Are you ready for the govt war on booze?

posted at 3:31 pm on June 1, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

Everything old is new again in the era of expanding government regulations, so why limit yourself to only trying new things? Let’s dredge up some golden oldies and take them out for a fresh spin. This seems to be part of the thinking of Reihan Salam, writing at Salon this week. As far as a new war on alcohol is concerned, Salam isn’t calling for a renewal of prohibition… we tried that before. But he will settle for just taxing it out of this world.

Alcohol Taxes Should Be Tripled
The war on drugs has been a failure. But the war on booze deserves a second chance

For a nightmare vision of where heavy drinking can lead a society, consider Russia, where the pervasiveness of binge drinking contributes to an epidemic of cardiovascular disease and a death rate from fatal injuries that you’d normally see in wartime. Political economist Nicholas Eberstadt has gone so far as to suggest that drunkenness is a key reason why Russia, a country with universal literacy and a level of educational attainment that is (technically) in the same ballpark as countries like Australia and Sweden, has roughly the same living standards as Ecuador.

Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner takes a run at the correct answer.

Reihan is right that excessive alcohol consumption has been a disaster for Russia, but that is, in no small part, a function of the way that the state has used and abused alcohol both as a method of social control and a source of revenue (as much as 40 percent of the state’s income came from alcohol at certain points in the Czarist era, and as much as 25 percent for certain periods in Soviet times)…

Moral panics generally make for bad policy, but, despite the efforts of David Cameron (a man hopelessly susceptible to moral panics and a reliable enthusiast for big government initiatives, the supposedly ‘conservative’ prime minister wanted to fix a minimum alcohol price, a proposal that fortunately came to nothing) not much was done in response other than the introduction of some worthwhile public health education initiatives on the problems caused by hitting the bottle too hard…

As so often, society is correcting itself, as it often tends to do when the Nanny State keeps out of the way.

You’ll have to read Andrew’s entire response to get the full flavor, but it’s worth the time. What’s missing from this discussion, though, is the social control component. Drinking to excess is pretty much uniformly a bad thing (Trust me on this one..) Of course, as Andrew notes, it may prove to be a largely self-correcting feature.

But the alternative is to follow Reihan’s course and leave it to the government to modify human behavior through prohibition or excessive taxation. Our running series on how well sin taxes have worked out in stopping smoking should be a clue here. It doesn’t generally work, and usually fails to deliver a lot more government revenue either. Triple the alcohol tax? No thanks.


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If I lived under a communist dictator, I’d be a drunk too…

…wait. Nevermind.

southsideironworks on June 1, 2014 at 9:34 PM

And if they run the tax up high enough, the moonshiners and organized crime will be right back at an old and profitable business. We’ll get to spend lots of our taxes on enforcement with a net decrease in revenue.

Further, alcohol sales will move from the store shelf to the back rooms, and nobody will be checking ID.

DaveK on June 1, 2014 at 9:52 PM

“In the interest of the public health.”

Imagine where that one sentence is going to take this country.

PappyD61 on June 1, 2014 at 9:55 PM

Of course any regulations or imposed taxes would be on the peons of this nation. People like Hillary and pelosi could still jet set with all the booze they wanted at tax payer expense

jaywemm on June 1, 2014 at 10:05 PM

A gramme is better than a damn!

Murphy9 on June 1, 2014 at 9:17 PM

I’m so glad I’m not a Delta…

massrighty on June 1, 2014 at 10:14 PM

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
–Rudyard Kipling

Haven’t we ALREADY made this mistake once!?

Chaz706 on June 1, 2014 at 10:15 PM

They never learn, do they?

307wolverine on June 1, 2014 at 10:42 PM

It doesn’t generally work, and usually fails to deliver a lot more government revenue either.

Huh?

Tax revenue from tobacco sales has nearly doubled in the last 12 years. From $9B to $17.6B

ButterflyDragon on June 1, 2014 at 10:49 PM

Huh?

Tax revenue from tobacco sales has nearly doubled in the last 12 years. From $9B to $17.6B

ButterflyDragon on June 1, 2014 at 10:49 PM

Due in large part to inflationary monetary policy. Those aren’t real money numbers, Dragon.

gryphon202 on June 1, 2014 at 11:00 PM

1-Miller Lite 12 pack 12 oz cans $11.99
1-Guinness 4 pack 15 oz cans $7.99
1-Camel Light (now called Camel Blue) $6.54

Subtotal $26.52
Tax $0.39
Alcohol Tax $1.80
Total $28.71

This sh!t is already happening behind enemy lines in the peoples republic of Maryland.

Fett on June 1, 2014 at 11:23 PM

Triple the alcohol taxes?

