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You have put me in here a cub, but I will come out roaring like a lion, and I will make all hell howl! - Carry A. Nation
March 31, 2011 3:40 AM   Subscribe

For the good of the nation, you won't be able to drink your favoured beer. At least, if the collection of middlemen monopolies called America's Beer Distributors and their lobby have much to say about it.

And an obligatory link to Beer Wars. Not to instantly derail, but, as a mildly interesting aside, the Moonshot lady in that film - the sales rep starting up her own caffeinated beer company - has been put out of business in the sweep of the whole Four Loko fiasco by the FDA.
posted by converge (67 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's the Moonshot link, if you care.
posted by converge at 3:43 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


What ever happened to the old days, when you drank a few beers, then you bought a beer or two for your friends? It seems like these monopolies are less about enjoying a beer and more about being a monopoly.

This is where me and my beer-loving friends start urinating in your gas tank, beer monopoly.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:51 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"When people of Salt Lake City feel differently about alcohol than the people in Detroit, that is the beauty of the American system," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff testified at a congressional hearing last year. "I will tell you that the federal government's intervention in alcohol policy has not been really successful, whether it is the Whiskey Rebellion or the failure of Prohibition."

Leave it to a guy from Utah to criticize the federal government for the failure of prohibition.
posted by atrazine at 4:04 AM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Distributors: "Hi! We have a business plan! As it turns out, it's not that great a business plan, and it's becoming less and less relevant. But we're not giving up so easily! No, we're ENTREPRENEURS. It's in everyone's best interest to enshrine our business plan in law! Honest!"
posted by Dysk at 4:12 AM on March 31, 2011 [14 favorites]


For the record, this also affects every alcoholic beverage. Wine, most especially, with the direct shipping movement coming from that community.
posted by converge at 4:12 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love the fact that someone is using the failure of prohibition as an argument in favour of restricting the sale of alcohol.
posted by londonmark at 4:13 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anat Baron? I'm allergic to beer? Caffeinated malt beverage? Beer Wars was all over the place, ultimately a flawed movie. Sam Calagione is a rock star, of course. If the film was a straight documentary about the three tier system (she intimates in the film that in NY, at least, distributors = mob) it would have been much better. Another broken system, and as long as their lobby is spreading money around the distributors have a lock.
posted by fixedgear at 4:15 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Beer Wars was all over the place, ultimately a flawed movie.

Ultimately a bad movie, but since its premise is so popular (David vs. Goliath, scrappy underdog vs. corporate behemoth, great beer vs. corn-brewed beer-like beverage), it gets referenced all the time. And really, the choice of Moonshot was a really odd one from a beer-person perspective, because it wasn't a craft-brewed beer: it was a contract-brewed bland beer, the only differentiator of which was the inclusion of caffeine. What beer person would be enthused about that? That said, it's understandable from Anat Baron's perspective, i.e. that of someone in the industry but not a "beer person."

But aaaaaaaaanyway, I'm really interested in seeing how the Republicans vote on this, especially the Tea Partiers. Let's see if they put their free-market money where their collective mouth is and quash this bill. Note: I'm not optimistic.
posted by The Michael The at 4:26 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]



"When people of Salt Lake City feel differently about alcohol than the people in Detroit, that is the beauty of the American system


In this case "feel differently about alcohol" is short hand for "want to control other people's alcohol purchases mostly due to religious beliefs," and I don't find that particularly beautiful.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:37 AM on March 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


Free as in beer, eh?
posted by Grangousier at 4:46 AM on March 31, 2011


This from the state that gave us Orin Hatch. Utah, Texas, and Arizona can all piss off. The rest of us will drink beer, have the right to choose, and read jesus-free science textbooks.

I mean seriously. With all the problems going on, these people have time to discuss BEER? GET THE F*CK BACK TO WORK. Let's make them a deal. They do their jobs, stop throwing our money away on killing people on the other side of the world and prosecute some bankers, and we'll sit and quietly drink our beer.

