Saturday, 11 February 2012

The price of prohibition....


We are all familiar with the impact of prohibition - organised crime, alcoholism, poisoning and an ever more frantic failure of public authorities to control. And there are parts of America where - because of the wholly racist idea that Native Americans can't hold their drink - prohibition is still in place:

The tribe lives on the Pine Ridge reservation, a 3,500 square mile area which has an estimated population of between 28,000 and 40,000, and includes the site of the Battle of Wounded Knee

It is one of the poorest places in the United States with 80 per cent unemployment and an average estimated life expectancy of between 45 and 52, the shortest in mainland North America.

Alcohol has been illegal on the reservation since 1832 but is readily available in Whiteclay, which is just 200ft from the edge of Pine Ridge. 

Now the problem here is that business people in Whiteclay have realised that, because the authorities on the reservation ban booze, there's a great opportunity to flog its residents drink. Or more to the point, sell it to 'criminals' who bootleg the beer onto the reservation for illegal resale.

And it isn't watery lager they're smuggling but stronger brews (at least 10% ABV):

According to local people two of the most popular drinks on the reservation are Hurricane malt liquor and and Evil Eye malt liquor. 

This is not a consequence of the retailer nor is it the fault of the manufacturer - it results entirely from the stupidity of prohibition. And suing drinks companies for millions of dollars won't solve the problems of the reservation - indeed problems with alcohol aren't the cause of those problems but are rather a symptom. I'm guessing - don't know for sure - that for most of the reservation's residents, life is not very pleasant. No work, poor schools, isolation, loneliness and the departure of anyone with the wit and skills to get on in life.

But it's much simpler to blame someone else - especially if that someone's a big multinational drinks company!


1 comment:

nisakiman said...

"According to local people two of the most popular drinks on the reservation are Hurricane malt liquor and and Evil Eye malt liquor."

Yuk. Sounds like Gold Label Barley Wine. Double yuk!

" results entirely from the stupidity of prohibition..."

How true. The do-gooders have a lot to answer for.

"Those of us who believe in freedom must believe also in the freedom of individuals to make their own mistakes. If a man knowingly prefers to live for today, to use his resources for current enjoyment, deliberately choosing a penurious old age, by what right do we prevent him from doing so? We may argue with him, seek to persuade him that he is wrong, but are we entitled to use coercion to prevent him from doing what he chooses to do? Is there not always the possibility that he is right and we are wrong? Humility is the distinguishing characteristic of the believer in freedom, arrogance of the paternalist."

Milton Friedman.

Wise words indeed.