A Final Note About Beer Politics and Libertarian Recognition of Carter Administration Deregulation


Reason was clapping. Were you?

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait responds to my response to his reaction of this beer-deregulation post with a sneery little bit entitled "Libertarian Time Travel Could Have Saved Jimmy Carter." Chait's kicker:

His link is to a 2009 Reason article praising beer deregulation. Of course, that's my point: An article in a libertarian magazine appearing three decades after you lose your reelection bid is not the kind of political reward that elected officials really crave.

In case anyone takes away the impression that Reason held its tongue for 30 years in praising beer deregulation efforts, I'm here to tell you that that impression is false.

THAT'S how long ago we were hi-fiving beer deregulation

In the June 1979 issue of Reason, under the headline of "Milestones," Reason Editor Robert Poole, Jr. bullet-pointed this:

Brewing Rights. No longer is it legally required to register your home brew with the government. Congress changed the law last fall, freeing individuals to make beer and wine at home without permission and without having to be head of a household. You can even take it elsewhere without government permission-as long as it is for "personal or family use."

And since Poole in particular has arguably been the nation's most influential intellectual voice advocating airline deregulation–the first big chunk of which happened under Carter during Poole's editorship–the Reason '70s archive is swollen with real-time examinations and celebrations of decontrols on air travel, trucking, rail, and more.

Brian Doherty's great oral history of Reason, written for our 40th anniversary issue, makes plain the centrality of airline deregulation in the magazine's DNA. Here's Poole:

I'd never written anything for publication, but because I was interested in aviation, [Reason founder Lanny Friedlander] got me to write a piece about airlines and aviation policy, which was "Fly the Frenzied Skies."

I did a hell of a lot of research, which was fun, but even more fun was seeing it in print, having it be the cover story of what became the first offset printed issue. A couple of months after it was out, The Freeman asked to reprint it. That got me letters from people all over the country, and that was the moment of truth: This journalism stuff really can make an impact!

One of these two men was one of Reason's "35 Heroes of Freedom"

In '71, airlines were tightly regulated by an agency that's gone, the Civil Aeronautics Board. It was a cartelized industry. To fly between point A and B [you were] limited to between one and three airlines, usually two. Prices were approved at rate hearings like telephone and electricity prices used to be. If an airline wanted to serve a new route, it would take years. So I challenged that and argued for deregulation.

I also argued for airport and air traffic privatization, got it all together in one article. My dad was saying, "Ha, ha, comes the revolution! You and I will never live to see any of this come to pass."

I was amazed. I thought Dad was quite right: He wouldn't live to see it. I thought that I maybe would. I have enough confidence in the power of ideas and empirical evidence that [I thought] if we banged on it hard enough we'd overcome, but I thought it would take a lot longer than the seven years from the time that article was published to the [deregulation] actually coming to pass.

Marty misses you!

Now, whether a broader recognition of Carter Administration deregulation would have saved his presidency is another question entirely, but one far better suited to a magazine that backs Democrats. Given that the very "spine" of The New Republic, Martin Peretz, believes that deregulation "destroyed the airline industry in America," it's probably safe to assume that Carter's best policies won him scant contemporaneous praise from the likes of TNR.

NEXT: Charlie Rangel to the Democrats: "You're not going to tell me to resign to make you feel comfortable"

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  1. Good beat down. Chait is such a moron. It really isn’t fair. Only an idiot of biblical proportions could have called Reason out on this. He seriously must have no idea what Reason is or that it is any different from the Heritage Foundation.

    1. Fun trivia: Reason was the first national magazine to publish Jonathan Chait.

      1. Wow. Then I really don’t get it. I didn’t read Reason in the 1970s. But there is no way I would say without knowing for damn sure that they were not all for brewing deregulation back in the day. Does he honestly believe that Reason is so in the pocket of the Republicans they would come out against or not comment on the freedom to brew? Seriously that is an amazing level of stupidity.

      2. Did he win that essay contest for fifth graders you guys had a few years back?

      3. *Waiting for MNG*

      4. I’m not a journalist, but I would think most journalists (especially ones struggling for recognition as Chait probably was at that time) don’t do a lot of research into the background of the magazines who buy their writing.

      5. And they’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. Idiocy of that magnitude leaves a lasting mark though.

        1. They’re not trying too hard with Chait and Weigel on the alumni list.

  2. Airlines, trucking and homebrewing beer are the three really decent accomplishments during the Carter administration. Perhaps if they had been done in 1976 instead of later in his administration, he would have benefitted more from them politically. Also, if the guy he had in charge of marijuana legalization hadn’t been a cokehead, we might have had a different result there, which would have saved incalculable misery.