At this point, I fail to see how Islamic fundamentalism is even near as large a problem as Christian fundamentalism.
posted by nickrussell at 4:55 AM on March 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


The NBWA supports the bill, while independent beer producers and wineries oppose it

Smells like a small scale culture war to me. What self-respecting politician is going to come out in favour of cultural elitists seeking special provisions* when the average joe will still be able to get his slab of good old beer?

*I know. The right not to have to work through a monopoly is not actually a special provision.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:58 AM on March 31, 2011


Naturally, it's cloaked in disingenuous concern for the public. Why isn't the public outraged when an entity that is obviously working to protect its own interests thinly pretends to be interested in ours? The only person you should trust when they say they're doing something for your benefit is your mother.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:06 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


So basically they're trying to turn the state into Pennsylvania? Awesome. I can't wait until they enact an 18% alcohol tax to help the victims of a flood that happened in 1936. Plus 6% sales tax.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:07 AM on March 31, 2011


turn the state country into Pennsylvania. Yeesh.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:10 AM on March 31, 2011


The NBWA supports the bill, while independent beer producers and wineries oppose it

The NBWA should stick to what they know... passing and layups.
posted by En0rm0 at 5:36 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is actually a much bigger deal for winemakers then it is for brewers.
posted by JPD at 5:39 AM on March 31, 2011


Does anyone know what the House bill number is and how I can get a copy? I want to write my congresspeople.
posted by tommasz at 5:42 AM on March 31, 2011


Oops, I clicked the link thinking it said flavored beer, kind of like what happened to cigarettes. I thought I was missing a trend. Oh well.....
posted by Xurando at 5:56 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what, the distributors have been telling me what kind of beer I'm allowed to have access to for years. I don't need the Federal Gubmint suddenly coming in and taking away their right to decide what kind of beer I might like.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:57 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not about Christianity, nickrussell. It's about profits. Christianity is just a smokescreen to get support from the masses for a measure that can only hurt them. Sorta like yelling "two legs ba-a-a-ad." They simply want to divide the Christian consumers from the nonChristian consumers, the easier to consume them both.

These lobbyists don't have to get back to work -- getting special legislation to protect their fatcats is their work.
posted by tyllwin at 6:02 AM on March 31, 2011


A friend of mine runs a distillery, and it's the same kind of crap with distributors. He can sell you a bottle if you stop by in person, but he can't sell directly to any retailers. He has to go through a distributor, who is apparently nothing more than a well-paid delivery driver.
posted by echo target at 6:14 AM on March 31, 2011


Ultimately a bad movie, but since its premise is so popular (David vs. Goliath, scrappy underdog vs. corporate behemoth, great beer vs. corn-brewed beer-like beverage), it gets referenced all the time.

For me, who knew nothing about the distributorship monopoly, it was enlightening (if a tad amateurish), and on balance, worth my time. That said, I would be genuinely interested to hear you expand on your objections. If they got anything seriously wrong, or if there is something better out there, I would love to hear about it.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:19 AM on March 31, 2011


nickrussell: "At this point, I fail to see how Islamic fundamentalism is even near as large a problem as Christian fundamentalism"

This has nothing to do with Christian fundamentalism.
posted by Perplexity at 6:20 AM on March 31, 2011


Americans are such weirdos when it comes to drink. No wonder you love pills so much.
posted by The Whelk at 6:25 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Also is there a liquor authority in the universe that isn't byzantine and corrupt? I can think of Canada's state stores but I'll admit I know little about them.)
posted by The Whelk at 6:26 AM on March 31, 2011


I believe it's H.R.5034, a.k.a. the CARE Act (short for "Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act of 2010"), and this web page looks to describe it in some detail: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h5034/show.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:31 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sam Calagione is a rock star

Pity about his show being cancelled, perhaps under pressure from big beer advertisers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:38 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


robocop, thanks for posting that here. I mentioned it in the Goose Island thread, seems like the story is still developing.
posted by fixedgear at 6:40 AM on March 31, 2011


So basically they're trying to turn the state into Pennsylvania?

