fredag 16 maj 2014

Monopoly on alcohol - Systembolaget

During the early 19th century the consumtion of alcohol bacame, as in so many other places in the world, a huge problem in Sweden. This led to the founding of sobriety groups in 1930 and later to teetotalism groups. Falun was the first town to, in 1850, get a firm that would be in charge of all the commerce with booze.

To make booze for yourself became banned in 1860 and in 1865 Gothenburg started a company that would decide who got the right to sell booze and who did not. Several other towns would soon follow Gothenburg's example. It also became illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy alcohol. This was the start of Systembolaget - the government's monopoly on alcohol.

The firms that ran the alcohol businesses became very profitable and in 1863 the government decided that one fifth of the profit would go to the state and in 1870 that all of the profits would go to the state. L O Smith who was one of the leading producers of alcoholic beverages protested against the states decition and he also claimed that the companies that ran pubs sold bad products. Smith won the battle and became the sole provider for the companies.

A ration book was introduced in 1914 and if you wanted to buy an alcoholic bevarage at the pub you also had to order something to eat.

During the first world war alcohol became totally banned for a month and barley-broth was also banned for a time. After the war the ration book was introduced to the whole country. Finally, in 1922, alcoholic bevarages were banned all together after the Swedish people had voted on the issue. The ban however, was not in reality a total ban and it was soon abandoned. After nine years of investigations the ration book was cancelled in 1955 due to the bureaucracy and unfairness that came with it.

Everything became much easier. The legal age to buy alchol became 21, you were not allowed to be too intoxicated and you were not allowed to give or sell alcohol to people who were under age. 25% more alchol was sold during the first year. People now had to show their ID if asked when they wanted to buy alcohol and taxation on booze was increased a couple of times to get people to drink less.

The monopoly menat that the state totally controlled what people could buy and where they could buy it but this changed when Sweden became a part of the European Union in 1995. The monopoly on selling booze was kept but production, import, export and selling to restaurants became free.

So what are the consequences? The illegal production of booze in the home has decreased but smuggled booze and the amount of alcohol brought in from abroad has increased. Swedes drink more now than they have done in a hundred years. Now we both take a beer after work, a glass of wine for dinner and drink untill we get really drunk on the weekends.


P.S. This does not apply to all Swedes, not all of us get drunk every weekend but a large number still do. D.S.

Copas-vino by Amanda Velocet

Picture license: CC BY-SA 3.0

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