Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Moonshine and Rainbows

"Project Africa" has, I've decided, become "Project Zambia", ex the big news stories in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Uganda. Radical downscaling was needed, because I'm three months into the project and still have basically nothing on the Sahara, North Africa, the Francophonie or even Nigeria, and no real plan for getting any interesting sources of information. It turns out, Africa is a big place. Whereas if I take the project down to the single country of Zambia then a) I have a bit of background knowledge via a whole load of stuff I took from my dad’s files, b) there is is the Zambian Economist blog to lift things from c) Zambia basically never appears in mainstream British or American news sources so it's more likely to be interesting to the blog readers. Here we go.

The economics of Zambian poteen, once more via Zambian Economist (I keep linking to it because it's such a great blog).

I am not sure I agree with the neoliberal case for deregulation here. I can see where Cho's coming from in that there's a sort of Hernando De Soto case for legalising and formalising an industry that's largely based on household production by the poor. But I can't help thinking of Gin Lane (plus the Appalachian experience with moonshine and rural Ireland) and concluding that widespread, unregulated and largely untaxed availability of distilled spirits is almost certainly bad news for economic development. I also tend rather more sceptical about the academic studies which have apparently proved that Zambia has the world's only moonshine production process that doesn't ever cause substantial health problems (particularly as the typical strength of kachasu is apparently 20-30% ABV, which is exactly the range associated with inefficient distilling processes chock full of methyl/fusel heads & tails). There are some substances which it's just empirically bad news to have around; even a lot of drugs legalisation campaigners will balk at trying to claim that the bad effects of methamphetamine production and consumption are just a result of criminalisation and that things would be OK if people could just get "pure" meth from their local pharmacist and pay tax on it.

Beer brewing is rather different; it was one of the first industrial products and there's decent history of the development of brewing from home production to industrialisation. But looking at the Times of Zambia article referenced here, it is pretty difficult to see anything that's going to turn into a development strategy in the Gin Lanes of George Township, Lusaka.

Meanwhile, poking around the Zambian media websites - wow, I mean wow. I am not really a fan of cheap laughs at the expense of LDC media organisations[1], but this is the first time I've ever seen a whimsical editorial quoting Cliff Richard lyrics while discussing the subject of armed police firing on student protestors. Although it has to be said that the Zambian police's excuse - that they used live ammo "because we had run out of tear gas" is a peach. Also Pirate universities? The ToZ is pretty baffled by this one too.

[1] And just to show good faith on this point, I have a copy of "The Kapelwa Musonda Files" on order from Amazon, and when I get it you'll see how stylish and subtle the very best of Zambian satirical journalism can be.
7 comments this item posted by the management 6/12/2008 01:34:00 AM

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