It has been wisely observed that when public policies are crafted and decisions made with financial gain as the “bottom line,” the end results are never in the interests of the public at large. In a free-market system, it is natural to expect that a major value steering the decisions of merchants is financial gain; money is the bottom line. However, governments exist to ensure that capitalism’s greed does not go unchecked or unregulated.
Reflecting on the ongoing drama of “Peanuts” and the Liquor Licensing Board, and the growing list of cast members, it is clear to me that the values driving public policy and merchants’ aspirations are too similar to provide any protection of public interests. Clearly it does not matter that the results of mixing gasoline and alcohol, so to speak, create a deadly cocktail, as our road-death records remind us. Nor does it seem to matter that there is no dearth of retail outlets for the sale of liquor in our little island, nor, sadly, that the one day that Caymanians traditionally held some level of respect for, and therefore exercised some restraint in the matter of dispensing liquor to the public, is now being treated like any other day.
I suppose that policies and decisions are made by those in authority on the basis of what is fair. But fair to whom? Is it just the merchants that must be considered, so that if “Coconuts” has a license to sell liquor, then to be fair, one cannot deny “Peanuts.” What about the rest of us? The general public? Does it not matter that it is an established fact (not personal opinion) that alcohol as a drug has caused more deaths in multiple ways than any other drug – legal or prohibited?
I applaud the notion of “value-based decision-making” as a sane and conscientious approach to policy formation and actions. Thus I would plead for our legislators to revisit, review and reappraise the values that underlie the laws, and therefore shape the decisions that bodies like the Liquor Licensing Board are constrained to make.
There are values far greater than financial gain that must inform the decisions of public-serving bodies, from the Legislature down to statutory boards, if the true interests of all persons are to be served.
M. Alson Ebanks
Senior Pastor, Church of God Chapel