns are ok for us high GRE types with sexy credentials, but God please don’t give them to the hoi polloi” (I’m paraphrasing from memory, he may not have used exactly those words).

            The average IQ in the military is something like 110 (even in the Marines). Among officers it’s something like 120. That doesn’t make you an elite in any sense. Nor is it particularly special. There are many 10s of millions of Americans that fall into the 100-130 IQ range. Maybe even a 100 million. Yet their seems to be a whole boat load of dangerous responsibilities which they seem to handle better than most intellectual elites. I can’t imagine how narrow Cowen’s social circle must be for him not to have noticed that. Perhaps it’s best to chalk to comment up to “elites believing their own press”.

        • Rahul says:

          Marine Riflemen are definitely “elite” in some sense of the word!

    • Emily says:

      Not exactly the peons. They managed to not score in the bottom third on the AFQT and they graduated from high school. And the Marine Corps isn’t really a an example of a institution which says to its employees “we totally trust you to make your own decisions”: they’re given far more structure than civilians are. It’d be hard to have a military that didn’t do that.

      • Entsophy says:

        If the average Marine recruit at Paris Island isn’t included in the “everybody else” then who was he talking about?

        And the Marine Corps isn’t really a an example of a institution which says to its employees “we totally trust you to make your own decisions”:

        Marines are legally required to make their own decisions. First they have to evaluate whether an order was legal, then even if it were legal they have to rethink the order as soon as new information becomes available (which happens almost instantly the mission starts). In practice, in a combat zone the average Marine is making far more independent highly-important decisions than most civilians will ever make (especially when you consider the very young age they’re making them). This is true all the way down to the lowest levels in rank structure. The battlefield is a good deal less structured than civilian life in America is today. Civilization is like a crystal. The battlefield is a like a fluid.

        • Rahul says:

          So what’s the purpose behind indoctrination? Or is that philosophy passé?

          • Entsophy says:

            No it’s not passe, and presumably it has many purposes. Many tasks simply require unified action immediately without a whole lot of debate. People need to follow the average order quickly and efficiently. But anyone in a leadership position has to make real decisions. Almost everyone IS in a leadership position because of the way units are structured. At the lowest level there are 4 man fireteams. 1 leader and 3 team members. That 1-to-3 pattern follows all the way up the chain: 3 fireteams in a squad, 3 squads in a platoon, 3 platoons in a company, …. , 3 regiments in a division, 3 divisions in a corps. The practical consequence is that almost everyone is a leader.

            The ability to push real independent decision making all the way down to the fireteam level is a decisive tactical advantage in warfare. It’s something we can do pretty easily in a democracy with a volunteer army, but which our enemies usually can’t. So although recruits are taught to follow orders at Paris Island without question, they pretty quickly have to be taught how to lead, both because they will be leading soon and because independent decision making is key to winning. Officers don’t get “indoctrinated” much at all in the sense that you’re probably referring too.

    • Corey says:

      “the deadliest worriers the world has ever seen (Marine Riflemen)”

      Typo of the day! ;-)

      retroactive past honoree

      • Entsophy says:

        It was a type. It should read:

        “the deadliest worriers the world has ever seen (Marine’s mothers)”

        • Nick Cox says:

          Now that was a typo. It seems prudent to assert that each marine had one and only one mother, so it’s “marines’ mothers”. (If you don’t follow what some books call British or logical punctuation, that last sentence would be punctuated differently too.) (And that last sentence.) …

    • Moschops says:

      Good to know that we have tens of thousands of people ready to worry about things better than anyone else ever has. Sure is a lot that needs worrying about :)

  2. Manoel Galdino says:

    Maybe he thought of elite not within the whole population of US, but within the whole population of people drinking?
    So, if a poor drinks in a responsible manner, she’s part of the elite of alcohol drinkers. In other words, he’s just saying that there is a distribution of behavior and you have the responsible people (the tail of the distribution) which are the elite, and then the rest? Maybe he’s saying it’s not like a normal distribution, but some skewed distribution, like log-normal or even some power-law distribution?

    I’m not saying the had this in mind, but it’s ate least a possibility(say, 20% probability of being so), don’t you think?

    • Wayne says:

      This is how I interpreted it. If he’d been talking about elites and sports I think the confusion wouldn’t have arisen, but he used the word “elite” in an open-ended context that would normally be taken to mean “political/economic/educational elite” in the political science and economics world.

