Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beer, regulation and freedom in America

C'mon people. You know it's never far from our mind and while we think (we know!) we ran this video from reason.tv a while back, it looks to be updated.

Pick up a bottle of Sam Adams, America's first significant micro-brewery, and look at the portrait of Adams where you will also find two descriptives, "Brewer" and "Patriot". We ask you, dear readers, are there any higher callings?

Before we air the video from reason.tv on the history of beer brewing in America, here's Matt Welch with some great insight into the nature of regulation and who, despite conventional wisdom, is really hurt by excessive regulation.

One of the common misconceptions about libertarian enthusiasm for deregulation is that it's some kind of (presumably paid-for) philosophical cover for wanting the very richest Corporates to be even richester. Speaking as a libertarded conspiracy of one, my favorite bedtime deregulation stories are about stuff like beer, air travel, and talking about politics on radio and TV, where after you lifted restrictions that in retrospect sound like they came from another planet, people do what the normally do when left alone—create all kinds of interesting new artifacts, businesses, and even ways of life. Regulations so often piss me off because they so often fall disproportionately on the backs of the little guy, while the big guy—even/especially the one whose misconduct precipitated the regulation in the first place—walks off with a well-lobbied exemption. Generally speaking, the fewer activities are illegal, the freer us opposable-thumbs types are.

Welch is right. What he is talking about here is regulatory capture where the big corporations are able to influence legislation and regulation to their own benefit and at the expense of competition and the proverbial little guy that does not have the resources to escape the detrimental effects of regulation.

This is very similar to what we said about the rich not being like the rest of us in response to Doc Zero's piece on the folly of attempting to soak the rich via higher taxes and expecting to raise a corresponding amount of revenue. The rich have the assets to be more agile, mobile and hostile than the rest of us with respect to the tax code. They shift around economic activity, they move from state to state, they lawyer-up, so to speak, to avoid having to pay what they believe are onerous taxes.

When Jimmy Carter signed away the last vestiges of the Volsted Act in the late 70s, he unleashed an inevitable tsunami tide of creativity and innovation in the beer world to where the United States is the most decorated country on the planet in international beer competitions. And similar to what it did with the car culture and music back in the 60s and then micro computing in the 70s and 80s, California is at the tip of the American spear with respect to craft brewing.

This is what happens when a people imbued with a spirit of hard work and outside-the-box thinking are loosed of the chains of excessive regulation: hot rods, rock and roll, PCs, the Internet and... great beer!

When you travel around Southern California and visit the breweries here, whether it's the relative artisan opulence of Stone Brewing Co. or the seemingly outlaw operations of Green Flash and Port Brewing tucked away in non-descript business parks in North County, one cannot help but feel that spirit of rebellion and liberty that coursed through the veins of people like Sam Adams.

Lagunitas, Bear Republic and Russian River - three outstanding Northern California breweries are prominently featured.

P.S. As the video stated, for all the boostering of the craft brew industry that we do, it does not even constitute 5% of the market here in America. Fear not, though, as we have never, ever heard anyone say, "Yeah, I tried that whole micro-brew thing and I think I'm just going to go back to drinking Bud Light." It simply does not happen. Once you go there, you never go back.

We shall overcome.


Road Dawg said...

This blog was orally posted at the Blair Valley campground and JMR & I both had a laugh, reliving the passion of Dean.

We need to broadcast and support the success of this industry since it could be a microcosm of other innovators and technologies. A bellwether industry turning this nation on its ear!

Just as the tiny city of Bell “pay scandal” is making national news, (Speaking of bellwether) we are glad to have opportunities for pun and growth! Let’s keep ringing the sound of liberty!

Anonymous said...

And where can I get that on a T-shirt?