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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Dancing when you're old and young

This essay advances the assertion that it would be a public good fsrcoutweighing the public costs for government to subsidise pleaces where people come together to engage in energetic dance. It also argues for the deregulation of such venues in very specific ways.

The inspiration for this essay is the following newspaper article, that we commend in full to anyone with an instinct, liking, or love, for dancing.

The arguments for government subsidies are obvious:

  1. Dancing is exceptionally good for the health of all people of all ages; it has all the benefits of physical exercise (of which it is one kind) but it is much more pleasant than physical exercise just for the sake of it. Therefore at the margins, as economists say, people are more likely to go to dance than go the the gym, ceteris paribus, because dancing is so much more enjoyable.

  2. Cardiovascular and broader physical health, which energetic dancing promotes, are unquestionably not just private goods (it is better that individuala feel individually healthy) and public goods (less illness entails fewer economic costs of illness, such as medical costs and time off work).

  3. As The Guardian article hints, there may be a social stigma associated with dancing when one is beyond a certain imagined age range. There is no better way to break down such harmful stigmas - which mean that older people end up not getting as much exercise as they should - than overt government financial and publicity support for an activity irrespective of age - or even with increased subsidies for the older.

  4. Dancing venues are inevitably regulated by someone - maybe just the Police, maybe by a licensing authority. Hence regulation can be used to supress harmful drug use (which some people use inassociaton with dancing; see below). The more drug crime a venue becomes associated with, the more swingeing its licensing regime (e.g. opening hours). In this way we fight drugs step by step, rather than through sledgehammer tactics such as closing a venue which simply moves the drugtakers onto the next place.

  5. In particular, people who dance tend to drink less alcohol because alcohol retards their ability to dance and have fun. Dancing venues can only operate with the revenues from alcohol sales. Subsidies release proprietors and consumers alike from the economic vice of compulsory alcohol consumption to make the business's ends meet.

  6. Put another way, the government is paying people to exercise in an enjoyable environment where they will drink less than they would in other (evening) social settings.

  7. With this sort of cooperative government-private approach, nightclubs and dancehalls should be permitted extended opening hours. If there can be a 24-hour a day gym, why not a 24-hour dancehall with music?

  8. As people have moved away from traditional offices and traditional office hours in the aftermath of COVID, flexibility in one's exercise schedules makes sense accordingly.

  9. Some young people associate dancing to some kinds of music with taking recreational drugs. However older people do this much less so. The desire for recreational narcotics tends rather to dim as young people get older. Hence having age-mixed dancing venues, although not in any way a guarantee of reduced drug usage, at least is likely to dilute the drug-taking influences. You don't need to be high on drugs to enjoy several hours of solid dancing.

  10. Dancing can really be very good for your health. Watch over the hours as your mobile phone step counter exceeds 30,000. Beat that by going to the gym - or by doing anything much except running a marathon. If you can regularly dance 30,000 steps (e.g. once or twice a week), you are very fit indeed.

  11. At one time neighbourhood noise was considered a social cost of nightclubs and dancehalls. However sound insulation and judicious choice of venue locations can now diminish that negative externality virtually to zero.

  12. Compared to other forms of socialising (in particular pubs, in which people sit down and become increasingly intoxicated and even aggressive - hardly a health-promoting cycle), dancing venues are all positive.

Everyone has some sort of music they like. They should get healthy listening to it, and dancing to it, in social environments with other people doing the same. Who knows. You may even meet your future husband or wife while dancing your socks off. You would only be the latest of many people of all ages to do so.


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