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.