Man, fuck a bunch of Pennsylvania. No liquor stores, can only buy six packs over the counter, beer distributors only sell full cases.
posted by electroboy at 6:48 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I like that Bourdain is getting involved and it will be interesting to see how everything pans out. I'm still on the fence about Brew Masters (just as I am about Beer Wars) as a show. It seemed to be trying to do too much, too shallowly. On one hand, you'd have Sam walking the Earth like Caine from Kung-Fu, which was fun, but then you'd have this weird insistence on artificial timelines and challenges when it came to actually brewing the beer. So you'd go from this "lets learn about the beer and where it came from" bit interspersed with "OMG will they chew enough grains by Saturday!!??!!" false tension.

I guess part of the problem is that I'm a beer nerd and home brewer, so I know what happens when brewing beer and have been on plenty of brewery tours that yet another explanation of what hops are or what wort is not that appealing to me. The actual process of brewing is pretty standardized, so even that wouldn't make for good TV.

What would have been a good show? I dunno. Either focus on Sam walking the Earth or create some sort of Top Chef like brewer contest. I'd prefer the former, but I suspect audiences would like the latter.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:55 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one of the cases where one can avoid 'em by making your own.

And you might just do a better job.

And if you make too much, have people over who'll bring food to make sure you have the energy to make more beer.

(Or pay $35 a year to get the Fed permit so you can distill the extra beer for fuel purposes.)
posted by rough ashlar at 7:17 AM on March 31, 2011


For me, who knew nothing about the distributorship monopoly, it was enlightening (if a tad amateurish), and on balance, worth my time. That said, I would be genuinely interested to hear you expand on your objections. If they got anything seriously wrong, or if there is something better out there, I would love to hear about it.

I don't know if anything it was actually out-and-out wrong; the movie was just not good. It was, in my opinion, lacking a driving narrative, poorly edited, and was trying too hard to be too many things. Also, simplistic: the point of Anheuser-Busch's inclusion was "big corporation is big and corporate."* And I don't feel that Moonshot belonged in a movie about small brewers because it wasn't a craft-brewed beer. That said, there isn't anything better out there that I know of, and that's what makes me sad, because there is certainly a wealth of compelling material out there surrounding true craft brewers.

* And did anyone else get the impression that Anat Baron was trying and failing to recreate a Michael Moore movie with that part of Beer Wars?
posted by The Michael The at 7:23 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Moonshot bit of Beer Wars was not the real story in my opinion. The real story was with New Century's Edison Light beer, a light beer that at least could claim to be microbrewed. Then Sam Adams came out with Sam Adams Light and blew Edison out of the water. But if they started painting Boston Brewing as a bad guy, I'm sure they would have found a lot of their access dry up, plus it wouldn't fit the narrative of plucky lil local brewers against the giant internationals.

I used to work beer shows here in Boston and seeing the slow but steady decline of New Century's fortunes was pretty heartbreaking. If they did Beer Wars II, they'd focus on the final Four Loko coffin nail, but that might lead to some awkward Anat-of-Mike's-Hard-Lemonade talking about how a non-beer malt beverage killed the hopeful plucky lil guy.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:37 AM on March 31, 2011


The current fight in the Texas Legislature this session is about how brewpubs can sell beer. Watching the brewpub fight here has convinced me that the distributors are generally not who I want in charge of what beers I can buy.
posted by immlass at 8:05 AM on March 31, 2011


In Michigan and Illinois, and I assume California, the beer distributors are solid mob. They've just learned that rent-seeking is much more effective and legal, if no more moral, with the force of the government behind them.

Isn't this something we could get the Tea Party all ginned up about, no pun intended? Don't they like booze and America and freedom? Or are they all such shallow sycophants that the prospect of "state's rights" is more important than citizens' rights and business rights?
posted by klangklangston at 8:43 AM on March 31, 2011


uncleozzy wrote: "You know what, the distributors have been telling me what kind of beer I'm allowed to have access to for years. I don't need the Federal Gubmint suddenly coming in and taking away their right to decide what kind of beer I might like."

If there's a market and the brewery will sell it to them, they will sell it to whoever is legally allowed to buy from them, at least in my experience. Problem is that a lot of beers aren't available nationwide. One of my clients has been trying to get Yuengling to expand into their market for years, but Yuengling has thus far refused.

