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History repeats itself: alcohol prohibition in Bihar

The Indian news channel News 18 reports:

On April 1, 2016, Bihar was declared a dry state. The JD(U)-led government enforced a five-year jail term for first-time offenders. In 2018, the law was amended to introduce a fine for first-time offenders. The sweeping victory in 2015 was attributed to the support of women who felt addressed by Nitish’s push for prohibition in Bihar.

In America a century ago women hoped that prohibition would stop so many wives being beaten by their drunken husbands. But National Geographic tells the story of how

Women campaigned for Prohibition—then many changed their minds

As then in the US, so now in Bihar:

However, the factor may have worked against him this time.

A female voter in Muzaffarpur said, “Liquor is still being sold illegally in the state. Those selling it are getting prosperous by the day and those consuming it are getting ruined. Alcohol is being sold under wraps and consumed in every other house. Families are being devastated. The police are party to this as well. They allow alcohol to infiltrate borders. My son earns and wastes all the money in drinking. There has been no alcohol ban.”

And

In a letter to the state government last year, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies quoted data from Bihar police, National Crime Records Bureau and ministry of transport and highway to press home the point that the liquor ban in Bihar has not reduced crime. The letter states that the ban has also boosted the sale of bootlegged alcohol, fetching profit margins of 400 per cent, while the lucrative opportunity has led to the rise of a powerful liquor mafia.

Half of rural women in Bihar are illiterate. I cannot blame them for not knowing the story of how prohibition turned out in a faraway country a hundred years earlier:

How Prohibition Put the ‘Organized’ in Organized Crime

Kingpins like Al Capone were able to rake in up to $100 million each year thanks to the overwhelming business opportunity of illegal booze.

Modern-day prohibitionists in the rich world have no such excuse. Nor do Indian politicians such as the aforementioned Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar. They can read. They have the internet. They can easily find out how this story always ends.

22 comments to History repeats itself: alcohol prohibition in Bihar

  • Johnathan Pearce

    As Einstein is reported to have said, a definition of madness is repeating the same experiment over and over, expecting a different result.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes – this one area I agree with the left. I despise the loss of moral agency that both alcohol and drugs bring, but as Prime Minister Gladstone said – one can not improve the morality of the people by government violence (or the threat of it).

    I repeat that I utterly despise what booze and drugs can do to people, and I admire (strongly admire) such people as the Governor of South Dakota who wish the public to be clear minded and in control of their conduct (rather than led by intoxicants to do things they BITTERLY REGRET when their reason returns) – where I DISAGREE is with the idea that state laws can protect people from their own moral degeneracy. In the end one can not protect people from THEMSELVES.

    Gladstone was right – I am certain that it is NOT by state action that the morality (the moral agency) of the people can be improved. One can not hold people to their own moral reason with a CLUB.

  • Paul Marks

    The women of Bihar are entirely CORRECT in their protests about what booze does – how it turns their husbands into drunken beasts, who waste their money (leaving their wives and children to go hungry – and leaving no SAVINGS for their OLD AGE), and leading men to beat and abuse women and children.

    Their mistake is not in describing the horrors of alcohol (and drug) abuse – but in their faith in GOVERNMENT EDICTS to stop this terrible conduct.

    Morality can be improved, it really can, but NOT by government action, NOT by the threat of violence.

    Moral free will can NOT be helped by state coercion against the very people one wishes had better moral reasoning and moral conduct.

  • Peter MacFarlane

    Never mind Bihar; right now it’s illegal to have a glass of wine with your dinner, if you’re staying in a hotel in Scotland.

    Puritanism returns!

  • Flubber

    Gladstone was right – I am certain that it is NOT by state action that the morality (the moral agency) of the people can be improved. One can not hold people to their own moral reason with a CLUB.

    This is what’s so toxic about CRT. Now white people are responsible for the sub optimal life choices of black people. It totally strips them of their agency. Its utterly nutty.

    There’s an interesting article here. I dont agree with it, but it does ask some interesting questions.

    https://thefederalist.com/2018/11/20/americans-disagree-racism-big-problem/

  • As Einstein is reported to have said, a definition of madness is repeating the same experiment over and over, expecting a different result.

    Repetition is essential to proper science. It’s the “expecting” part that causes trouble — same result or different result, expecting either leads to cherry-picking.

  • Paul Marks

    It does indeed Flubber – it does indeed.

    Yes Ellen – and we must always be ready for observation to overturn long cherished theories.