    Now, we need state-by-state challanges to anti-pot laws. Ironically, pot might become legal before home distillation does.

    1. Side note: my favorite site about home distillation, written by a Kiwi engineer. (It’s legal in NZ).

      1. Thanks for the link, BP. I shall file that under things I would like to do but for a federal felony charge.

    2. Don’t forget the masterful way that Carter freed the Panama Canal from pesky US government regulations.

    3. He continued many of the fiscal and tax policies that gave us stagflation. He finally appointed Volker, but that was too late in his term to help.

      The economy and the fact that he is an awful unpleasant person who spent four years lecturing the country on how they needed to meet his standards did him in. But he did do a few good things as you mention.

      1. Also, as Team Blue partisans tend to forget, it was he who started injecting Jesus into presidential politics.

      2. I forgot about Volcker. Once again, too late to do him any good.

        Also, my post wasn’t meant to be unmitigated praise. Carter was generally a pretty crappy president. Still, I’d probably take him over either of our last two.

        1. Isn’t that sad? Carter is probably considered one of the worst presidents of the latter half of the 20th century, perhaps of the most ineffectual presidents (while in office) of the entire century, and yet he could run rings around all of the 21st century presidents.

          1. Our political class has definitely gotten worse.

            Compare Carter to Obama, Reagan to Bush II, and Tip O’Neil to Pelosi. It kind of makes your stomach turn doesn’t it?

          2. He is history’s greatest monster.

          3. Carter is probably considered one of the worst presidents of the latter half of the 20th century

            I’m not sure about that. I wouldn’t go by the historian polls too confidently, since they consistently rank FDR, Wilson, and LBJ among the top 5 presidents of all time and Coolidge and Reagan at the bottom. To my mind, Carter has to be ranked above Nixon, Ford, and LBJ, and probably JFK too. That puts him at the middle of the pack for 1950-99.

            Of course, a lot of that has to do with timing. If Carter had been elected when Clinton was, he could have completely screwed up and still be considered great because the 90s boom would have been very difficult to kill even with die-hard liberal economic policy.

    4. State-by-state challenges to pot laws won’t work if MJ is still illegal on a federal level. We need both, frankly.

  3. “sneery little bit”

    Chait seems to specialize in the uninformed sneer.

    1. Everyone has to have a skill. And that is his.

  4. Reason staff seem to have a knack for beatdowns. No matter the medium. It’s like pissing off the nerdy ginger kid that just happens to be a genius who spent his whole life in karate classes. From nowhere comes a complete ass beating.

    I guess a bias exists since I agree with a lot of the points being defended, but there still seems to be an inordinate amount of asskicking from the Reason corner.

    1. I wonder if there is a threshold for beatdowns that once acheived gets you a leather jacket like Nick’s.

      1. Good point. Maybe it is an evolving process. From necktie to jacket, getting progressively more casual until Nick shows up in The Jacket and a pair of tighty whiteys for all interviews.

        There’s a hump in the middle where the casual goes to nerd chic with bow ties and tweed jackets.

        1. Come the revolution, the bonfires will be a lit with the aroma of tweed, leather patches and those who occupy the dismal vestments. Best to avoid the jackets altogether, no one knows the moment it will start though I have a premonition that a public reading of The Howl will be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    2. one of the things that most impresses me about Reason is these sorts of “beatdowns”. Not once can I recall seeing a “beatdown” that was anything more than ad hominem from any team red/team blue source.

      1. Probably because you’re not looking very hard.

  5. I was lucky; I had an excellent economics professor at the University of Idaho who spent a significant part of the class talking about the success of airline deregulation. Alfred Kahn was an American Hero.

    I also took “Money and Banking” there, from a Fed economist who, if I recall correctly, was on a teaching sabbatical. That was probably the single best and most useful course I took in business school.

  6. Now, whether a broader recognition of Carter Administration deregulation would have saved his presidency is another question entirely, but one far better suited to a magazine that backs Democrats.

    Y’all don’t? That’s a refreshing change.

  7. Not to mention that at this point, Carter should take his props where he can get ’em.

  8. I was in grade school during the carter administration and while I had heard about airline and trucking deregulation I have never heard of home brewing deregulation.

    Now all of those homebrew/microbrew thread jacks make sense.

  9. According to the pulitzer prize winning book, Prophets of Regulation, it was Teddy Kennedy, who needed at least one free market policy to run on, who was responsible for pushing airline deregulation through Congress.

  10. enen,you can find whatever watch you want on my name

  11. To him that does everything in its proper time,one day is worth three.

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