Alcohol Bans in India and the United States

by on April 6, 2017 at 7:29 am in Economics, Food and Drink, Law, Travel | Permalink

The Indian Supreme Court has just banned sales of alcohol within 500 meters of a national highway. The ban affects not just liquor stores but tens of thousands of restaurants and hotels. In response, the Rajasthan Public Works Department announced that they would now recategorize highways in urban areas as roads! Other states may follow suit. (David Keohane at the FT has further background on the India ban.)

Lost in the shenanigans is that even if the ban were implemented perfectly it’s not at all obvious that it would reduce traffic accidents. Alcohol can be easily stored and if you are thirsty driving 500 meters doesn’t seem like very far to go to buy alcohol.

Entire counties in the United States have banned alcohol but that doesn’t seem to have reduced traffic fatalities. It may even have increased fatalities because residents of dry counties drive to a wet county to find a bar and then they drive drunk for longer distances as they head home.

1 Bill April 6, 2017 at 7:37 am

I am for free alcoholic drinks at NRA conventions which permit attendees to carry guns.

2 ABV April 6, 2017 at 9:14 am

We do have lots of bars in Oklahoma that are attached to shooting ranges, though you can’t drink before shooting – only after. We are always ready for the next war, we know we can’t rely on the coasties to sign up for the military or shoot straight if we need a draft.

3 josh April 6, 2017 at 9:27 am

Admirable, yet, the next war will likely be just as stupid as the last one.

4 GoneWithTheWind April 6, 2017 at 10:15 am

All wars are stupid but defending yourself isn’t. I also believe a good arguement can be made for defending a friend or a friendly nation as well. The alternative is worse than stupid.

5 Bill April 6, 2017 at 10:05 am

ABV, Love it.

6 Careless April 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm

As stupidly ineffective as your wishes would be, that’s an incredibly ugly sentiment. So congratulations on 15 words making you look both stupid and evil

7 Bill April 6, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Guns don’t kill people

Drunks kill people.

8 Bill April 6, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Hey, Careless,

Is it any different than letting a mentally ill person buy a gun?

9 rayward April 6, 2017 at 7:53 am

Actually, the India Supreme Court didn’t do it, the government agency did it: “The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) is an apex body for road safety established under Section 215 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. NRSC unanimously agreed in a meeting which was held nearly thirteen years ago on 15 January 2004 that licences for liquor shops should not to be given along the national highways. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) issued a circular to all the state governments advising them to remove liquor shops situated along national highways and not to issue fresh licenses.” What the court did was affirm the validity of the rule, applying the following standard: “In doing that, the court must ensure that the parameters for the exercise of its jurisdiction are confined to the familiar terrain of enforcing the constitutional right to lead a life of dignity and self-worth.” Dignity and self-worth. This brings to mind my first trip to the Bighorn. My flight out of Billings departed early, so my early morning drive between the Bighorn and Billings was in the dark. The previous evening, the couple with whom I had been staying warned me to be on the lookout for “drunk Indians” (native Americans), their vehicle parked in the middle of the highway, the driver passed out from too much alcohol. Sure enough, as I sped along the highway that runs through the reservation, I caught the reflection of an old truck, sitting in the middle of the highway, and slowed to avoid a collision. As I passed the truck, its engine still running, an Indian was fast asleep at the steering wheel. Dignity and self-worth, indeed.

10 Thiago Ribeiro April 6, 2017 at 8:15 am

“Alcohol can be easily stored and if you are thirsty driving 500 meters doesn’t seem like very far to go to buy alcohol.”
If the car had not been invented, the ban would have a much better probability of working.

11 The Other Jim April 6, 2017 at 8:21 am

And if Brazil had not been invented, the people living in that area would be Spanish-speakers, to their great benefit.

12 Thiago Ribeiro April 6, 2017 at 8:38 am

No, they wouldn’t and it wouldn’t be to anyone’s benefit. Only the interior dynamism and the overwhelming power of the Brazil people were able to tame the vast wilderness of the Brazilian territory. Where there were jungles and Native huts, now there are farm plots and skyscrapers. We have a civilizing mission as summed up by Mr. Virgil:

“Roman, remember by your strength to rule
Earth’s peoples—for your arts are to be these:
To pacify, to impose the rule of law,
To spare the conquered, battle down the proud.” “

13 Just Saying April 6, 2017 at 9:12 am

Ugh…thank God Brazil is tucked away into a nothing little corner of the world. There people are insufferable.