    Look how strongly defended Corporations against the attacks of Dr Sean Gabb and many others (including my friend Mr Ed – himself no friend of Dr Gabb) – I insisted that they had no evil Collectivist agenda. But the weight of evidence – shoved before me by BITTER EXPERIENCE, became so great that eventually I had to give way. I am certainly not happy about it.

    I would much rather be the one sneering “conspiracy theory”, “tin foil hat wearer” than the target of this myself – but the weight of observational (empirical) evidence just became too much. And I did not seek it out – on the contrary (to my shame) I tried to hide from it. But the evidence would not be hidden from.

  • thefat tomato

    Well they could have tried a sligthly different experiment(Brave New World) forcing all alcoholics/wife beaters onto a alcobuse and counselling.

  • Paul Marks

    Flubber -the trouble with the article is that it does not clearly say that the “Progressive” definition of racism is actually the Frankfurt School of Marxism definition of racism. As for the “racist” language of Donald John Trump in 2016 – I am not even sure if it was VULGAR language, as if one just reads out his words IN CONTEXT they are nothing much. Perhaps it was his ACCENT that Mr Ryan objected to – I must admit that a Queens New York accent grates on my ears as well – but it seems a bit odd to hate a man because of his ACCENT.

    Ellen – if the observational evidence of John Webb (Professor of Astrophysics at the University of New South Wales) is correct (a very big “if”) then a central principle of Einstein’s own theory (in relation to the speed of light) is in some difficulty.

  • Never mind Bihar; right now it’s illegal to have a glass of wine with your dinner, if you’re staying in a hotel in Scotland. Puritanism returns!

    I live in Perth, Scotland and the wine shelves of Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and so on have never been fuller. Maybe choosing to eat in a hotel restaurant under the control and damnation of Wee Jimmy Krankie and her band of demented porridge wogs is where you’re going wrong. Have that same food delivered to your room where the bottle of that cheeky Chianti from Tesco’s is sat on the desk waiting for the meal to arrive. Make sure they also bring a wine glass. For your wine.

    Sometimes the best and easiest answer to nanny state tyranny is open and absolute contempt for the law.

    Be creative! Have fun with your micro rebellion! Indulge yourself in it’s obvious contradictions!

  • Ellen – if the observational evidence of John Webb (Professor of Astrophysics at the University of New South Wales) is correct (a very big “if”) then a central principle of Einstein’s own theory (in relation to the speed of light) is in some difficulty.

    The “speed of light” stuff is Special Relativity. Once upon a time, I actually managed to understand it. It seems quite trustworthy. But I’m not sure anybody understands General Relativity, so I’m open to new data, if it’s repeatable.

    Why, I’m still pining for Cold Fusion. It made so much sense! Pity it hasn’t been very repeatable.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes indeed Ellen – yes indeed.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The “speed of light” stuff is Special Relativity. Once upon a time, I actually managed to understand it. It seems quite trustworthy. But I’m not sure anybody understands General Relativity, so I’m open to new data, if it’s repeatable.”

    The basic principles of general relativity can be understood with a decent postgrad course. The detailed implications in practical cases are another matter, but then the same is true of any theory. There’s plenty of pure Newtonian physics that would send most people screaming. Ask NickM about the Navier-Stokes equation, sometime.

    But in this case, the story is the usual tabloid nonsense. The new evidence being referred to is about the possibility that the fine structure constant might be slightly different in the early universe, not the speed of light. The speed of light is more akin to a units conversion, like that between metres and miles. The fine structure constant is about the strength of the electromagnetic interaction in quantum mechanics, and is empirically measured, not required to have any particular value by theory. (Indeed, the reasons why it has the value it does are still a mystery.) Einstein’s theory is in no difficulty.

  • The basic principles of general relativity can be understood with a decent postgrad course.

    I didn’t have much of a problem with “basic principles.” 😐 The details were quite another thing. They depend upon how far you can go in math. I had no problem with differential and integral calculus. I could handle spinor calculus. But when it came to tensor calculus – forget it. And G.R. seems to need tensors. 😡

  • Phil B

    Trying to ban alcohol when anyone with access to water, sugar and yeast to make bread is in the business of making alcohol. You need not rely on black market suppliers if all you want to do is get wasted.

    Making more palatable alcoholic drinks or even distilling spirits is trivially easy. Youtube is your friend here …

    In other words, they might as well try to ban breathing. It isn’t going to work.

  • bobby b

    “I had no problem with differential and integral calculus. I could handle spinor calculus. But when it came to tensor calculus – forget it. And G.R. seems to need tensors.”

    I ran that through Google Translate, but it gave me no comfort.

