No 'nanny state' makes Spain the best place to enjoy a drink

The Local Spain
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No 'nanny state' makes Spain the best place to enjoy a drink
A nice glass of sherry. Photo: Ignacio Palomo Duarte/Flickr

Duty-free wine, low taxes on beer and spirits, and no statuatory closing time for bars make Spain the most libertarian in Europe when it comes to consuming alcohol.


That fact has now been recognized in the Nanny State Index, a new ranking of the "worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape."

Produced by the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER), an independent group of think tanks that advocate free-market policies, the report rates Finland as the worst, followed by Sweden, the UK, Ireland and Hungary.

Spain ranks bottom of a list of most restricted countries when it comes to food and drink, making it the freest in the European Union.

However recent anti-smoking legislation, which saw a total ban on smoking in all bars, restaurants and workplaces meant its overall placing was 21 out of 28 in the ranking.  

The Czech Republic was considered the most free overall followed by Germany.

Table published from

The index was developed under EPICENTER’s view that "nanny state" policies interfere with individuals’ choices and often do not work.

"Most of the taxes, laws and regulations covered in the Nanny State Index (NSI) were introduced on grounds of ‘public health’," the report states.

The think tank groups scored each country and then compared these scores to the countries’ life expectancies. Even countries with low nanny state scores, meaning less regulation, have comparatively high life expectancies.

Spain ranks second behind only Japan for life expectancy among the OECD list of advanced economies with an average life expectancy at birth is 83.2 years.

"The big picture is that there is no correlation between nanny state regulation and higher life expectancy," concludes the index report.

"The government should leave [these decisions] totally up to individuals. I don’t see the government as having a role to play in everyday pleasures and weekend pleasures, what we eat, drink, smoke, etc," Mattias Svensson of Swedish think tank Timbro, which collaborated on the report, told The Local.

"People enjoy these things, they know it’s not healthy and we know they know that. Grown ups can handle these things, which have negative effects and these are easy to measure.... A bureaucrat can never make that decision, they can’t know the pleasure side of it and why we drink, they can’t understand that through looking at diagrams at a desk so they shouldn’t make that decision for us.

"It’s very important that people can make decisions, even the wrong decisions, for themselves, that’s what freedom is," he said. 


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