DAILY BRIEFING
Sin Bonus

Oct. 2 - [First, I think I found my favorite review of my book ever, right here. Also, my desire to post that that link on my site reminded me that I had a place where I was going to post links from time to time—and had forgotten to keep posting links there. Hope springs eternal.]

The dollar is plummeting again—down to 6.37 crowns after getting up to about 6.93 at the end of August—but my purchasing power has gone up on a couple of items anyway.

Specifically, prices went down on booze and cigarettes yesterday.

Like most western democracies, Denmark taxes the hell out of luxury goods and vices because their constituencies are in the former case an electoral minority, and in the latter case—well, I don't know. You just don't see a lot of grassroots protests against high booze and smoke taxes, even though they're some of the highest-taxed goods on the market.

In any case, Denmark has been taxing cigarettes and spirits (never beer!) at a much higher rate than the rest of Europe, and under pressure from the EU, if I understand Trine's explanation correctly—which I probably don't—the Danes were compelled to roll back those taxes.

From what I understand (a qualification the breadth of which should never be underestimated), the government-mandated price on a pack of Marlboros has gone from 34 crowns to 30—a drop of just under 10%. (That's for the 20-pack, by the way: you can buy cigarettes in packs of 10 or 20 in most European countries.) I haven't seen any new liquor prices yet—we're still finishing off the booze our wedding guests brought in through duty-free—but I've been told that, at bars at least, I can now expect to get 3cl of booze for the same price I used to pay for 2cl.

Whatever the price, my feeble math skills suggest that's a 50% increase in purchasing power.

(But let's put this in perspective for a minute. American readers who haven't yet downloaded the Moronic Calcumalator may not realize that 2 centiliters is the equivalent of one tablespoon plus one teaspoon. Yes, that little. Bars typically charge about 25-35 crowns for such a pittance of liquor—which is probably less than I used to spill from the drinks I got in New York or Chicago for the same price. Not only that, but if you want a mixer here you have to pay for it separately. Vodka tonic? No problem. That'll be 25 crowns for the booze, another 25 for the tonic. Want a Long Island Iced Tea or a Mai Tai? Okay, but you're going to have to pay for every blessed centiliter of booze in there—specialty drinks usually cost the equivalent of $10-12. And this in a nation where alcohol is one of the four food groups! I'll concede that you don't tip in bars here, so you save a buck or two a round, but that hardly compensates against a bar tab of $36 if Trine and I have three little cocktails each. So although a 50% increase in purchasing power sounds exciting, it only means that a $6 well drink will consist of about two tablespoons of booze instead of one-and-a-third.)

A bottle of terrible vodka—the kind of cheap crap you get when you know you're going to be mixing it with something and won't taste it anyway—costs about $20 for less than three quarters of a liter! So if the tax cut does in fact amount to a 50% savings, that means you can now buy a full liter of awful vodka for $20—or a full liter of Jim Beam, say, for about $35-40.

When I get back to the states next year, I'm going to have the ass-kickingest liquor cabinet you ever saw.

And I'm going to eat a lot of corn, too. We take corn for granted in the states, especially in August and September when grocery stores sell it for—I hardly remember. Five ears per dollar? Six? Eight? Ten? I've always loved corn on the cob, but I didn't eat it that often because, you know, who eats corn on the cob every night? Well, try dragging your American ass through a whole summer without having fresh corn more than once or twice, paying about $1 per ear for the privilege, and then see how you feel about it. Eat corn, everyone! Eat lots of it! It's so damn good, and so damn healthy, and so damn cheap!

* * *

That was a lot of digression. Before I begin an entirely new digression on the magnitude of my previous digression, let me pull back to my original point.

Booze and butt taxes are usually referred to as "sin taxes" because they're levied on products that, though legal, are not traditionally thought of as important staples of a healthy diet. And we "sinners" put up with it because, well, we're sinners and probably not that bright.

But when have you ever had a sin bonus? It's magnificent! My (sinful) lifestyle was just made much more affordable by government decree! How cool is that?

Pretty cool, I think. And that's all I really wanted to say.

But I really would like some corn...

Postscript

Trine came home not long after I finished writing the above last night (yeah, sometimes I cheat and write these suckers ahead of time) and plopped an 0.7-liter bottle of generic-looking vodka on the kitchen counter.

"Check it out," she said, "forty kroner!"

Now, she bought it at a discount store—think Priceco, or Sam's Club, or any Disturbingly Large Food Warehouse Place—but still. That's about seven bucks, meaning cheap vodka has come down to the $10 per liter level. It can't compare to the $8.99 1.75-liter bottles of Harry's Cheap Ass Vodka that you can get in the states, but still... it's progress.

It's definitely progress.

Funny Business

Three of the past century's finest comedians were born on October 2: Groucho Marx (1890), Bud Abbot (1895), and Mahatma Gandhi (1869).

Groucho and Abbot were funny enough, but they pale beside the towering comic greatness of Gandhi. "Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind," he once quipped: "It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man."

That a humorist capable of such scathing sarcastic wit should have sullied himself with politics is regrettable, but not much worse than Jesus having gotten into religion.

It should also be remembered that for most of Gandhi's life the Indian subcontinent was occupied by the British, and that for the first few formative decades of his existence the British were ruled by a queen who was famously unamused. Gandhi went to extraordinary lengths to amuse Queen Victoria. It was only decades after her death that his genius came to full flower, however, so we can only hope she was amused posthumously.

Eventually the British realized they didn't get Gandhi's jokes and withdrew from India to develop Monty Python, Absolutely Fabulous, and Prince Charles.

Gandhi's Birthday is a national holiday in India, and it's Independence Day in Guinea.

Less hilarious persons born on this date include Sting (1951), Donna Karan (1948), Don McLean (1945), Rex Reed (1938), and Graham Greene (1904).

(Actually, Graham Greene has his moments—read Travels with My Aunt.)

Happy Thursday!

2003, The Moron's Almanac™

[close window]
[Daily Briefing Archive]