    (There are TWO relativity thingies?! Damn.)

  • thefat tomato

    on the other side, Oregon is decriminalising narcotics, similar to what Portugal has done.

  • Paul Marks

    Nullius is a liar, as we have seen on this blog many times, this does NOT mean that everything he says is a lie, but it is important to remember whenever he says anything.

    In this case the Daily Telegraph is not a “tabloid” and the story goes back to 2005 – now Einstein may be entirely correct (as I say above the fact that Nullius is a liar does NOT mean that EVERYTHING he says is a lie), but the fact that Nullius is so eager to support Einstein is hardly a point in the late Albert Einstein’s favour.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I didn’t have much of a problem with “basic principles.” 😐 The details were quite another thing. They depend upon how far you can go in math. I had no problem with differential and integral calculus. I could handle spinor calculus. But when it came to tensor calculus – forget it. And G.R. seems to need tensors.”

    Agreed. Tensors themselves are not so bad. They can be thought of as a linear machine that turns a list of vectors into a number. If you fill in some of the slots and leave others empty, you get a different sort of tensor. But they’re all really just functions of vectors. The real problem is curvature. A flat space lets you move from place to place and keep all the lengths and directions the same. For a curved space, each separate point has its own definitions of scale and direction which cannot automatically be mapped from place to place. It’s all the machinery for translating these underlying concepts from point to point that creates the complexity in general relativity. But you can build up a lot of intuition by doing it for spheres and toruses and so forth as 2D surfaces, and then extend that to 4D.

    “I ran that through Google Translate, but it gave me no comfort. (There are TWO relativity thingies?! Damn.)”

    🙂 There’s really only one relativity thingy, but it’s so complicated that they pick out a special case of ‘flat’ space to study separately to keep it simple. Special relativity is a special case of general relativity, like flat surfaces are a special case of curved surfaces. It’s easier.

    “In this case the Daily Telegraph is not a “tabloid” and the story goes back to 2005”

    I was using was using the word “tabloid” in the sense of “bad journalism” – sensationalist, over-simplified, inaccurate. I’m talking about the writing style, not the typographic layout.

    I am not a liar. What you’re referring to is that I often disagree with you, which is something else entirely. But I agree that we should all bear in mind that everyone is fallible, and you should be treating the Telegraph the same way you treat me, especially when they excitedly say things like “Einstein was wrong” as if that was something amazing or significant. Einstein is well-known by scientists to have been wrong about lots of things. He was as fallible as the rest of us. But when it comes to the speed of light, there are thousands of people who have claimed “Einstein was wrong” about it and so far have all proven to be mistaken. It’s a statement that should always be treated very sceptically.

    The person putting an argument forward is irrelevant to its truth. What matters is the evidence presented in its support. That goes as much for Einstein, as it does for me, or you, or the newspapers, or stories on Twitter.

  • the fact that Nullius is so eager to support Einstein is hardly a point in the late Albert Einstein’s favour. (Paul Marks, November 13, 2020 at 1:15 pm)

    Paul, the late Professor Einstein was very talented scientifically and very untalented politically. His scientific theories can hardly be criticised just because, long after his death, a commenter whom I have criticised on quite other issues (and who, it might be thought, in some ways parallels this relative balance of strengths and weaknesses) should judge a Telegraph ‘science’ article less ground-breaking than it presents. My own money is on Einstein at this juncture (and on Nullius’ expressing a both genuinely-held and defensible view in this particular thread).

    Nullius, I learned relativity as an undergraduate. Much of that was self-study and a period interning at a Royal Greenwich Observatory site (not Greenwich, obviously), and of course I learned vastly more about it as a post-grad, but I would not suggest that mere grasp of the theory needs a post-graduate course, or even post-graduate abilities.

    On the other hand, a good illustration of how Einstein could be clueless in the human field is how he complained about how everyone said his theory was incomprehensible. Einstein never understood that he had become a stereotype – the professor so clever he was incomprehensible. He never understood that, to fight the “no-one can understand Einstein’s relativity” trope in the public domain, he would have to address that aspect of it.

  • Robbo

    “He never understood that, to fight the “no-one can understand Einstein’s relativity” trope in the public domain, he would have to address that aspect of it.”
    Well, apart from the pop-sci book called ‘Relativity’ he published in 1920…

  • Kenneth C Mitchell

    ““Liquor is still being sold illegally in the state. Those selling it are getting prosperous by the day ”

    Just like that rumrunner and bootlegger Joe Kennedy. The Kennedy family and its excesses may have been the worst side-effect of Prohibition.

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