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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12761/herbert-hoover-the-stalinist/

Herbert Hoover – the Stalinist

May 20, 2010 by

Patrick Barron, Professor of Austrian Economics at the University of Iowa pointed my attention to the following article:

The Chemist’s War: The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.


Here’s a quote from the article:

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

And another quote:

By mid-1927, the new denaturing formulas included some notable poisons—kerosene and brucine (a plant alkaloid closely related to strychnine), gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, ether, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, and acetone. The Treasury Department also demanded more methyl alcohol be added—up to 10 percent of total product. It was the last that proved most deadly.

Soviet government used exactly the same tactics against its own people and murdered even more citizens. “This was an evil act by our government, done for our own good, of course,” writes professor Barron.


Keep in mind that it was a “Great Humanitarian” Herbert Hoover under whose watch this was done.


Juraj May 20, 2010 at 6:32 pm

And one has to wonder why people portrait Hoover as some sort of free marketier. Murray Rothbard tells the real story in America’s Great Depression about Hoover. And this woman got it totally wrong:


Obviously, something called Hoover Institution cannot go around bashing that president.

htran May 20, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Wow, just wow, if true. Public good, huh?

Gil May 20, 2010 at 8:35 pm

So what? After all: “. . . regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits”. How is this different from putting explosive ink in a bag of money? Some drunkards are that desperate they’re willing to buy ilegal alcohol from a bootlegger with the knowledge they’ll die? Give a Darwin Award sticker as well. Why don’t you ask whether the bootlegger have a responsibility not to poison their customers nor steal industrial alcohol from others?

Russ May 20, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I agree. It was certainly uncalled for to poison alcohol in an ill-conceived attempt to prevent people from drinking it, but calling Hoover a Stalinist because of this is more than a bit hyperbolic.

HL May 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Indeed, this is why I put rat poison in the cookie jar. Darwin would approve. Afterall, Darwin is god, isn’t he?

mpolzkill May 20, 2010 at 9:10 pm

[Just for fun]

Internet headcase, would you rather have dye on your skin or poison in your stomach? Are laws against robbing banks and laws against ingesting certain substances both equally valid laws to you? I think they are, and that’s all one needs to know about you. However, I’m still slightly more curious: when and why did you begin your idiotic campaign against the Mises Institute?

mpolzkill May 20, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Oh, while I was typing another egomaniac lobbed his latest salvo in *his* idiotic campaign against the Institute, haha.

Stalinist = “Might makes right”. It was Stalin’s philosophy, it’s Gil’s philosophy, it was the poisoners’ philosophy. The difference between Stalin, Gil and Hoover is in how much they can get away with.

Russ May 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm

I didn’t realize that one had to follow the Mises Institute’s party line to the letter in order to post here. In fact, since the admins don’t delete our posts, it seems we don’t have to follow the party line to the letter. Some of the people here apparently appreciate that there are honest differences of opinion, and that debating with people who hold differing opinions helps hone one’s own arguments. Too bad you aren’t one of these people.

You are the one with the idiotic campaign; a campaign to cleanse Mises Institute of all unclean elements. If somebody doesn’t embrace the Gospel according to Matthew, they apparently must be excommunicated.

Gil May 20, 2010 at 11:23 pm

A picture of mpolzkill: here

mpolzkill May 21, 2010 at 3:12 am

How embarrassing, Russ, you sound like an hysterical lefty screaming “McCarthyism”. At least Gil, bless his heart, tried to address the points. By all means, both of you, keep representing conservatism here. And as always, I’ll keep ridiculing your toadies’ philosophies of power and your resultant lame comments.

newson May 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm

russ, unlike gil, your comments are intelligent, not just flippantly designed to get a rise. i find your motives unquestionable, even if we have differing opinions on the extent to which the state is intolerable.

Gil May 20, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Better yet mpolz – what if the security guards beat up or shot thieves they caught breaking into the factory? What they infringed upon those noble freedom fighters? The dastards!

Juraj May 21, 2010 at 2:36 am

Are you serious? Some twisted mind there.

Not only is prohibition of alcohol violation of human rights to do with their body as they wish, but deliberate poisoning by the government with the knowledge that there is a big chance that the poisoned substance will get stolen is beyond outrageous.

Slim934 May 21, 2010 at 7:03 am

“How is this different from putting explosive ink in a bag of money?”

Generally people do not try to consume stolen money for one, which results in stained skin as opposed to murder. Second, this presumes that the government has a right to intentionally murder it’s own citizens if it engages in vices that the Masters in D.C. do not believe the slaves should be engaging in.

Whether you think they should die because they act stupidly is irrelevant. The act was only made stupid by a much more stupid intervention by the government. An intervention it had no right doing.

Atleast this episode is another reminder of the absolutely retarded notion that the government gives a goddamn about individual human lives and not about its minions following its edicts.

newson May 21, 2010 at 11:53 pm

there are some who swear that explosive ink tastes like jim beam.