Only if you want a still in every garage.

schmuck281 on June 2, 2014 at 12:40 AM

Huh?
Tax revenue from tobacco sales has nearly doubled in the last 12 years. From $9B to $17.6B

ButterflyDragon on June 1, 2014 at 10:49 PM

Due in large part to inflationary monetary policy. Those aren’t real money numbers, Dragon.

gryphon202 on June 1, 2014 at 11:00 PM

After 32% inflation, that still comes out to a 48% increase in real dollars.

Which, let’s not forget, is a bad thing. The fact that nanny state sin taxes are giving said nanny more money to devote to more nannying elsewhere is hardly a selling point.

RINO in Name Only on June 2, 2014 at 3:45 AM

I stand corrected on my assessment that these leftists are real Marxists since everyone knows that the old Soviet Union kept their power on the backs of dirt cheap vodka and a populace too drunk to care or fight back.
We are now voluntarily entering the age of politically correct Marxism–unfortunately sober.

Don L on June 2, 2014 at 7:12 AM

prohibition, yeah that was a real winner

just ask Al Capone.

Here is a novel idea, cut back on all the FREE stuff the liberals declare they must have
like obamaphones
and free stuff for illegials.

sniffles1999 on June 2, 2014 at 7:23 AM

Want to see a return of Moonshiners, Bootleggers and Rum Runners?

Increase the alcohol tax as a means of social control.

Soon ever person brewing or distilling at home will be the target.

And yet the booze will still flow.

Funny how that works.

ajacksonian on June 2, 2014 at 7:25 AM

Last time I checked, a bottle of cheap vodka (750 ml) costs about $40 in Sweden, 90% of which is tax to supposedly address the social costs of irresponsible drinking. Moonshining is common.

In fact, there is an enormous “black economy” in Sweden (that’s what they call it, the unreported market of untaxed goods and services). This is the result of high taxes. This is what happens.

disa on June 2, 2014 at 7:25 AM

Just TRY and raise the alcohol tax on inner city liquor stores. See what happens when the lumpenproletariat can no longer afford their 40′s. Go ahead, I dare you.

Me, I’ll just brew more beer. Cheap, easy, and tastes better anyway.

TarasBulbous on June 2, 2014 at 8:41 AM

And if they run the tax up high enough, the moonshiners and organized crime will be right back at an old and profitable business. We’ll get to spend lots of our taxes on enforcement with a net decrease in revenue.

Further, alcohol sales will move from the store shelf to the back rooms, and nobody will be checking ID.

DaveK on June 1, 2014 at 9:52 PM

I’m pricing boats.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THkxf-CsYNs&feature=kp

katy the mean old lady on June 2, 2014 at 9:28 AM

So they want to legalize drugs and make booze illegal.

Tinker on June 1, 2014 at 3:46 PM

Ever notice how YOUR drug of choice isn’t a drug somehow?

Meremortal on June 2, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Triple the alcohol tax….and I’ll even start making “bath tub gin” and stat selling it. AND I”LL GET RICH.

nonstopca on June 2, 2014 at 12:02 PM

After 32% inflation, that still comes out to a 48% increase in real dollars.

Which, let’s not forget, is a bad thing. The fact that nanny state sin taxes are giving said nanny more money to devote to more nannying elsewhere is hardly a selling point.

RINO in Name Only on June 2, 2014 at 3:45 AM

The problem is that yeah, you will get a higher tax revenue on sin taxes — up to a point. Then you run up against diminishing returns. It’s a great policy for the politicians, cause they can have it both ways. Tax revenues up. AND fewer people will drink/smoke. AND there will always be at least a few drinkers and smokers to feed the beast.

gryphon202 on June 2, 2014 at 12:09 PM

I always get a laugh at the fools who pretend the demonstrably false lunacy that Prohibition wasn’t a good idea or successful, blind to their own hypocrisy at doing the same with other things. Just repeat a lie enough and fools will believe anything, covering up that Prohibition was intended to fail, outlawing transport but not possession! for the antiprohibition forces knew they couldn’t stop the virtue of the temperance forces (virtue being regularly avoided by “conservatives” as much as by “liberals”), so they made sure it was impossible to enforce. Just like abortion & sodomy, who cares about the innocent victims like families and kids so long as I get my RIGHT to abuse my substances and pervert the world and corrupt others! Sick fools. Like what happened during the French Revolution our horrified Founders wanted nothing to do with, thanking God for their Christian foundation, even if one counts the day’s Deistic inclinations of those like Franklin that were far nearer to Christian orthodox than most today.

russedav on June 2, 2014 at 2:13 PM

Back door Sharia.

ctmom on June 2, 2014 at 4:39 PM

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