Philip J. Cook is the ITT/Sanford Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics and Sociology at Duke University. He is also the author of Paying the Tab: The Costs and Benefits of Alcohol Control, (Princeton University Press, 2007). Cook spoke to the Marin Institute recently about his book, the probition, and recent data that says fair alcohol taxes are good public policy.
Marin Institute: What is your central message in Paying the Tab?
Philip Cook: That beer and liquor is too cheap. I also thought it was important to talk about Prohibition as a legacy to deal with. I realized it's the decade after Prohibition began that we need to learn from, the 1920s, when alcohol control was being developed under the leadership of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and others. In the book I discuss in what sense prohibition was a "failure" and point out that, in fact, prices were higher and alcohol-related problems were way down during the 1920's.
MI: Was there any specific outcome you were expecting from the book?
PC: I wanted to make the case for fair taxes on alcoholic beverages that could combine the historical argument with the epidemiological evidence, in the hope that this would be useful to advocates and perhaps even change minds. I'm also hoping to educate health economists and public health researchers about these issues and hopefully engage them in the discussion.
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