Anyone who thinks that alcohol consumption cannot add to one’s quality of life has never had to attend a closing dinner.

A closing dinner occurs when one company acquires another. The investment banker sponsors an elaborate dinner to ingratiate itself to the senior management of both companies. Some time after the deal is finalized, the parties to the sale meet in some secluded room of an expensive restaurant to “celebrate” the acquisition by pretending that there’s something especially synergistic about this merger, by exchanging mindless flattery, by making toasts to the future, by talking about how very important it is to have good people, and by generally paying homage to the can-do attitude that made everything possible. In the high-powered lingo of American businessmen, this sort of thing is called a “circle-jerk.”

Everyone at a closing dinner is in high spirits. The acquirers feel like big shots for writing such big checks. The acquired feel like big shots for depositing such big checks. The investment banker wants everyone to associate its name with the grandiose feelings of importance that everyone feels.

As long as there’s an open bar, nobody notices that everyone sounds like a blow-hard — only alcohol consumption can make the whole affair bearable. And Mormons involved in mergers and acquisitions are surely among the most miserable folks on Earth.

Alcohol reduces inhibitions by making its drinker self-absorbed. It’s like a vacation, only better. When you’re the center of the universe, you can do or say whatever you want, and nobody else matters. There aren’t a whole hell of a lot of drunk people engaging in charitable acts. But ask a drunk near you, and you’ll usually learn either (a) that they do more good for their fellow man than just about anyone, or (b) that starting tomorrow, they’ll do more good for their fellow man than just about anyone.

But on the bright side, inebriated self-centeredness also makes one oblivious to the egomania of others. And when one is surrounded by high and mighty people under the influence of heavy drink, there are only two ways to have an enjoyable evening: you either exit or you drink.

Staying and suffering through the dinner is an interesting exercise. One’s livelihood may well be tied up in the transactions surrounding such occasions. So those who must attend closing dinners are definitely in that world. Those who stay sober are not of it. And, in the end, there seem to be good practical reasons for avoiding heavy drink besides the purported health benefits.