Happy hour anyone?

Marketplace Staff Sep 14, 2006

BOB MOON: Excuse me for just a moment while I advance my career . . .

[Sound of cork popping and drink pouring.]

. . . not to encourage this kind of behavior on the job. But you can add something else today to those studies suggesting that moderate drinking has health benefits. Turns out it might also pump up your wallet. So says commentator and Reason Magazine editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie:

NICK GILLESPIE: Here’s something even more refreshing than a gin and tonic on a hot summer day: drinkers make more money — a lot more money — than teetotalers.

Indeed, a study we just sponsored shows male drinkers make 19 percent more than their abstemious full-time counterparts. Among women, drinkers make 23 percent more.

Now, that doesn’t mean that barflies will inherit the earth, much less the company’s stock options. Indeed, the benefits vanish for folks who regularly knock back more than 35 drinks a week.

But those of us who like to hang out with co-workers, customers and friends several times a month in bars and restaurants, it tends to increase our social capital.

What I mean is, we find out more about what the competition’s up to, how they solve their problems, and more about new job opportunities. All that can lead to increased financial capital in the form of higher wages.

In a country that once banned booze for 13 long years, many folks still view even occasional tippling as the first inevitable step to pulling a Mel Gibson. But this new study — which corroborates previous, smaller analyses — should make us rethink all sorts of policies that cast a gimlet eye on drinking.

These range from increasingly restrictive bans on drinking at colleges to boosting sin taxes on beer, wine, and liquor. We tend to think in absolute terms: you’re either a teetotaler or a lush, a wet or a dry, a Baptist or Dean Martin.

Such thinking just leads to puritanical policies that make the very problems they’re supposed to address worse.

If we want to follow as straight a path as possible to prosperity, we should think about ways to increase moderate social drinking.

Not only would that let us unwind after a long day at the office, it might even make us richer.

MOON: Nick Gillespie is editor-in-chief of Reason Magazine.

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