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Monday, February 22, 2010

Government Chemists Poisoned Citizens!?

Don’t panic … this happened in 1926. A short piece on this at Slate.com is a must-read, detailing a horrific, yet forgotten, moment in America’s Prohibition history. In brief, according to the article, federal officials, frustrated that Americans continued to drink their way through Prohibition, ordered that industrial alcohol supplies be poisoned. Industrial alcohol was frequently stolen by bootleggers and resold to people. The program killed as many as 10,000 people nationwide, until public health officials at the city level, seeing the dead pile up in their local hospitals, raised the alarm.

Like I said, don’t panic, this happened a long time ago. But do read and ponder the implications. Government frequently has a dysfunctional relationship with vice, and with the citizens who pursue whatever might be prohibited in a given era. Honolulu Magazine readers might remember the Green Harvest program, in which National Guard helicopters flew secret missions in the 1970s to drop herbicide on Big Island marijuana patches. Public outcry put a stop to that program too. No one claimed that Green Harvest killed anyone, but still, no one much liked the idea of government helicopters raining poison from the sky.

I’m just about speechless after reading about this Prohibition program. It’s so ghoulish, the mind reels. The only thing I can think of that makes sense is to lump it in with all the other democides of the 20th century, from Nazism to Soviet purges to China’s cultural revolution, all of which teach the same lesson: Nothing is more dangerous than moralizing bureaucrats who have decided you deserve to die.
 

Posted on Monday, February 22, 2010 in Permalink

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