Why do the bootleggers need the Baptists? Moneyed interests, serving their own bottom line, don’t make for good publicity. They probably can’t convince legislators either, at least not in a public forum. (Perhaps they can do so behind closed doors.) That’s where the Baptists come in. They can provide the moral argument for the law or regulation. Baptists benefit by making the world a better place, at least from their perspective. Bootleggers benefit by securing an economic benefit, such as harming their competitors.
Since Yandle’s article was published, the bootleggers and Baptists model has been used by a variety of authors to explain many different seemingly odd coalitions. The article has been cited in over 300 academic articles and books according to Google Scholar. Yandle, himself, has applied the model to many different cases in several articles he has written, as well as in a 2014 book he co‐authored with Adam C. Smith.
In a forthcoming article in the journal Public Choice, I identify an almost literal example of the metaphorical bootleggers and Baptists. “Bootleggers, Baptists and Ballots: Coalitions in Arkansas’ Alcohol‐Legalization Elections” uses dry counties in Arkansas as an example clearly fitting Yandle’s model. The bootleggers are the owners of liquor stores in nearby wet counties, where alcohol is already legal. The Baptists are, well, Baptists.
The temporary alliances between the groups were aptly described by a Baptist pastor in Arkansas in 2014. Speaking about his involvement in helping to defeat a statewide ballot measure to legalize alcohol in the state, he said that he had “joined with feminists to oppose pornography and cooperated with Mississippi casinos to fight gambling in Arkansas,” and so he was willing to join with liquor stores in wet counties. Similarly, when fighting an effort to legalize alcohol sales in the city of Jacksonville, a pastor there said he “utilized who was willing to help fight it. [The liquor stores] were honest with me, and I was honest with them.”
As we will see, members of these coalitions are not always willing to be so public about their cooperation in advancing their mutual goals, but the alliances exist nonetheless. Much of the information in this article is expanded on in more detail in my forthcoming article.