      As possibly another example of “elites” used in a different sense, I was shocked when I first met an “elite smoker”. I’d always assumed that smoking was inevitably addictive, so was amazed to hear a guy who smoked cigarettes for three or four weeks of the year (when on a yearly vacation) and otherwise didn’t smoke. He could pick up and put it down at will. (I’m actually not sure if most smokers become addicts and an elite do not, or whether most smokers do not become addicts, but an anti-elite become hardcore addicted, or something else.)

      • Andrew says:

        Wayne:

        I don’t think so. In the context of the rest of his post, I think Cowen is making the argument that Charles Murray made (and which I’ve blogged on), that American elites (especially those who are politically liberal) are too accepting of dysfunctional behaviors among the poor, behaviors that they wouldn’t tolerate among themselves. But with alcohol and driving, the evidence is that the elites have just as much problems as everyday Americans. It’s just that, like Kennedy, they don’t want to admit the consequences of their actions. Perhaps because they think they can handle their alcohol when they can’t.

        • Wayne says:

          The Charles Murray context is very good, but I still don’t get the feeling that’s where the blog posting is coming from. I really feel like the blog is simply making two points: 1) just because some people are responsible with alcohol or guns doesn’t mean these items shouldn’t be restricted, since so many people are so irresponsible (or criminal) with them, and 2) many people who abhor guns don’t mind alcohol which may result in more injury and death than guns.

          The lack of clarity is because “elite” in the context of the first point is those (few) who handle a dangerous item well, but “elite” in the second context are the political/cultural/educated elite city-dwellers who look at guns as the twisted tools of dangerous hillbillies but look at alcohol as enlightenment itself. At least that’s my read.

    • Venky says:

      Of course, that is what he meant. He said, “in both cases, there is _an_ elite which has absolutely no problems”. He did not say, “in both cases, the elite have absolutely no problems”.

      There are people who can handle alcohol responsibly, and there are people who can handle guns responsibly. These are, for Cowen, the elite for these two cases. There is no hint of any social or economic status in his definition of the “elite” here.

  3. ankle says:

    I do know a thing or two about guns. Those people that don’t have problems with guns are the ones that pay continual attention to the rules of gun safety (for instance, http://www.lcsa.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=110). There are plenty such people, but they come by their good fortune through hard work, not luck or wishful thinking.

  4. AL says:

    The reason Elite has less perceived problems with alcohol (I mean perceived by the public) is that they are more protected by their Elite status. They won’t loose jobs for arriving late or drunk, they won’t have car accidents (hey they have drivers), (if they have, they have good lawyers), they can’t spend all their fortune in alcohol. If they cry aloud by night none can hear them.

    This does not mean that their personal life is not hell, but it does not look like.

  5. Wonks Anonymous says:

    I can grant you alcohol & cars, but elites are FAR less likely to be victims of gun violence.

    • Andrew says:

      Wonks:

      Yes, I agree. And this goes against Cowen’s argument. Cowen argues that alcohol isn’t a problem for elites so they don’t bother controlling it for the general population. But the real issue seems to be that the elites don’t recognize their own problems with alcohol (or with dangerous driving).

  6. jonathan says:

    My problem with the whole piece is that he takes causation that runs one way and runs it the other: people who drink and who have guns shoot people, themselves, etc. so we should have a “voluntary” prohibition, meaning I suppose we should consider a ban on alcohol. But the gun is the instrumentality used by a small subset of people who drink. Banning alcohol to prevent use in a subset is why prohibition of alcohol failed. Connecting the two in any way is sloppy thinking.

    Now of course if the government allowed research into gun use, we could examine the use of guns along with alcohol and could perhaps develop some policy ideas to minimize gun use with alcohol. But we can’t because that is not allowed. And that is not allowed because we all are “supposed” to have guns. And perhaps that is why we get such sloppy thinking as doing something to prohibit alcohol to reduce gun use while drinking.

    • Emily says:

      I don’t think voluntary prohibition means banning alcohol, I think it means acting like Mormons and attempting to change the culture. It’s a Charles Murray-type argument.

  7. Rahul says:

    One of the notorious aspects of law enforcement on America’s roads is that if you run someone over in your car, the law will rarely do much to you unless you were blind-drunk at the time.

    Not true. If you were texting or on the phone, you can get jail time.

    But I think Andrew is being too harsh. What would you have law do instead? Penalize every accident by jail time?! Was there a history of past negligence?

