Monday, 11 June 2018

Forgotten moonshine

I've been reading Kevin R. Kosar's Moonshine: A Global History which I commend to you. It is easy to for those of us in rich countries to forget how much illicit, homemade and unlicensed alcohol is consumed in low and middle income countries. A report published by IARD today gives some estimates and they are pretty staggering.

45 per cent of the alcohol consumed in low income countries is unlicensed. In places like Uganda and Mozambique, it exceeds 60 per cent. Rates in middle income countries are lower but still surprisingly high: 28 per cent in Brazil, for example, and 38 per cent in Russia.

Among the problems with moonshine is its tendency to kill large numbers of people all of a sudden. The IARD report various examples from Indonesia to the Czech Republic. In some cultures, homebrew and moonshine are part of the culture and are relatively harmless, but it is fair to say that most illicit alcohol is consumed because people are unable to acquire the commercial product. In some instances this is because of prohibition, but generally it is because of the lack of affordability, which is driven by a combination of poverty and taxation.

I recently wrote about how the World Health Organisation has become a vehicle for the concerns of middle class white people in the first world. This is evident in its response to alcohol abuse. It wants every country to raise taxes on booze despite the clear link between taxation and illicit alcohol. It demonises 'Big Alcohol' despite the fact that it would be a jolly good thing if alcohol manufacturers and their regulated products took a larger share of the market in most countries.

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