Ben Blows US Beer Buzz: Ben Franklin, Brilliant Dude but Early Teetotaler

3 03 2007

I love Ben Franklin, and working in a library, you could say I owe him a lot.  But as great as the library and his other huge ideas were, what really intrigues me is the amount of space he devotes in his autobiography to the topic of drinking in the workplace. 

What we often forget in this country is that our great industrial economy was founded with a workforce that was at most times if not all-out drunk, than at least pretty well buzzed.  Beers weren’t just for breakfast in Franklin’s time.  A good header of stout was enjoyed throughout the day by workers, and Franklin, ever the efficiency engineer and perhaps monumental party pooper, couldn’t help but notice by day’s end that the workers weren’t doing nearly as good a job as they might have had they not been on their 12th pint, or whatever.

As we know now, America’s love of all-day alcohol was a train wreck headed right towards prohibition.  Forcing it underground only seemed to create even more delight in drinking, although certainly no one was doing it at work anymore.  Not openly, that is.  Probably there were always folks drinking at work.  They still do, although less now than ever.  Gone are the three martini lunches of my parent’s day.

I don’t know any day drinkers myself, I just once heard a rumor, that’s it.  And of course, librarians have sort of a generalized reputation for being alcoholics, ironically, since Mr. Franklin was the brain-daddy of the public library. But the best alcoholics, the ones who last for years that is, always wait until after work to drink anyway. 

Yeah, even here in way-out California, the Puritan work ethic and Benjamin Franklin’s teetotaling sentiment have had their way, and now most drinkers, as it is in Japan, only let alcohol ruin their lives after work.  That’s the way it should be, turns out. 

Yep, old B. Frankie was right again!




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