    Note that the victims always have recourse to a civil lawsuit against the driver and his insurance company.

    • Andrew says:

      Rahul:

      No, of course I don’t think every accident should be penalized by jail time. But, yes, in these disabling and fatal crashes there is often a history of past violations on the part of the driver. I think it would make sense to take away people’s cars when they drive dangerously, whether or not they are drunk at the time.

      Recall the bit quoted above, which suggests to me some misplaced priorities:

      Kenneth Cole, Gerald Green, and Jason Williams were all killed by motorists in the 67th Precinct since last November, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. While the precinct wrote 45 speeding tickets in 2012, and 71 citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian, officers issued 5,219 summonses for tinted windows, and 2,216 for seatbelt violations. . . .

      With 48 killed and 5,377 wounded, Brooklyn saw more pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths than any other borough in 2012, according to NYPD. With one known prosecution, Charles Hynes led all NYC district attorneys in charging sober drivers for taking a life.

    • Andrew says:

      Also see the story of John Kelly here, just for example.

  8. Nameless says:

    Here’s a study from Finland that found that alcohol-related mortality among individuals in the highest income quintile was 6.26 (men) to 6.60 (women) times higher than among individuals in the lowest income quintile:

    http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/168/10/1110.full.pdf+html

    In the UK, “Men aged 25-39 in the unskilled manual class are 10-20 times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than those in the professional class”:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1360-0443.1999.9412187112.x/abstract

    In the USA, “the rate of [fetal alcohol syndrome] among low income populations is 2.29/1000, compared to 0.26/1000 for middle- and high-income populations”:

    http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandaids/Fetal_Alcohol_Syndrome__The_Origins_Of_A_Moral_Panic.pdf

    It’s surprisingly hard to find good data on alcohol problems vs. socioeconomic status in the U.S., but there’s no reason why the U.S. should be very different from Europe. And European evidence suggests that the elites, while not totally immune to alcohol problems, do tend to handle it a lot better than lower classes.

    Regarding AA in Hollywood. You may be forgiven for being unfamiliar with California, but if you think that Hollywood is elites as far as the eye can see, you couldn’t be more wrong. Los Angeles is notorious among white-collar workers because it’s hard to find a place to live there: most of the greater LA is basically a ghetto (think 30 by 30 miles of Harlem), “good areas” are along the edges and in suburbs, and there are permanent rush-hour traffic jams on all freeways to & from “good areas”. None of the areas surrounding the hits for “AA” on the map have median household incomes above $40,000. (With the exception of the hit in Beverly Hills near highway 2 and Doheny – one of the good areas – where AA stands for “A A Ceiling Masters”.)

  9. Steve Sailer says:

    I think alcoholism has played a major role in the decline of the WASP ascendancy in the U.S. I stumbled upon a 1960s Sports Illustrated article on country clubs that pointed out that WASP country clubs make a very large fraction of their revenue off their bars, while Jewish country clubs make relatively little off alcohol sales but far more of their revenue from their dining rooms.

    Alcoholism rates among Jews are far lower than among WASPs, and I suspect that this plays a role in the rise of Jews in, say, the Forbes 400, where Jews are now up to around 35% of the 400 richest individuals in the country, despite being only about 2% of the population. In my observation, it’s much more common for a successful WASP around age 45 or 50 to start downshifting to a lifestyle emphasizing golf and daytime drinking than for a similarly successful Jewish executive of the same age. This can play a major role in who dies with the most money.

    • Rahul says:

      I found this very interesting quote online:

      “(1) It is notable that the groups with the lowest incidence of alcohol abuse, the Jews and Italians, have (a) the lowest abstinence rates among these groups, and (b) (especially the Italians) the highest consumption rates.

      (2) Irish-Americans were 7 times as likely to develop alcohol dependence as Italian-Americans–this despite the Irish-Americans having a substantially higher abstinence rate.

      Not sure if it is true; but if it is, very thought provoking.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Right. Abstinence and promoting prohibition are more common in Northern Europeans because they have more problems with binge-drinking and alcohol-dependence. Italians and Jews have more evolutionary exposure to alcohol than Irish or Finns and thus have defense mechanisms, cultural and genetic. People who can’t handle their alcohol have been getting weeded out of Mediterranean populations for a lot longer than from northern European populations. And many aboriginal peoples, such as Australians, Inuit, and American Indians suffer the most of all from alcohol because they weren’t exposed to it until after 1492.

