Here’s a poor, unsuccessful letter that impressed the relevant New York Times reporters, but not their editorial overlords:
It may seem counter-intuitive that bleeding-heart anti-hunger groups and “Big Food and Big Beverage” would ally to oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s request to prevent New Yorkers from using food stamps to purchase sugary sodas [“Unlikely Allies in Food Stamp Debate,” October 16]. Yet the “bootleggers and Baptists” theory of regulation explains that this “strange bedfellows” phenomenon is actually the norm, rather than the exception.
Most laws have two types of supporters: the true believers and those who benefit financially. Baptists don’t want you drinking on the Lord ’s Day, for example, while bootleggers profit from the above-market prices that Blue Laws enable them to charge on Sundays. Consequently, both groups support politicians who support Blue Laws.
Baptists-and-bootleggers coalitions underlie almost all government activities. Defense spending: (neo)conservatives and defense contractors. President Obama’s new health care law: the political left and the health care and insurance industries. Ethanol subsidies: environmentalists and agribusiness. Education: egalitarians and teachers’ unions. The list goes on.
It’s easier to illustrate the theory (and sexier) when the bootleggers are non-believers who cynically manipulate government solely for their own gain. Yet one can be both a Baptist and a bootlegger. The Coca-Cola Company may sincerely believe that society benefits when the government subsidizes sugary sodas for poor people. Even so, a bootlegger-cum-Baptist can still rip off taxpayers.
This morning, NPR reported on another bootleggers-and-Baptists coalition: anti-immigration zealots and the prison industry.