August 10, 2007
Prohibition works almost as well as socialism!
While I don't think it would be fair to speculate over how he feels about revenuers, Glenn Reynolds linked a particularly amusing post by Don Surber, who notes an ominous new trend -- high taxes on beer:
....Reuters Health news service reported earlier this week that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "is campaigning for tighter rules on the taxation of beer and on its availability, especially late at night and early in the morning." In its September 2003 report, the federally funded Institute of Medicine recommended raising alcohol excise taxes, stating that "top priority should be given to raising beer taxes."Says Surber,
Tis the return of the temperance movement. Except instead of using hatchets to smash taverns, these Carrie Nations are just going to tax the hell out of adult beverages.Yes, they are. And once again, I don't think they care whether the policies are doomed to fail. I'm reminded of what John Stossel said recently about Russia:
The fall of the Soviet Union deprived us of the biggest example of how socialism works. We need laboratories of failure to demonstrate what socialism is like.How fast we forget history! And I'm not just talking about the failure only of Russian socialism and American prohibition. Shortly before socialism collapsed, Gorbachev attempted the famous 1985 crackdown on alcohol consumption.
The first rules restricting access to alcohol came into effect on 1 June 1985. These were important, as they included a series of actions that could be enforced at once and where the impact of enforcement was highly visible, such as banning drinking of alcohol at all workplaces, including formerly legal bars, such as those in higher education establishments; banning sales before 2 p.m.; restricting alcohol sales to off-licences; and banning sales on trains (including dining-cars) and similar establishments.Unfortunately for the government, higher liquor prices translated into a dramatic decrease in revenue. Reason? People made their own!
....perhaps the most convincing evidence of its effectiveness was what ultimately led to its demise, its impact on public finances. The figures published at that time for spending on alcohol from official outlets fell in 1985 by 5 billion roubles from that in 1984 (note that the campaign only began in May 1985, so this is consistent with other evidence that consumption was falling before the campaign began), but by 1986 it had fallen further, by 15.8 billion roubles and by 1987 by a further 16.3 billion. The consequences for government revenues, together with the loss of power by Ligachev and Solomentsev, who had played an important part in the genesis of the campaign, are thought to have played a major part in its abandonment in 1988.Not only did the crackdown create a shortfall in government revenue, as the Mises Institute notes, it also created a severe sugar shortage:
Gorbachev's attempt to raise the level of sobriety in the country was a disaster. It brought a severe sugar shortage, as ordinary people rushed to produce their own vodka, privately. These consumers were the lucky ones.(Yeah, they didn't die from drinking poisoned brews made from anti-freeze and other toxins.)
Like the Americans, the Russians have a long tradition of making their own:
With his political reforms during the 1980s, former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev introduced a nationwide crackdown on alcohol, but that didn't stop people from brewing their own.Oh, and here's the recipe:
Take an old Russian washing machine, toss in a few ounces of yeast, a 22-pound sack of sugar, a gallon of fresh milk and 10 gallons of water, churn the brew for two hours and distill.That's a pretty crude method, but the principle is just getting the yeast to do its job and convert the sugar into the maximum percentage of alcohol (the point at which the yeast becomes pickled and stops working).
Distilling isn't all that complicated; a modified hot water heater (details here) will work beautifully. Or you can buy whatever you might need here, here, or any number of places. You could even use a modified water distiller like this, although regular water purification distillers are not calibrated to the right temperatures for distilling alcohol.
I haven't researched the law but this web site advises contacting the BATF if you intend to distill alcohol:
In the United States, those wishing to distill alcohol must contact their local BATF office to obtain an appropriate licensing prior to performing home distillation. It is the sole responsibility of the distiller to know and abide by all applicable laws.It's worth noting that distillation does not constitute the manufacture of alcohol. That's accomplished by the initial fermentation. Distillation only concentrates the existing alcohol.
Drinkable alcohol, by the way, is ethanol. Whether that means that there will eventually be a showdown between the greenie weenies and the neo-Prohibitionists I do not know. But the fact is, ethanol has become such a big deal that making it is now encouraged -- a fact which has not gone unnoticed by Mile Hi Distilling -- your "one stop source for all of your home distilling needs." Their web site helpfully provides the BATF's standard Form Fuel Application, which can be downloaded in pdf. Be sure to check out Mile Hi's models too! Typical still life on the left!
Obviously, ethanol is good for drinking or driving, but not both.
Anyway, I would never advise anyone to break the law here, and this blog post is only offered as a history lesson and a historical warning. People are too quick to forget the past.
My digression into distillation aside, as Don Surber notes, the current bureaucratic discussion involves raising taxes on beer, which is legal, easy, and cheap for almost any adult to make.
Numerous web sites like this will tell you how:
The basic homebrewing equipment is not all that expensive - you can probably get everything you need to start for $100 - $150 - and we'll be glad to direct you to it online in our related products section. Of course, you could also choose to ruin our fun and buy it from some local brewing supplies store. In order to start brewing, you will need the following items:Home brewing is already a fairly major industry, and if these people are serious about raising beer taxes (as they appear to be), it might be a good time to "get in on the ground floor" as the saying goes.
Who knows? If they're stupid enough to raise the beer taxes, they might be stupid enough to raise them even higher when the projected revenues don't pan out. Then home brewing would skyrocket, and then they'd really have to raise the taxes. (This process is called static analysis, and it's typical of the bureaucratic mindset.)
As far as the bureaucrats are concerned, this history lecture is probably a waste of time. Like the people who know that socialism doesn't work, these people also know that prohibition (even in the form of high taxes on alcohol) will not work.
But hey, if the program doesn't work, it's back to the drawing board for more meetings and more programs. And hiring new people to figure out how to "improve" on the old program.
If it failed before, and it fails again, we'll just have to keep getting it wrong so we can keep fixing it again.
If you don't like it, drink!
posted by Eric on 08.10.07 at 03:23 PM
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