If beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, then the hysteria over proposed tax-breaks for microbreweries is proof that the Left wants to micromanage society.
Now that Republicans are calling the shots in Washington, they’re overhauling the tax code and in the process making it easier for everyone to get a drink. Legislation in the House and Senate would slash beer taxes from $7 to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels sold, and drop liquor taxes from $13.50 to $2.70 on the first 100,000 gallons distributed. The measure is intended to lower barriers to entry in the alcohol business.
But while the Grand Old Party gets ready to help America party, the Left seems ready to merge with the Prohibition Party. They warn that people will die because of this provision as livers shut down, and that the nation will stumble into a moral stupor.
Think Progress fears that the tax bill could “exacerbate an existing public health problem” and the Washington Post straight up declares that people will “die as a result of the Senate’s tax cut on booze.” Both rely on recent analysis from the Brookings Institute which estimates that easier access to alcohol could annually cause “between 281 and 659 additional motor vehicle fatalities” and another “1,550 additional alcohol-related deaths.”
To be sure, any loss of life is tragic, and more booze isn’t always better. But in a nation of 300 million, those are statistically insignificant numbers. And this sort of social engineering on the margins is always ill-advised. Busybodies would have a better chance regulating the weather which, the Center for Disease Control reports, takes “about 2,000 U.S. residents each year.”
Still WaPo and company copy and paste the findings of that Brookings study which reports that more booze taxes mean less crime, violence, and sexually transmitted diseases. That might be true, but it begs the question: Is it really worth turning all the knobs that must be turned and the social levers that must be pulled to create the perfect society? Didn’t we try this before with the 18th Amendment, only to give up a few years later?
Turns out, social engineering comes with certain unpleasant externalities. Regulating too hard often means unfortunate social hangovers like the vice squads, gangsters, and lawlessness that followed prohibition. Regulating too little means that private citizens will make good and bad decisions for themselves. The horror!
Underlying this rush to regulate booze is a puritanical and administrative arrogance. These social engineers want to rebuild the world according to their values and their norms, and they especially can’t stand tax legislation that puts individuals more in control of their own lives.