Bootleggers and Baptists
Bootleggers and Baptists is a model of politics in which opposite moral positions lead to the same vote. The traditional story refers to "Baptists" rather than, say, "Catholics" because preachers who are relatively independent of broad national organizations are more susceptible to local influences, e.g. the slavery issue. A Baptist electorate votes its county dry, favoring bootleggers. Specifically, preachers demand prohibition of the sale of alcohol while criminal bootleggers want it to stay illegal for greater profit. 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. The story is based on history; it can easily be applied to other regulations. Yandle makes an argument for "Bootleggers", who benefit financially, giving support to "Baptists" advocating the desired public policy, "for when the Baptists go away, the Bootleggers lose their territory."
One version begins with preachers in a rural county demanding the government ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays. "Alcohol", they say, "is a vile drink and efforts should be made to restrict its spread through society, especially on the Lord's Day." The Baptists' electorate votes the county dry.
But the demand for alcohol does not disappear with the supply. 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.
The Baptists, in their turn, point to the widespread use of alcohol on Sunday as evidence that laws need to be tightened further, and propose to ban sale of alcohol on Saturday as well. This causes a spiral of tougher and tougher laws that are enforced less and less.
The bootleggers and preachers both have an incentive to limit the legal consumption and distribution of alcohol, 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.
An example of the regulatory back-fire described by this theory is the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal caused by the work of political lobbyists Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist and Michael Scanlon for 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.
In response to a 2010 ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in the state of California, many growers, who were operating illegally or growing for medical purposes (which was 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, plus the loss of the large profits to be had by selling into a black market soon to grow lower if legal competition occurred.
- "Kansas Capitulation" Time Nov. 15, 1948 online
- Fletcher Dobyns, The amazing story of repeal: an exposé of the power of propaganda (1940) p. 131
- John Abernathy Smith, Cross and flame: two centuries of United Methodism in middle Tennessee (1984) Page 242
- Bruce Yandle, "Bootleggers and Baptists: The Education of a Regulatory Economist." Regulation 7, no. 3 (1983): 12.
- "Bootleggers, Baptists, and the Global Warming Battle". Papers.ssrn.com. doi:10.2139/ssrn.279914. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
- "Bruce Yandle Talks About the Bootlegger and Baptist Coalitions". Video.answers.com. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
- W. Morris, North Toward Home, Macmillan Publishers (1968) pp.54-55.
- AP (2010-03-25). "California Marijuana Vote Has Outlaw Growers Worried". Cnbc.com. Retrieved 2013-04-15.