About 10 years ago I took a job running an alcohol and drug policy unit in the minor provincial government in which I serve as a lowly under-castellan.
It turned out to be a very rewarding experience, at least if you count the intrinsic rewards of work as the most important. I met some remarkable people – Robin Room, Stefan Grunert, David Best – and also struggled with some of the hardest questions, so it seemed at the time, of public policy.
Alcohol, so my colleagues kept telling me, was one of those wicked problems. For me though, coming to terms with the difficulty of alcohol policy was something more of a personal journey of recovery.
Serving the wayward and the drunken, it turned out, did very little for my career. I plunged deeper and deeper into a kind of career crisis, in a smelly eddy far away from the flow of success. But I also accomplished many things, and not the least of those things was a kind of understanding of my conservative disposition in which grew my attachment to the ethos of my institution.
It was that ethos that I saw forgotten and dishonoured all around me. It was the realisation that I had fused my identity with a culture that was disappearing from the world that would in time lead me into despair. About a year or so after leaving the alcohol and drug policy job, I wrote a conference paper that tried to make sense of it all. I gave this conference paper to the Kettl Bruun Society conference.
You can read it here:
Or if you don’t want to bother with research gate, try this Why is alcohol policy difficult Kettl Bruun conference September 2014
Some time later, a student interviewed me about the experience when another great city took fate in its hand and succumbed to the grand follies of controlling the availability of alcohol.