Monday, 2 January 2017

Liquor control and homicide

Howard Bodenhorn, of Clemson University, has a new NBER working paper out on Blind Tigers and Red-Tape Cocktails: Liquor Control and Homicide in Late-Nineteenth-Century South Carolina, NBER Working Paper No. 22980, issued in December 2016..

The abstract reads,
In 1893 South Carolina prohibited the private manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol and established a state monopoly in wholesale and retail alcohol distribution. The combination of a market decline in the availability of alcohol, reduced variety, and monopoly pricing at state-operated outlets encouraged black markets in alcohol. Because black market participants tend to resort to extra-legal mechanisms for dispute resolution, including violence, one result of South Carolina’s alcohol restriction was an increase in homicide. A continuous-treatment difference-in-difference approach reveals that homicide rates increased by about 30 to 60 percent in counties that more vigorously enforced the law.
Now while the conclusions of the paper are interesting in and of themselves I can't help but think that such results should give supporters of the current "War on Drugs" pause for thought. I mean what are the chances that the war on drugs has helped enforce a black market for drugs involving a recourse to violence to settle disputes and thus an increase in homicides? This is in addition to the violence inherent in the actions of authorities fighting the war on drugs.

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