Like sex, alcohol has long been an issue on which the governance of individuals and their desires converges with the governance of the health and the morals of national populations. Moreover, like sex, drinking has often been targeted more to maintain urban order and civility than to improve the health of either individuals or populations.

While some jurisdictions—southern European countries before European unification, for instance—have drawn few if any legal distinctions between alcohol and other consumable products, the sale and the purchase of alcoholic drinks in much of the world are each subject to a welter of legal and administrative regulatory mechanisms. These interfere to a remarkable extent with the freedoms to market products and consume them that are characteristic of modern industrial societies. Many people ...

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