Gandhi vs salt tax - what was the SD?

so Gandhi led lots of people to the sea and showed that, lo and behold, you can make salt from the water. Who knew… Now, what was happening there in economic terms? If that was such a great idea, why didn’t the poor, enterprising people in India to set up small businesses doing just that in response to the market distortion from the tax, without Gandhi’s advice? Was the big idea that the “businessmen” would be subject to tax whereas “consumers” could do it for their own use without tax? Or was it all just a publicity stunt because let’s say getting salt from sea water for cheaper than the taxed product was economically infeasible under the level of technology available to the poor Indian people, sort of like solemnly generating power by running a hamster in a flywheel to protest high electricity rates?

My understanding is that people already knew how to get salt from seawater. The problem was that the British were taxing the salt that they made by traditional methods. Gandhi led the protest against the tax. It was a bit like the Boston Tea Party: the American colonists didn’t discover how to make tea, but were protesting against what they saw as a unfair tax.

IIRC, the British weren’t only taxing salt, they were forbidding anyone else to make it. So rather then make it themselves from the ocean, the Indians had to buy taxed salt from the British.

Read Salt: A World History for everything you ever wanted to know about eating rocks.


It was illegal, under the laws of the British Raj, to make salt from seawater.

No. The reason that the East India Company and then the British government put a tax on Indian salt in the first place was in order to make their imported product economically competitive. If buying imported English salt had really been cheaper for Indians than buying locally produced salt, nobody would have bothered to tax the local product.

As Wiki explains,

Colonial powers frequently used the strategy of taxing or punishing local production of a particular commodity in order to sell their own imported version of the commodity more favorably. The 1733 Molasses Act, in which Britain raised the tax on the importation of molasses from non-British sources into its North American colonies, and the 1764 Sugar Act which cracked down on unauthorized importing of molasses, were the same sort of thing, similarly intended to improve the colonial market for the version of the product that the colonial power wanted to sell.

The story behind the Boston Tea Party is more complicated than that, but I’ve never read a coherent description of it.

Recent, very good, thread: Is this assessment of the Boston Tea Party more or less correct?

CMC fnord!