Daniel Okrent on The Daily Show, July 7, 2010

Daniel Okrent’s Last Call, a history of the rise and fall of alcohol prohibition, is a masterpiece. Of course the writing is great but Okrent is also very good at building the history on a framework of analysis and social science. Here is Okrent on Prohibition and the income tax:

By 1875 fully one-third of federal revenues came from the beer keg and the whiskey bottle, a proportion that would increase in the years ahead and that would come to be described by a temperance leader in 1913, not inaccurately, as “a bribe on the public conscience.”

…it would be hard enough to fund the cost of government without the tariff and impossible without a liquor tax. Given that you wouldn’t collect much revenue from a liquor tax in a nation where there was no liquor, this might have seemed like an insurmountable problem for the Prohibition movement. Unless, that is, you could weld the drive for Prohibition to the campaign for another reform, the creation of a tax on incomes.

Last Call, Marginal Revolution, July 12, 2010

Also see It’s all just a matter of degree, Kids Prefer Cheese, July 12, 2010


The 18th Amendment (Alcohol Prohibition).

The 21st Amendment (repeal of the 18th Amendment).

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