I don't get the hate. Regionally exclusive distribution contracts are common in all sorts of industries. In some states, it is indeed the law that alcohol must go through an in-state distributor, but not in all. The breweries are the ones who choose to deal only with a single distributor in a given area in the rest of the states.

Disclosure: A couple of my clients are beer distributors. Least stuffy work environment..EVAR. (and no mob, at least in my part of the country)
posted by wierdo at 8:48 AM on March 31, 2011


I should add that there is indeed plenty to complain about regarding liquor laws, after all, it's those liquor laws that prevent the distributor from selling direct to you or I. I just don't see how the distributor is the problem here. Pretty much everything about the business is dictated by the breweries and state law that predates NBWA's lobbying.
posted by wierdo at 8:52 AM on March 31, 2011


There are quite a few good beers from Minnesota that I wish were for sale out here in New England: Summit, Surly, August Schell, etc., etc. Once upon a time I emailed a few of them to ask about this, and they merely replied that they didn't have a distributor for this area. No excuse about long shipping times would damage the product or anything, just "we don't have a distributor." Now I wonder what it woudl take for them to get a distributor...
posted by wenestvedt at 8:57 AM on March 31, 2011


I just don't see how the distributor is the problem here

I was being (mostly) flip before (I get that it's a reasonably-complex situation), but the bill in question here is, specifically, the distributors being a problem. A hole is opening up--which would probably be a good thing, all-around, and still leave plenty of room for the distributors--and they're trying to close it. Is that not the issue, here?
posted by uncleozzy at 9:07 AM on March 31, 2011


That said, there isn't anything better out there that I know of, and that's what makes me sad, because there is certainly a wealth of compelling material out there surrounding true craft brewers.

American Beer is pretty fun documentary about a roadtrip to visit a bunch of different breweries. Here's the trailer.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:24 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"'Bout 50% of the human race is middlemen, and they don't take kindly to being eliminated."

-- Malcolm Reynolds

Note: I'm posting this as I'm literally on my way to refill a growler from the microbrewery three blocks from my apartment. Because it seems like that'll help. Somehow.
posted by 7segment at 9:35 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't get the hate. Regionally exclusive distribution contracts are common in all sorts of industries.

Part of the hate, I think, comes from the confluence of distributor practices and local laws. I've been following the start-up of a nanobrewer in my town for about a year now and the hoops the guy has to jump through to get his beer on tap or in a store down the street is just amazing.

If the distributors would help out the lil guy a bit more, I bet they could help develop them into bigger producers and thus profitable clients down the road. Let the nanobrewer develop into a microbrewer, at which point they'll be looking at working with a distributor as their shipping volumes outstrip their ability to handle it in house.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:45 AM on March 31, 2011


Great article, massive props for finding someone who remembers the Whiskey rebellion from good old PA... even if the guy's from Utah.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:01 AM on March 31, 2011


That's an interesting idea, robocop is bleeding. It's true, from what I can tell, that microbrews don't make much of a dent in a distributor's sales numbers of their main brands, so it would behoove them to be more friendly to startups.

And I'm not sure it's such a terrible idea to leave alcohol laws up to the states. I think my state's laws are backwards and stupid, but I don't see how having federal intervention is going to make things better. As it stands, my state is perfectly free to enact sane alcohol laws and Utah is perfectly free to continue their insanity for all time. I think that sort of autonomy is a good thing, at least up to a point.

Now, if the bill will literally ban interstate direct to consumer shipment of alcohol regardless of state law, that's not something I'm in favor of.
posted by wierdo at 10:05 AM on March 31, 2011


Part of the hate, I think, comes from the confluence of distributor practices and local laws.

