20 March 2014

Alcohol in Sweden

Alcohol in Sweden is very much restricted. There is only one company, Systembolaget, from which one can buy alcohol. And it only opens certain days, excluding Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Also, their prices are extremely high and the selection limited in quantity and in quality (which is to be expected if there is a monopoly). I'm being told that things are good now because, in the not-so-distant past, that company was allowed to be open only one day per week, resulting in huge queues consisting of people taking time off work in order to buy their wine.

The company claims that the only reason they exist is because they care about people's health and they have conducted scientific researches to show that if the monopoly seized to exist then catastrophic things would occur. They present their case here in flash form. The page contains the whole scientific report too. Here are some of the "catastrophic" consequences that would result if the monopoly seized to exist. (Images are captures from their page.)
So? What's wrong in being able to buy alcohol in more places? And what's wrong in buying wine where I buy my food? I DO want both of them. But, according to Systembolaget, these are among the dire consequences of abolishing the monopoly. Totally absurd, isn't it?

In another place, they claim that
They don't explain, but, presumably they mean deaths occurring by drunk drivers. So, I suppose, they care about maintaining safety on the road. This is good. I am all for that. However, it's not entirely right that they care about safety. To wit, of all the countries I know, Sweden is the only one where you can drive your car and speak on your cell phone at the same time. It's ok for drivers to chat, text, whatever. It's funny how such an obviously dangerous activity is legal, while, at the same time, consumption of half a bottle of beer will get you into trouble while driving because the alcohol limit is zero. Although I'm not an expert in these things, I maintain that speaking on the cell phone, like many idiots around, is far more dangerous than having drank half a bottle of beer. This is, then, dishonesty.


  1. I had no idea, that is awful. Here in the states, there are regulations, but NOTHING like this.

    1. Thanks for the comment Alice. I'm glad that there are people who find these restrictions awful, because here I seem to be the only one noticing them. (Even though I don't drink much and I never drink unless I eat too. But I still like to have freedom of choice.) One of my Swedish friends went to Utah expecting alcohol restrictions to be much worse than Sweden, but actually found very little difference.

  2. In my State, the government controls liquor sale too -- ridiculous.
    My former state (Washington) is selling license for marijuana sales now.
    I am glad we have a federal system to test these things.

    1. Is that Massachusetts? I thought there was very little gov't control on alcohol in Mass.

  3. To implement your ideas, I suggest that we remove all kind of specialty shops. It's exceptionally disturbing to have a couple of thousands of different spirits in one single shop! I want to be able to buy my Louis Vutton suit, my Prada shoes and Gucci "homme parfait" parfume in Hemköp. Otherwise, the russians have already understood this and they sell alcohol in every shop. The average life expectancy for men is there 60 years thanks to the vodka and alcoholism. Swedes had a similar story those 150 years ago when we had to introduce dry years and Systembolaget to save the nation from dying from alcohol- and sour herring poisoning.

    1. You are being ridiculous, as always.

    2. Actually, I made a blunder and MUST apologize. It is not you who has been writing wacky and ridiculous comments but another anonymous commenter calling himself/herself. "IThinkWithMy Liver". It was THIS person's comments who have been wacky.

      I was misled because of your ironical sentence "I want to be able to buy my Louis Vutton suit, my Prada shoes and Gucci "homme parfait" parfume in Hemköp."

      This is not an excuse, I am truly sorry for using the expressions above. I will not remove them (it's my fault), but only write that they meant to be referring to the wacky and ridiculous comments of the other person.

      However, the points I make in this response, from the second paragraph onwards, I retain.

  4. "As always", thank you. I'll keep that in mind... Well, you give an unfairly black-coloured (not even one-sided) point of view of Systembolaget. You describe it like if it would be some small shop with a few selected bottles of poor wine. Why don't you mention that thousands of controlled bottles of alcohol of all over the world are assembled in giant stores and that there are even tourists from all over Europe coming here just to enjoy the magnificence of the "prohibition"? It's not that one can pick among 10 bottles of wine standing in a ordinary shop in Europe (or the bigger supermarkets that might have a couple of shelfs!), but we speak about giant stores full of high-quality bottles of all kind of brands and marks, and all controlled not to include any methanol. Then the sellers are obliged to check that they don't sell to youth under 20. If letting every shop sell alcohol freely, don't you think that the probability that underaged that get drunk actually will increase? The state monopoly is a way of protecting the citizens from alcoholism and accidents. (The law is not there to protect the "strong ones" who can handle to drink a beer and drive -- it protects the weakest ones for whom half a glass will be enough to cause a traffic accident, and may not always be aware of it.)

  5. "As always" refers to the comments you made in the past which were a bit wacky. Maybe you have some strange sense of humour which I do not understand. Also, by being anonymous, I can't tell your age, background, or anything.

    I am not a heavy drinker, so, in the end, I don't care. But, yes, Systembolaget has quite limited selection. Frequently, to get what you want, you have to order days or weeks in advance! Even when they have the brand of beer you want, they may only have 4 remaining cans and you might want 6. True, it's not a disaster, but limited it is, and this is because it's a monopoly. Unique in Europe. I know that Norway and Finland are similar, but they are a bit freeer. For example, one can buy a bottle of wine at the Oslo and Helsinki airports. In Stockholm, it is prohibited.

    As for protection of minors and prevention of accidents, as I said, I'm fully for that. But problems are not solved by restrictions. Rather, by education. If people were better educated about the use and not the abuse of alcohol, they would be able to restrain themselves and the state would no be needed to impose restrictions by fiat. In France, one can buy a bottle of wine at a cheap price anywhere and at any time. And the country has not collapsed.

    So, all boils down to educating citizens. This takes time and effort. Prohibition was introduced once in the US by changing the constitution. They had to change it back later when they realized that the consumption of alcohol was at its highest during prohibition.

    For me, regardless of prohibition or not, I would never drink if I didn't eat at the same time, and this is true for many people I know. And I don't drink more than 3 beers per week. We've had different education.

    For now, I agree that abuses of alcohol are taken care by prohibition. But prohibition does not solve problems in a democracy. Rather, it pushes them under the table.

    Finally, you can see that my article above was making fun of the results of the "research". Everybody is laughing when they see that "buying wine at the same place as food" would be a catastrophic consequence.

  6. Your apology is accepted. Humour obviously varies between individuals,
    even between the framework of giver or receiver.

    But as a minor revenge for the insult -- the only time somebody called
    me something similar in a discussion as a response
    to my irony/comments during the last ten years was creationists.


    1. That is funny. Except, I suppose, I did it unintentionally because I mixed you up with another commenter and I apologized. I suspect that creationists never apologized. In fact, I personally would start wondering what was wrong with me if creationists started complimenting me.

      As for humour, yes, I agree, but as I have always maintained, blogging is a medium between ordinary conversation and writing and this leads to frequent misunderstandings.

    2. No worries. True, creationists will never apologize, but they will pity my soul for not getting salvation.

      But I hope "IThinkWithMyLiver" isn't one of your students, just ;)



What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
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Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
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