Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Give Me Liberty and Give Me Beer

Matt Zwolinski admits that his entire political philosophy is really based on the love of beer:
I am a lover of craft beer, and a homebrewer. And the fact is, freedom makes for good beer. Just look, for example, at the American experience. Prohibition in the 1920s destroyed what had once been a surprisingly successful and diverse American brewing industry, leaving only a few large brewers of cheap, flavorless swill in its wake. It wasn’t until the 1980s that innovative, interesting, flavorful beers began to reappear on the American market, driven in part by Jimmy Carter’s legalization of homebrewing in 1978. Many of today’s most innovative professional brewers got their start as homebrewers – Alesmith’s Peter Zien, X of Rogue’s Jeff Schultz, Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione, New Belgium’s Jeff Lebesch, and Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman, for example.
Read the rest of his article to find out about how government regulations stifle greater diversity and quality in beer selection. Also, in the comments section you can read about how both the beer and wine industry are affected by government favoritism toward certain distributors owned by major corporations.

Which reminds me of a claim Joel Salatin made in Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal, that the original Model T could run either on gasoline or alcohol, and that before prohibition things were looking pretty bright for alcohol to be the up and coming fuel source. Even today, alcohol is a fairly significant fuel source, which leads Salatin to speculate about how we might cure ourselves of dependence on foreign oil by deregulating the production and sale of liquor.

It's worth pointing out what the result of a highly regulated alcohol business is. During Prohibition, alcohol production didn't go away; it simply got into the hands of corrupt people willing to do dangerous things--hence the phrase "bootleggers and Baptists." Even in a regulated industry, the production over goes into the hands of giant corporations whose goal is pure profit. As a result, millions of people in this country drink a watered down product. No wonder so many Americans drink so irresponsibly. The stuff they drink is so bad they can't imagine drinking it for anything other than the buzz.

By contrast, a deregulated (or rather a self-regulated) industry would allow more entrepreneurs into the business, and the more people are allowed to try for themselves, the more care and attention is placed into developing unique and tasty products. In the world of microbrews, you have to be known by taste--you certainly can't be known by your Superbowl commercials.

I suspect that Americans would on the whole be more responsible and more sophisticated drinkers if, ironically enough, there weren't so many restrictions on the production and sale of alcohol.

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