        • Rahul says:

          Interesting. I assumed native cultures had their own intoxicants similar to alcohol. I never thought of Alcohol as a Colonization adduct.

        • Nameless says:

          I think you’re underestimating the amount of exposure to alcohol that Northern (and Eastern) Europeans had. The Irish were brewing beer by the 6th century CE. Prince Vladimir of Kiev allegedly chose Christianity over Islam as the state religion of Kievan Rus (in the late 10th century CE) because he felt that alcohol was too important a part of Russian culture. (Even if this legend itself is false, it tells us something about Kievan Rus when the legend was recorded, in the early 12th century CE.) Beer was the primary drink that was consumed daily everywhere north of the Alps, from Ireland to Moscow, for the last 1000 years or more, it was drunk by everyone except breastfeeding infants and it was more common than water.

          For some reason, some countries developed drinking cultures which were prone to binge drinking, and some didn’t. Wine belt countries were more resistant than beer belt countries. I don’t think you can argue that the French have significantly better evolutionary defense mechanisms than the English, but the English had lots of problems with drunkenness once the industrial production of gin was developed, and the French never really developed the taste for brandy (not to the same extent.) It could be simply that grain spirits were much cheaper to manufacture than brandy.

          • Nick Cox says:

            If speculative stories are in order, then latitude and climate could be factors as well as race. It’s an old idea that long dark winters are very depressing, so some people drink to cheer themselves up, while the winter festivals that people have invented to cheer themselves up are hardly alcohol-free.

          • K? O'Rourke says:

            As the Worcester history fellow use to tell us, about 1/3 of the agricultural land in England was used to produce beer in the middle ages and it was usually drank in the morning before going out in the fields to work (but it had about half of the alcohol of today’s/todays’ beer.)

            Now the Egyptians brewed beer B.C. – likely not the first.

            (And I once had a very large pear tree in my back yard, and every year in the fall the wasps got drunk and flew weird – not to be confused with WASPs drinking gin.)

          • Nameless says:

            On further thought, it could really be a cultural defense mechanism issue. Medieval wine was a lot stronger than medieval beer, and it was much easier to get extremely drunk if you didn’t restrain yourself. (I recall that many Mediterranean cultures often diluted their wine with water, for that exact reason.) You have to jump through extra hoops and waste a lot of grain to get beer even to 8% with medieval technology. You get 13% wine almost effortlessly if you prune the vines and wait for the grapes to ripen sufficiently before harvesting.

            It could be that industrially produced 18th century gin and 19th century vodka were the first widely available alcoholic drinks stronger than 10% abv that common Englishmen and Russians ever saw. They had genetic and cultural protective mechanisms allowing them to drink half a gallon of beer per day, but they weren’t prepared for stronger intoxicants.

            • Nameless says:

              On even further thought, the assumption that Mediterranean cultures can “handle their alcohol” and they don’t suffer from excessive drinking is not well grounded in facts.

              Pre-WWII, French consumption of wine averaged ~5 bottles per person per week. It was legislatively limited to 2 liters (2.7 bottles) per week during the war. No other country in the world today has levels of consumption even close to 5 bottles/person/week. French levels fell a lot since then and they are closer to 1.5 bottles/week now.

              In 1970, France had 3x the number of fatalities per vehicle-mile traveled, compared to the U.S. in the same year. There were no laws against drunk driving and the practice of drunk driving was very common.

              In 1957-1961, France had the highest liver cirrhosis mortality rate in Europe. Among males, it was 5x higher than in Finland, 14x higher than in England, and 3.5x higher than the mortality rate in the United States today.

  10. ezra abrams says:

    speaking of the marines, at the web site blue jacket humor, under Marine corps wisdom, we find things like this

    18. Watch their hands. Hands kill. [In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them].

    19. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.

    20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

    21. Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

    which i wager is what most here would expect of Marine Humor.

    the last item on this same list is

    23. Your best option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation

    which is kinda an interesting take on the Marine view of the world

    this same site also has
    There are times in life when you should ask questions. There are times in life when you shouldn’t. When you see the EOD tech RUNNING up the flight deck, the latter ruler applies.

    (EOD – explosive ordnance disposal)

  11. Greg says:

    I think you guys are completely misreading Cowen. I read “elite” as “expert,” as in experienced and safe gun owners, or experienced and responsible adults consuming alcohol.