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22 Regulation 5 (1999)
Bootleggers and Baptists in Retrospect

handle is hein.journals/rcatorbg22 and id is 127 raw text is: ENVIRONMENT  AND  RISK

The marriage of high-flown values and narrow

interests continues to thrive
Bootleggers and
Baptists in Retrospect

BY BRUCE YANDLE

OOTLEGGERS AND BAPTISTS: THE EDUCATION OF A
Regulatory Economist appeared in the Viewpoint
column of Regulation in 1983. The piece, written
when I was executive director of the Federal Trade

Commission, reflected my brief experience as a government economist and offered a perhaps novel but crude theory of the
demand for and supply of social regulation. Economists and legal scholars have called on the theory to explain things as diverse
as antitrust and NAFTA. One economist went so far as restate the theory as a mathematical model, giving it some stature in

the eyes of those who otherwise might have thought less
of it. Now, some 16 years later, what can we say about the
theory of bootleggers and Baptists?
THE THEORY AND ITS NAME
HERE IS THE ESSENCE OF THE THEORY: DURABLE SOCIAL
regulation evolves when it is demanded by both of two dis-
tinctly different groups. Baptists point to the moral high
ground and give vital and vocal endorsement of laudable
public benefits promised by a desired regulation. Baptists
flourish when their moral message forms a visible founda-
tion for political action. Bootleggers are much less visible
but no less vital. Bootleggers, who expect to profit from the
very regulatory restrictions desired by Baptists, grease the
political machinery with some of their expected proceeds.
They are simply in it for the money.
The theory's name draws on colorful tales of states'
efforts to regulate alcoholic beverages by banning Sunday
sales at legal outlets. Baptists fervently endorsed such actions
Bruce Yandle is Alumni Distinguished Professor of Economics at Clemson
University, and senior associate at the Political Economy Research Center.

on moral grounds. Bootleggers tolerated the actions glee-
fully because their effect was to limit competition.
It is worth noting that it is the details of a regulation that
usually win the endorsement of bootleggers, not just the
broader principle that may matter most to Baptists. Thus,
for instance, bootleggers would not support restrictions on
the Sunday consumption of alcoholic beverages, although
Baptists might. Bootleggers want to limit competition, not
intake. Important to the theory is the notion that bootleg-
gers can rely on Baptists to monitor enforcement of the
restrictions that benefit bootleggers.
BOOTLEGGERS, BAPTISTS, AND
THE ENVIRONMENT
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS ASPECT OF B&B THEORY IS SEEN
vividly in the federal environmental regulations that replaced
common law with command-and-control enforcement of
technology or specification standards, rather than call for per-
formance standards or use emissions taxes and other eco-
nomic incentives to reduce environmental harm. Specifi-
cation standards generally set stricter limits for new and

REGULATION  * VOLUME 22, No. 3

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