Also I can't get Bell's in NYC. BOOOOO
posted by Greg Nog at 10:08 AM on March 31, 2011


The thing to focus on is not the merits of distribution over direct sale, but rather creating another monopoly that is ultimately only interested in increasing their share of the profits.
posted by Kale Slayer at 10:10 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is somewhat of an aside (considering that the religious argument is a bit of a fig leaf here), but I've never understood the opposition to drinking that is characteristic of a number of distinctly American versions of Christianity. Yes, it is puritanism to a degree, but even Cromwell's army ran on ale. Not to mention the Bible. Water into wine wasn't just a miracle, it was the first miracle! That has to say something about God's position on drinking.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:13 AM on March 31, 2011


Or direct sale over distribution. Personally I favor cutting out the middleman. If a distributor is needed to facilitate moving a product to a new market they should be subject to the forces of competition.
posted by Kale Slayer at 10:14 AM on March 31, 2011


Greg nog,

That really sucks! I generally have some form of Bells in my fridge at all times.
Right nowm the lovely Oberon and last couple weeks I've been grabbing my absolute favorite Hop Slam (my wallet takes a slam when I buy that...$18/six pack).

Then again, I am in Michigan and damn lucky to have tons of microbrews throughout the state.

I will bitch though about not being able to get Fat Tire....
posted by handbanana at 10:46 AM on March 31, 2011


Also I can't get Bell's in NYC. BOOOOO


OR IN LOUISIANA! BOOO INDEED!
posted by Hoenikker at 10:55 AM on March 31, 2011


Handbanana, yeah Michigan is lousy with great breweries. It's one of those things you don't notice until you move away, and then you realize you left one of the best beer states there is. Yesterday I got a picture message on my phone of a pile of blue cases. It took me about half a second to realize she was lording Oberon Day over thirsty me.
posted by Hoenikker at 11:01 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even though Michigan is fucked up like so many other states, I love Michigan and Detroit.
If I ever leave this state I will need to ensure a steady supply of the sweet lovely nector of the gods.
I don't know what I'd do with out Bells, Shorts and Ann Arbor Brewing Co (which turned me into the beer snob I am today.
posted by handbanana at 11:05 AM on March 31, 2011


Don't forget Founders and Jolly Pumpkin too!
posted by Hoenikker at 11:07 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never understood the opposition to drinking that is characteristic of a number of distinctly American versions of Christianity...

There are lots and lots of scolding references to drunkenness and intoxication throughout the Bible. In the New Testament, it's often spoken of in the same breath as other hot button topics like sexual immorality and carousing ((gasp)).

So if you're going to be legalistic about sex and carousal, you kind of have to go the whole way—as Paul writes in snide reference to circumcision—to be intellectually honest.

Obviously, modern Christianity isn't great at handling these kinds of warnings. And there's a lot of arbitrary selection based on cultural tradition and whatever era a particular sect romanticizes. Reformers, for instance, adore beer thanks to Martin Luther's love of the stuff, but they also largely view platonic co-ed living as a sexual grievance.

/me shrugs

OKAY, NOW BACK TO THE RAIL.
posted by pokermonk at 11:12 AM on March 31, 2011


I can now get Bells in ND, provided I drive far enough. Go me.
posted by Ber at 11:15 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


For the good of the nation

It really irks when American posters write in ways that presume that the US is the only country in the world (like when they write about "the best cities for business" or whatever when they mean the best AMERICAN ones) but it really galls when a Canadian or otherwise non-US poster does the same thing. I know this is MetaTalk fodder but that just jars when you're from Calgary and you use expressions like this.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:03 PM on March 31, 2011


Ethnomethodologist,
Being so close to Canada, I get my Labatt and Molson fix, but haven't quite figured out your microbrew situation. I love my awesome neighbors to the north, perhaps you have some recommendations?
posted by handbanana at 12:30 PM on March 31, 2011


At this point, I fail to see how Islamic fundamentalism is even near as large a problem as Christian fundamentalism.

You need to re-think that one. Modern Christians don't take their holy book literally.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:36 PM on March 31, 2011


handbanana,

It varies province by province. You're in Detroit, so your best bet is hitting up one of the bigger LCBOs in Windsor. Some good Ontario brewers:

Beau's

King Brewery

Mill St.

Muskoka

Black Oak
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:40 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ty thewhiteskull! I'll keep my eyes peeled!
posted by handbanana at 1:12 PM on March 31, 2011


ethnomethodologist: That was kind of my point; thanks for picking up on it. Sure, it was just low sarcasm, but what happens in the States on this issue does directly affect our market.
posted by converge at 3:57 PM on March 31, 2011


klangity: "In Michigan and Illinois, and I assume California, the beer distributors are solid mob. They've just learned that rent-seeking is much more effective and legal, if no more moral, with the force of the government behind them."

