Glenn’s article in the NY Post got me thinking about booze and work, as it has always pertained to me and the companies I’ve worked for. Here’s an historical perspective:
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that civilization came from alcohol. Before agriculture was invented, hunter-gatherers brewed beer from wild grains. It’s more likely that agriculture came from a desire to have a steady supply of beer than from efforts to produce more bread.
Given the downsides, alcohol consumption must also offer some advantages, Slingerland reasons, else it would have died out. But it hasn’t. In fact it’s hard to find successful civilizations that don’t use alcohol — and those few that qualify tend to replace it with other intoxicants that have similar effects.
And later on:
Drinking doesn’t just make us feel good, it also makes us get along better, cooperate more effectively and think more expansively. Silicon Valley companies have whiskey bars to which engineers repair when they’re stuck on a problem, companies (and even my law faculty) have happy hours, and pubs and taverns have played a vital role in bringing strangers together convivially for millennia. (When I used to hang out with Southern politicians, they didn’t trust people who wouldn’t drink with them.)
I remember once interviewing a secretary at the Great Big Research Company in Johannesburg, and towards the end of the interview, I told her that the job was hers. Then, as I was walking her out of the office, I asked, “By the way, do you drink?” “No,” she replied. “You may find it a little difficult to fit in here, then,” I said. I thought she was joking, and she thought I was joking, but as it turns out, neither of us was. (She fit in quite fine, as it happened, because she always ended up being our designated driver, which she took in good humor mostly because not once in three years did she ever have to pay for a meal, such was our gratitude.)
I don’t trust people who don’t drink, either, unless there’s a compelling reason for that strange behavior. (At the Great Big Advertising Agency in Chicago, one of the women was a recovering alcoholic, and I never once pressed her to drink, even though she came over to several of my booze-sodden parties at the house and enjoyed herself as much as any of us.)
Here’s my viewpoint on the matter. I like booze. I like the taste of it, I like how it makes me feel, and as long as I can restrain myself — something which has become a lot easier of late because hangovers absolutely flatten me — I can drink and have a great deal of fun in so doing. (Of course, when I’m sitting at Mr. Free Market’s country palace drinking Whisky Macs, or at the King’s Arms with The Englishman pouring Wadworth’s 6X down my throat, all bets are off.) But other than that, I’m mostly quite restrained. I’m by nature a very gregarious man, so I don’t need booze to make me any more sociable, so it really comes down to enjoyment. I like the little buzz, in other words.
On the other hand, booze for me is entirely a social beverage. I absolutely cannot drink by myself. Many’s the time I’ve come home exhausted from a day at the pit face, and opened a beer with a flourish — only to find, two hours later, half a bottle of flat beer. But put me in a room with friends…
There’s a reason why booze is called an “adult” beverage, and it’s because one has to be an adult in its consumption. Of course there are going to be people who abuse it; show me any pleasurable adult activity and I’ll show you people who take it too far, and as a result we all become targets of the Puritans and scolds who bedevil our modern society.
Glenn suggests mockery for the anti-booze scolds among us, while my response would be, quelle surprise, a lot harsher. But overall, I agree with Glenn’s point: while booze has its downsides, let’s not forget its many upsides.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my breakfast gin.