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Bootleggers and Baptists is a theory of the origin of particular regulations on the sale of alcoholic beverages (blue laws), which was first proposed by Bruce Yandle in a 1983 Regulation Magazine article.[1] The story is based on an actual phenomenon in certain communities, though it can easily be applied to other regulations.

Contents

The story

The story begins with Baptists in a rural community demanding the local government ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays. "Alcohol", they might say, "is a vile drink and efforts should be curbed to restrict its spread through society, especially on the Lord's Day." Under this noble tone, the government complies and enacts a ban.

But the demand for alcohol doesn't disappear when the supply does. People still want to drink on Sundays and so the bootleggers step up and illegally sell alcohol. And because the supply is restricted because far fewer people are selling liquor, one day a week the bootlegger gains monopoly power and the lucrative market that goes with it.

Willie Morris's memoir North Toward Home contains a real-life example of this phenomenon:[2]

Mississippi was a dry state, one of the last in America, but its dryness was merely academic, a gesture to the preachers and the churches. My father would say that the only difference between Mississippi and its neighbor Tennessee, which was wet, was that in Tennessee a man could not buy liquor on Sunday. The Mississippi bootleggers, who theoretically operated "grocery stores," with ten or twelve cans of sardines and a few boxes of crackers for sale, stayed open at all hours, and would sell to anyone regardless of age or race. My father could work himself into a mild frenzy talking about this state of affairs; Mississippi, he would say, was the poorest state in the union, and in some ways the worst, and here it was depriving itself of tax money because the people who listened to the preachers did not have the common sense to understand what was going on.
Every so often there would be a vote to determine whether liquor should be made legal. Then, for weeks before, the town would be filled with feverish campaign activity. People would quote the old saying, "As long as the people of Mississippi can stagger to the polls, they'll vote dry." A handful of people would come right and say that liquor should be made legal, so that the bootleggers and the sheriffs would not be able to make all the money, and because the state legislature's "black-market tax" on whiskey, a pittance of a tax that actually contradicted the state constitution, was a shameful deceit. But these voices were few, and most of the campaigning was done by the preachers and the church groups. In their sermons the preachers would talk about the dangers of alcoholism, and the shame of all the liquor ads along the highways in Tennessee and Louisiana, and the temptations this offered the young people. Two or three weeks before the vote, the churches would hand out bumper stickers to put on cars; in big red letters they said, "For the sake of my family, vote dry." An older boy, the son of one of the most prosperous bootleggers, drove around town in a new Buick, with three of those bumper stickers plastered on front and back: "For the sake of my family, vote dry."

In Kentucky a similar, but thought to be more reciprocal, phenomenon has been referred to as the unholy alliance:

...the marriages of convenience between bootleggers and ministerial associations that occur in small towns all across Kentucky every time a wet-dry local option issue comes up for a public vote.

Analysis

Map of open container laws in the United States by state, as of 2009.

The bootleggers and the Baptists both have an incentive to limit the legal consumption and distribution of alcohol, and later on the term bootlegger was known as the person to go to for alcohol during prohibition, the former with the economic reason and the latter with the ethical justification that people will support, though by their very nature the two groups wouldn't get along. The politician effectively acts as the go-between, taking the bootlegger's campaign contributions and citing the Baptist's morals in speeches. The result can be ultimately less regulation and a certain Victorianism with regard to alcohol consumption in the Southern states. Open container laws are an example. They tend to be looser in more Baptist areas. Compare the map at right to a map showing "Baptists as a Percentage of all Residents, 2000" in each county of the USA.[3]

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Gambling

An example of the regulatory back-fire described by this theory is the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal of the work of political lobbyists, Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, and Michael Scanlon, on Indian casino gambling interests for an estimated $85 million in fees. Abramoff and Scanlon grossly overbilled their clients, and all four split the multimillion-dollar take. They secretly orchestrated lobbying against their own clients in order to force them to pay for inflated lobbying services. Three lobbied legislatures while Reed remained outside, inflaming existing conservative religious sentiment against gambling in the South.

See also

References

  1. ^ Bruce Yandle, "Bootleggers and Baptists: The Education of a Regulatory Economist." Regulation 7, no. 3 (1983): 12.
  2. ^ W. Morris, North Toward Home, Macmillan Publishers (1968) pp.54-55.
  3. ^ Department of Geography and Meteorology, "Baptists as a Percentage of all Residents, 2000" Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.

External links


Bootleggers and Baptists, or more often bootleggers and preachers is a model of politics in which opposite moral positions lead to the same vote. Specifically, preachers demand prohibition to make alcohol illegal while the criminal bootlegger wants it to stay illegal so he can stay in business.[1][2][3] One version deals with regulations on the sale of alcoholic beverages (blue laws), which was first proposed by Bruce Yandle in a 1983 Regulation Magazine article.[4] The story is based on history; it can easily be applied to other regulations.[5]

Contents

The story

One version begins with preachers in a rural county demanding the government ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays. "Alcohol", they might say, "is a vile drink and efforts should be curbed to restrict its spread through society, especially on the Lord's Day." The Baptists electorate votes the county dry.

But the demand for alcohol doesn't disappear when the supply does. People still want to drink on Sundays and so the bootleggers step up and illegally sell alcohol. And because the supply is restricted because far fewer people are selling liquor, one day a week the bootlegger gains monopoly power and the lucrative market that goes with it.

Willie Morris's memoir North Toward Home contains an example of this phenomenon:[6]

Description

The bootleggers and the preachers both have an incentive to limit the legal consumption and distribution of alcohol, and later on the term bootlegger was known as the person to go to for alcohol during prohibition, the former with the economic reason and the latter with the ethical justification that people will support, though by their very nature the two groups wouldn't get along. The politician effectively acts as the go-between, taking the bootlegger's campaign contributions and citing the preacher's morals in speeches.

Cannabis

In responses to a 2010 ballot initiative to legalize cannibis in the state of California, many growers, who were operating illegally or growing for medical purposes (which is legal at the time), expressed opposition to the new law. While in theory, legalization would make their operations no longer unlawful; the growers expressed concern that they would be damaged financially by the need to collect and pay taxes, and by the loss of the large profits to be had by selling into a black market.[7]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Kansas Capitulation" Time Nov. 15, 1948 online
  2. ^ Fletcher Dobyns, The amazing story of repeal: an exposé of the power of propaganda‎ (1940) p. 131
  3. ^ John Abernathy Smith, Cross and flame: two centuries of United Methodism in middle Tennessee‎ (1984) Page 242
  4. ^ Bruce Yandle, "Bootleggers and Baptists: The Education of a Regulatory Economist." Regulation 7, no. 3 (1983): 12.
  5. ^ Bootleggers, Baptists, and the Global Warming Battle
  6. ^ W. Morris, North Toward Home, Macmillan Publishers (1968) pp.54-55.
  7. ^ [http://www.cnbc.com/id/36038183 California Marijuana Vote Has Outlaw Growers Worried ]

External links


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