Another look at the no party state

If it is a drinking problem, then the ban on dancing is beside the point

From The EconomistA reader’s comment on yesterday’s post on Bangalore’s curbs on late night partying warrants greater discussion. That there is a link between late-night drinking and unruly behaviour is borne out both by anecdotal evidence and statistical studies. According to statistics compiled by the British Crime Association and published in The Economist, while overall crime rates fell 30% between 1997 to 2003, ‘assaults by strangers—more than half of whom are drunk at the time, according to victim surveys—are among the few crimes to have increased (by 20%) in recent years’. The longer drinking establishments stay open, more people drink more alcohol, and more of them engage in unruly behaviour and even engage in serious crime. This is likely to be as valid in India as it is Britain.

So what should the government do about it?

When one lot of people’s behaviour inconveniences another, the obvious solution is to make the first lot pay. So the sensible policy would be to give local authorities both the power to raise the price of licences to cover the social costs of licensed premises and the responsibility for paying for policing. That might help limit the spread of vomit over Britain’s pavements. [The Economist]

Even in the case of drinking hours, where there is a strong suggestion of a link to unruly behaviour and serious crime, the solution is for the government to recover the public cost of keeping the pubs open late into the night through raising license fees. Imposing strict closing hours is a blunt instrument that does not sufficiently balance the public benefits of longer drinking hours with the public cost of additional policing and cleaning up the pavements.

The most bizarre aspect of the Karnataka government’s “Licensing and Controlling of Public Entertainment (Bangalore City) Order, 2005” is that it targets dancing.

At restaurants and lounge bars—with or without dance floors—owners these days get into a nervous tizzy even if clients tap their feet or nod too vigourously to the music. Over 150 plainclothed policemen are on the prowl to book anybody, dancer or owner, for dancing without a license. [IE]

Unless the Karnataka government has evidence to prove that late-night dancing leads to crime there is no case for targeting dancing hours. It may very well be that the government has mistaken the correlation between late-night partying and late-night crime for causation. If alcohol is the real culprit, then the government is barking up the wrong tree. Getting late-night drinking holes to pick up the tab is any day better than asking dance floors to wind up early.

Related Link: Bruce Schneier on British drinking hours; British judges throw in their warning too.

Update: Reuben Abraham’s opinion

8 thoughts on “Another look at the no party state”

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  2. Interesting, so my anecdotal theory is proved wrong. But that still doesn’t prevent this from being Taliban-style draconian regulation. What is the issue with dancing, I just do not get it? And honestly, even though the statistics seem to say otherwise, being the stubborn pig that I am, I still think longer hours is better than shorter. On Bruce Shneier’s site, one commenter made the point that keeping bars open 24×7 means allowing for more staggered timings of entry and exit, whereas if all bars close at 11.30 – that means a lot of “drunks” out on the street at the same time. Further, you haven’t said anything about the harassment/corruption intention. It is most definitely there – this one more way to extract a little more juice from thriving pubs, while “upholding” our morals and culture.

  3. TTG,

    The Economist article observes that how people behave after getting drunk varies across countries. The statistics its cites are valid for Britain, and in my personal opinion valid for India too. We can only say for sure if such data were available for Bangalore.

    Like you, I too prefer that pubs remain open late into the night. And I’m willing to accept that the government may have charge me something (through a tax on my drink for example) for this.

    And yes, as I wrote in yesterday’s post, the absurdity of this policy creates plenty of opportunities for corruption. Allowing the local police constable the discretion to decide what is dancing and what is not is not quite the smartest move for any government. If corruption is rampant in such clearly defined situations such as illegal parking or jumping a traffic light, imagine the scope for corruption in such subjective situations.

  4. At least, they’re bothering (however feebly) to give a crime-related excuse. In Pakistan, we’re already resigned to the fact that the police may think themselve responsible for our “morals”.

  5. raven, the excuse is just that, an excuse. Needed to pacify “we-dont-want-no-moral-police” citizens, just an eyewash.

  6. That’s why I love religion. Let’s say a religion considers dance as an integral part of devotion to the god and even life. Would the government dare to catch a “religious” person dancing in a bar at night? I doubt it!

    Let’s start a new religion designed to have fun but under the name of god. That’s the surest way to have secure fun.

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