Bootleggers and Baptists
My adventuresome Wife was drawn to this location deep in backwoods Texas – she said it looked like a Moonshiners Shack, complete with a “Sittin Chair” and empty container. I imagine that someone might have been sitting there, shotgun in hand by the light of the moon, guarding against unwary interlopers and having a sip or two. Notice the mysterious shack in the background!
Bootleggers and Baptists, 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!
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.