14 Thiago Ribeiro April 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm

It is not a little corner, it is huge, bigger than the Roman Empire at its height. Bigger than the USA contiguous territory. Then sun never sets on the Brazilian greatness.

15 JK Brown April 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm

The still was invented before the car. And bootleggers had their stills more than 500 meters from the nearest highway.

16 Thiago Ribeiro April 6, 2017 at 1:30 pm

But with no cars, who would they sell to? Peregrines?

17 The Other Jim April 6, 2017 at 8:18 am

Statists will say virtually anything in order to justify selling alcohol as widely and frequently as possible, because of the large amount of cash it diverts to Government, in so many different ways.

It’s hard to pick my favorite excuse. But Tyler’s “We should have bars in every county so that the addicted drunks don’t have to drive as far on our public roads” is a top contender.

18 TMC April 6, 2017 at 8:29 am

So not quite Baptists and bootleggers. Is there a phrase where libertarians and statists work together? I get my freedom as long as the statist gets his vig?

19 Axa April 6, 2017 at 8:41 am

12th century: alcohol is the Devil’s drink.

21th century: alcohol is the government’s drink.

20 Pshrnk April 6, 2017 at 10:30 am

“12th century: alcohol is the Devil’s drink.

21th century: alcohol is the government’s drink.”

Therfor: The government is the devil?

21 Nebfocus April 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

This post was by Alex, not Tyler. Nice mangling of the whole post so you can call him a statist.

22 Ricardo April 7, 2017 at 1:16 am

The U.S. government raises less than $10 billion per year in excise taxes imposed on alcohol; it is a drop in the bucket in terms of the federal budget. Alleged encouragement from “statists” is an unlikely factor in people’s fondness for booze.

23 asdf April 6, 2017 at 8:47 am

When I was in Singapore alcohol was available, but the prices were extremely high. Much higher then America, and relative to other prices as well. Like cars I believe they have very high taxes on alcohol.

While this avoids the problem of bootleggers, since its legal, it also highly disincentives alcohol consumption, which is low in Singapore. This has positive public health and public good effects.

They also did have alcohol bans in certain neighborhoods at certain times. For instance, you could not drink alcohol in public in the Muslim area. This seems to have done a good job of keeping public order.

In addition Singapore simply has a culture of self control. Drugs aren’t seen as some virtuous act of freedom like they are with libertarians. More like any other vice that needs to be managed pragmatically.

24 jim jones April 6, 2017 at 8:53 am

What about chewing gum, is that still illegal?

25 Thiago Ribeiro April 6, 2017 at 8:55 am

No, but there is strict gum control.

26 Pshrnk April 6, 2017 at 10:31 am

You can have my gum when you pry it from my cold dead lips.

27 Thiago Ribeiro April 6, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Then I will have no use for them.

28 Nebfocus April 6, 2017 at 9:04 am

Illegal for sale, not for possession or consumption.

29 msgkings April 6, 2017 at 12:19 pm

So you have to grow your own gum?

30 John Mansfield April 6, 2017 at 9:16 am

Where is it harder to bootleg cheap untaxed alcohol? The place with prohibitively expensively taxed alcohol, or the place with no legal alcohol sales? I could see it going either way, depending on how the controlled sales are managed.

31 JWatts April 6, 2017 at 9:19 am

“When I was in Singapore alcohol was available, but the prices were extremely high … While this avoids the problem of bootleggers, since its legal,”

That doesn’t avoid the bootlegging problem. Bootlegging is often about avoiding taxes.

“Rum-running, or bootlegging, is the illegal business of transporting (smuggling) alcoholic beverages where such transportation is forbidden by law. Smuggling is usually done to circumvent taxation or prohibition laws within a particular jurisdiction. ”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rum-running

32 Anonymous April 6, 2017 at 10:38 am

Why would it have positive public health benefits? Doesn’t alcohol consumption reduce mortality?

33 Thiago Ribeiro April 6, 2017 at 1:33 pm

No, it ruins the moral, corrupts the sould, rots the brain and destroys the body.