Enjoy Every Sandwich May 21, 2010 at 7:55 am

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that even a grotesquely immoral government action as this would have its supporters. The end justifies the means, gotta break a coupla eggs to make that omelet, etc.

If the feds start poisoning Happy Meals to further their “anti-obesity” campaign, would that be fine with you too? Hey, what’s the big deal with a few thousand dead kids? We got a WAR to fight!

Gil May 22, 2010 at 12:17 am

What? It’s wrong for the government to help protect the private property of those who lawfully own industrial alcohol from thieves? Your Happy Meals analogy fails because the industrial alcohol was never meant to be used for drinking.

Enjoy Every Sandwich May 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm

In this fashion, yes, it is wrong. It amounts to summary execution without trial. Thus, it is morally quite the same as the Happy Meal analogy.

After all, it’s not about the booze and the burgers, really, is it? You’re ticked because someone is defying the government, and you’re advocating instant death for even such a small infraction.

Gil May 23, 2010 at 10:52 am

No, you and others are cheering the thieves who steal alcohol because it was going to a more ‘noble’ cause.

Enjoy Every Sandwich May 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Nope. On the immediate issue of the alcohol theft, as little as I like thieves I just don’t think they deserve to be poisoned to death over it. On the larger and vastly more important issue of the role of government, it is immoral for the government exercise its power in this fashion.

Do you think this act was moral? If so, why?

Joshua May 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

Gil: I guess your not a fan of “proportionality”.I think a key difference is that this was mandated by the state. Isn’t that the greater crime here? Arguments about a private owner booby trapping his property in order to kill or deter (presuming he would place signs warning of poison to keep thieves away) thieves is a separate issue.

Inquisitor May 21, 2010 at 11:40 am

Why was the alcohol illegal…?

David Bratton May 20, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Let’s not forget the spraying of marijuana fields in Mexico and Central America with paraquat back in the 1970′s.

Some dude May 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Do they still do this with rubbing alcohol? I assume a manufacturer couldn’t produce an extremely cheap 180 proof ethanol version of rubbing alcohol without also making it poisonous.

Nate May 21, 2010 at 6:19 am

Not completely sure about rubbing alcohol, but manufacturers of ethanol place methyl alcohol in the fuel to avoid the federal alcohol taxes. I would imagine there is a chemical placed in rubbing alcohol to make it non-consumable for the same tax avoidance purpose.

Hard Rain May 20, 2010 at 11:42 pm

I believe they still poison nitrous oxide when it’s utilized outside the dentist’s office…?

Marcel May 21, 2010 at 6:59 am

Let’s see the source on magic poisoned Soviet vodka.

tfr May 21, 2010 at 11:20 am

I believe this was described in that Wickersham Report… you know, the one where a government committee investigates alcohol prohibition, finds it an utter failure, and recommends that the government clamp down much harder.

Joel B May 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Interesting thread, although the connection between the alcohol poisoning and whether or not Hoover was a ‘stalinist’ is pretty tenuous. However, this subject certainly illustrates the whole point of this site – the danger to the individual of an overreaching state in which bureaucratic institutions can invoke such horrific actions with little or no accountability.

Yuri N. Maltsev May 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Magic Poisoned Soviet Vodka:

Russian State News Agency ITAR Press reported:

“Russian official figures show that about 42 000 Russians die every year from
alcohol poisoning, often after drinking homemade vodka known as
“samogon,” or bottles of counterfeit beverages sold in shops.

A widespread habit of binge drinking is also seen as one of the main
causes of the country’s steep death rate and rapidly shrinking population.

Men in Russia die on average at 58 — 16 years earlier than their
counterparts in the West. The overall population, currently standing
at 142.4 million, shrinks on average by 700 000 every year, according
to official figures.”

See also:

Bruce Koerber May 22, 2010 at 9:01 am

Dear Yuri,

Is there really a Professor of Austrian Economics at the University of Iowa? First of all, the given link to his blog site does not work. Second, I live 25 miles from Iowa City, in Cedar Rapids, and I would be interested in meeting Professor Patrick Barron.

With warm regards and best wishes to you,
Bruce Koerber

KelThuz May 22, 2010 at 9:56 am

In Poland, and probably in Eastern European countries as well, there is a practice of “filtering” denaturized alcohol through bread (!) to make it drinkable and somewhat less poisonous. It is widespread among numerous bums and winos of Polish cities, because of the high tax on consumer alcohols.

Finn John May 31, 2010 at 9:14 am

Yuri, you might want to clarify the last line of your post — the poisoning campaign was in 1927 so I’m assuming Hoover’s involvement was in his capacity as secretary of commmerce under President Calvin Coolidge, right? This makes it sound like he was president at the time. (My in-depth knowledge of Hoover ends in about 1923, so I know very little about what he did as secretary of commerce, or as president really.)

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