Taxes and Regulations Kill 143 People in India

The Wapo reports:

SANGRAMPUR, India — Bootleg liquor containing toxic methanol killed 143 people and sickened dozens more who drank the cheap, illicit brew bought at small shops in eastern India, officials said Thursday. Police arrested 10 suspected bootleggers.

Emergency medical teams rushed to the village outside Kolkata, and thousands of relatives, many of them wailing in grief, gathered outside the packed hospital. Inside, dead bodies lay on the floor covered in quilts, while the ill waited on staircases to be treated. Groups of men sat in the halls with saline drips running into their arms.

Now I’m going to re-arrange some of the article in order of importance:

  • The [illegal liquor] trade is allowed to flourish despite strict laws against spurious liquor because corrupt police, local officials and tax authorities all get a cut of the profits, he said.


  • Illicit liquor is a hugely profitable industry across India, where bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product, said Johnson Edayaranmula, executive director of the Indian Alcohol Policy Alliance, an organization that fights alcohol-related problems.


  • Illegal liquor operations flourish in the slums of urban India and among the rural poor who can’t afford the alcohol at state-sanctioned shops. The hooch, often mixed with cheap chemicals to increase potency and profit, causes illness and death sometimes — and occasionally mass carnage.

While most of the great unwashed would stomp their feet and demand government “reform itself” and “crack down” upon the illegal liquor vendors, I want to look at why the illegal liquor trade is such a problem in the first place.

The article is quite clear about why the illegal liquor trade exists, yet the author, nor those whom he interviews, never bother to comment on this.  It is as if the illegal liquor trade simply created itself out of thin air and the poor people simply want to drink cheap contaminated liquor from disreputable sources.

Clearly the entire illegal liquor trade in India is a product of taxation and regulation on liquor.  The Indian State has regulated and taxed liquor to such an extent that the poor people (whom are the most common consumers of liquor) can no longer afford to buy high quality liquor from reputable sources.

Consider that it doesn’t cost any more to produce normal liquor than it does the poisonous additives that were used in the hooch.  A 55 gallon drum of methanol costs 175 dollars.  A 55 gallon drum of ethanol costs 151.25 dollars.  It is actually cheaper to produce regular drinking alcohol than the poisonous additives that killed the consumers.

The only possible explanation for why poisonous methanol was used is because the regulatory system and taxes have imposed such enormous costs upon good drinking alcohol that the poor people have turned to moonshine instead.

The article goes one step further and even explains why this regulatory state exists in the first place!  TO BENEFIT THE CORRUPT GOVERNMENT AGENTS WHO GET A CUT OF THE ILLEGAL PROFITS!

Clearly we can put the blame for these dead poor people squarely at the foot of the Indian government.  The moonshiners would not exist if the Indian State did not tax and regulate alcohol out of the market place.  Of course, this same logic applies to ALL MARKETS.  Any time the State places massive tax and regulatory burdens upon a highly desirable product, people will turn to the black markets to get their fix.  Bans do not work, taxes do not work, and regulations do not work to keep people safe.  As we can see, they typically end up killing the people they were supposedly designed to protect.