Yep whenever corruption's involved you're sure to find someone in Illinois is gonna do it better. Please listen to the first 8 minutes of this great TAL episode, on beer distribution and politics in Illinois. It's funny but also fucking tragic.

Relatedly, Bells Brewery a great Michigan brewery ran afoul of its original distributor (its like a 60's music contract, sign once and you're a vassal for life) who refused to release them from their contract and effectively banned them from selling beer in Illinois. Until the distributor relented and allowed their contract to be bought out they seriously toyed with the idea of changing the name of the beer just in Illinois.
posted by stratastar at 4:16 PM on March 31, 2011


I decided I wanted to try Root Liqueur. As I couldn't buy it on-line in MA, I asked for it for my birthday. My sister in WA couldn't by it on-line either. So my parents in CA ordered it on-line and took delivery of it in CA (the stuff is made in PA, for what it's worth.) Then they mailed it to me in MA, though my father was told to lie about the contents by the guy at Mailboxes Etc.

So, um, fuck the regulators. At the state level, at the federal level. Fuck 'em all.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:53 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I fail to see how it is not a Christian fundamentalist issue. It seems as if there is the constant use of a moral agenda to push social/business agendas.

Alcohol is an evil that must be regulated > Concentration of power amongst a distribution oligopoly.

Abortion is wrong, a sin, and murder > Keeps poor women and men poor by saddling them with a child they don't want. Children are expensive, thus it maintains the socioeconomic paradigm.

Jesus in science textbooks > Maintains the indoctrination of children into the Christian system of thinking and values (which enables the other forms of control).

Make no mistake that Christian fundamentalism has a distinct economic result and outcome, primarily as an architecture of control which funnels money from 'the believers' into the coffers of 'those who know'.

Religion is a tool like any other tool however it's being perverted with massive economic and social consequences for those with already-low social mobility.

It's been shown continually that less moralistic regulation of personal choices achieves a great balance of wealth in society (Netherlands, Scandic regions) whilst more moralistic regulation reduces economic freedom, mobility, and activity (United States, Iran).

Thus perhaps it can be said that misuse of religion is perhaps one of the largest economic distortions that we currently face.
posted by nickrussell at 4:08 AM on April 1, 2011


> Fair enough, but again, to me, it was new information and therefore worthwhile. Probably would have worked better as a one hour Frontline type thing, but given the dearth of material, we must be grateful for what we can get.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:50 AM on April 1, 2011


"I fail to see how it is not a Christian fundamentalist issue. It seems as if there is the constant use of a moral agenda to push social/business agendas."

Uh, while liquor control does have a pretty big religious component here in the states, you'd really do yourself a pretty big favor on the not-looking-like-an-uninformed-yobbo tip if you demonstrated a little more historical perspective.

(Briefly:

Puritans drank like fish; condemned drunkenness. US taxed liquor both as social policy and revenue scheme. Whiskey Rebellion, etc. Alcoholism incredibly widespread in 1800s. Drunkenness worried even US liberal patron saint JS Mill, to the extent that a lot of On Liberty is about how to restrain drunks within the theory of liberalism. Temperance movements were: Progressive, populist, Christian. Winning prohibition was inextricably tied to women voting. Prior to prohibition, many cities [Chicago especially] operated on philosophy of "segregated vice" that was startlingly corrupt. Prohibition was a brush-fire that cleared out low-level corruption while entrenching old growth corruption. Liquor control boards were theoretical response to entrenched corruption after prohibition. Liquor control boards are widely corrupted by "legit" liquor lobby. States follow Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Local control here is worse than federal freedom. Blue laws still vestigially Christian, but not philosophically tied to modern Christianity in meaningful way.)

The attempt to simplify this down to Christian fundamentalism rather than authoritarianism and business is a mistake. Marx is still controlling here — materialist, historical view should trump ideological or religious (even anti-religious) interpretation.
posted by klangklangston at 11:04 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


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