34 anon April 6, 2017 at 6:30 pm

The correct answer was “yes.” Sorry Thiago.

35 Thiago Ribeiro April 6, 2017 at 7:34 pm

No, it is “no”. It kill people, destroy their lives, makes beasts out of men, whores out of women and slaves out of free people. It looses one’s tongue and one’s moral.

36 Robert McCall April 10, 2017 at 5:43 am

Science again FTW. Alcohol is a poison in any amount.

Here’s the last three paragraphs of this Dec 23, 2016 WaPo article (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/for-women-heavy-drinking-has-been-normalized-thats-dangerous/2016/12/23/0e701120-c381-11e6-9578-0054287507db_story.html?utm_term=.827fe908902a):

The CDC’s Brewer, however, said that Connor’s research — and other recent work highlighting the health risks of drinking — is persuasive.

“The current and emerging science does not support the purported benefits of moderate drinking,” Brewer said. “The risk of death from cancer appears to go up with any level of alcohol consumption.

“The guidelines talk about low-risk consumption, but there is no such thing.”

37 Careless April 6, 2017 at 11:59 pm

In Medan Indonesia the liquor was smuggled out of Singapore duty free somehow, which was interesting.

38 Todd K April 6, 2017 at 9:03 am

“Lost in the shenanigans is that even if the ban were implemented perfectly it’s not at all obvious that it would reduce traffic accidents. Alcohol can be easily stored and if you are thirsty driving 500 meters doesn’t seem like very far to go to buy alcohol.”

It is obvious – At. The. Margin.

It helps to balance out the drive -thru liquor stores New Mexico has, or used to have.

39 Shane M April 6, 2017 at 4:34 pm

My impression was that it took a long time to drive 500m in India (but I haven’t been there).

40 Kevin- April 6, 2017 at 9:43 am

Drive-through Daiquiri stands are common in Louisiana. You can get a Slurpee-sized alcoholic drink in a huge Styrofoam cup with a plastic lid. A small piece of Scotch tape (pardon the pun) is put on top of the straw to prevent drinking while driving.

Louisiana has the highest auto insurance premiums in the country.

41 Bill April 6, 2017 at 10:07 am

Great observation on externalities.

42 Art Deco April 6, 2017 at 10:23 am

Louisiana has the highest auto insurance premiums in the country.

Louisiana also has the highest rate of nativity in the country amongst its state residents. You have high insurance rates because you’re the sort of people whose motto is “Laissez les bon temps rouler”.

43 Pshrnk April 6, 2017 at 10:33 am

I’ll get the mudbugs, you bring the beer, we’ll get a band and have a fait do-do this weekend.

44 JK Brown April 6, 2017 at 1:21 pm

The LA insurance rates are high because it only takes about 10 miles of highway driving to destroy your paint job from all the bug impacts.

45 Anon_senpai April 7, 2017 at 12:19 am

I thought collisions with gators accounted for those high premiums?

46 Hadur April 6, 2017 at 10:26 am

If I’ve learned one thing from Alex in 2017, it’s that the Indian state will probably fail to enforce this law. So why worry about it?

47 JWatts April 6, 2017 at 10:48 am

” it’s that the Indian state will probably fail to enforce this law.”

I think that this would be the wrong conclusion. I suspect that the Indian state will fail to enforce it consistently and many bribes will be transferred in the process of failing to enforce it.

48 Alain April 6, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Winner.

49 CD April 6, 2017 at 4:30 pm

I was in Bangalore a year or two back during a temporary ban on liquor sales around an election. To my frustration, it was very effectively enforced.

50 mbutu o malley April 6, 2017 at 11:50 am

So to make this more effective they should expand the highway system. This isn’t a ban on alcohol it’s an infrastructure proposal!

51 Techreseller April 6, 2017 at 3:12 pm

My friend lives in a religious rural area of Virginia. He said never go fishing with just one Baptist. He will drink all your beer, Always go fishing with two Baptists. The Baptists will not drink any.

52 Corporate Serf April 6, 2017 at 5:01 pm

Hmm, I heard that same joke about another group in a different part of the country.

53 PhilippeO April 7, 2017 at 12:39 am

Its Virtue signalling, residents of dry county want to show they are more sober, morally-minded, and religious than residents of wet counties. Avoiding drunk driving is simple invented reason

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