Comment: Hah - I think the rebellion

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Hah - I think the rebellion

Hah - I think the rebellion resulted because the tax had the effect of running smaller whiskey producers out of business - thereby destroying their livelihoods. The whiskey tax was a per-barrel surcharge that was capped at so many barrels, per annum.

To illustrate - lets say the tax was a 1 dollar surcharge for the first hundred barrels. Producers who made less than 100 barrels per year, were taxed a dollar per barrel. But those who produced 200 barrels per year had an effective tax of 50 cents per barrel. Thus, the larger producer could undercut the smaller producers. Moreover, the extra profits the larger producers made allowed them to ramp up business, increase barrel output, thereby lowering the per-barrel effective tax even further. In turn this just increased their competitive advantage. The government thereby acquired a mechanism to pick winners or losers in business - by giving preferential taxation to larger producers. This moral hazard was a precursor of great corruption to come.

The tax should have been a surcharge on all barrels produced with no cap - so it had an equivalent effect on all producers and did not have an anti-competitive effect. The amount of the tax (one dollar per barrel, fifty cents per barrel, etc.) should have been adjusted to meet the revenue requirements that were used to justify the tax - not a cap on the number of barrels that were taxed.

The anti-competitive effect, moral hazard and inherent corruption of this type of tax was repeatedly raised in protest by the smaller producers as well as their representatives in government. The government repeatedly chose to ignore those protests. Having been apprised of detrimental nature of their tax, they should have been expected to remedy the problem as I outlined above. The fact that they did not draws their motives into question - perhaps it was a payoff to larger whiskey distillers, or perhaps a way to consolidate money behind a group of political backers, etc.

It's also worth noting that the large whiskey distillers were in joint ventures with the big African slave traders - as whiskey was the primary payment to African warlords in exchange for captured slaves. So the government's tax effected an indirect subsidy to the slave trade, through the inherent anticompetitive business advantage.

All of this - as well as the indignity of elected officials picking some for success and damning others to failure - generated the angst that led to the Whiskey rebellion. So it wasn't just a group of crazies preferring anarchy. It was an attempt to redress a very legitimate grievance caused by an injustice perpetrated by the government itself, that it repeatedly refused to remediate when brought to its attention. In any semblance of a free country, the government must be duty-bound to correct injustices caused by its actions and brought to its attention. I agree with those who argue that anti-freedom of the federal government was made clear by its response to the Whiskey Rebellion.