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.