A Modern 'Baptist and Bootleggers' Coalition Fights Arkansas Liquor Initiative


Ark. Map

In my recent analysis of voter initiatives appearing on November ballots across the country, I took very brief note of a pending decision in Arkansas. Voters in the state will decide whether to change the law to require all counties to allow the sale, distribution and transportation of alcohol. Currently, counties and communities call the shots. About half allow and half do not. 

Naturally, this means that those who serve or sell alcohol in the "wet" counties financially benefit from being next to "dry" counties that prohibit it. Therefore existing liquor stores and bars in the state are fighting the ballot initiative, and they're teaming up with local religious leaders, according to Bloomberg news. One liquor store estimates it will lose ten percent of its sales if nearby counties are required to allow booze. Opponents of the ballot initative are attempting to argue its about choice, not about bans:

Larry Page, a Southern Baptist pastor and director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, which traces its roots to the Anti-Saloon League of Arkansas in 1899, said the initiative is about more than just the dangers of alcohol.

"We're not saying, 'Hey, instead of voting the whole state wet, let's vote the whole state dry,'" he said. "We're just saying, 'Let people locally continue to make the decision.'"

It's not the first time political issues have made for strange bedfellows, Page said, recalling when his group joined with feminists to oppose pornography and cooperated with Mississippi casinos to fight gambling in Arkansas.

A defense of bans that can be summarized as "Let's let the community decide whether certain types of commerce should be allowed," has been used elsewhere. Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis used such an argument when he introduced (but later withdrew) ballot initiatives in his state that would allow cities to ban fracking. After California legalized medical marijuana dispensaries, individual cities had battles on their hands to decide whether they would allow them.

"Let the community decide" has a certain small government appeal to it, but let's not forget that sometimes what the community is deciding is whether they'll respect the rights of others to engage in commerce or to do what they wish with their own property. And as in this case, we generally see the argument used to curtail people's rights, not to advance recognition of them.

(Hat tip to Scott Lincicome)

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  1. “We’re not saying, ‘Hey, instead of voting the whole state wet, let’s vote the whole state dry,'” he said. “We’re just saying, ‘Let people locally continue to make the decision.'”

    The ultimate ‘local’ site is the individual, so, yes it should be the most local decision possible.

    1. Well since we are talking about politics this simply isn’t the case. Politics doesn’t exist until there is more than one person. You could argue the smallest unit is a family, but thats a tricky subject for a ideology that appeals almost entirely to single men.

      1. All those guys who were banging your mom but didn’t want to become your new daddy is no reason to lash out at single men.

        1. Touched a nerve there didn’t raw palms.

  2. OT, Maine bear bait ban losing support.…..r-baiting/

    Mainers’ opposition to a proposed ban on the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting continues to grow…

    The campaign is marked by a fierce $3.8 million advertising campaign. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, the primary advocacy group for the referendum, has raised more than $1.4 million, 99 percent of which is from out-of-state donors. A coalition of groups opposing the measure has raised $2.4 million, at least 43 percent of which is from Maine donors.

    Money wasted.

    1. For a moment I thought they were bringing back bear-vs-dog blood sports.

      1. +1 ban it because it gives pleasure to the spectator

  3. “We’re just saying, ‘Let people locally continue to make the decision.'”

    Should read: “We’re just saying, ‘Let people locally continue to make the decision to limit other people’s freedoms.'”

    1. There is an infuriating radio advertisement running that gets every detail about rights and freedoms exactly backwards.

  4. “Let the community decide” has a certain small government appeal to it

    It does until you actually think it through and take care not to conflate “small” as in geography with “small” as in scope. One straw man that I’ve seen says that libertarians must approve of the actions of small municipalities, no matter how dickish, just because that’s small government as in geography.

    1. ” One straw man that I’ve seen says that libertarians must approve of the actions of small municipalities, no matter how dickish, just because that’s small government as in geography.”

      No, the argument is that libertarians(or anyone else) should not interfere with the actions of small municipalities that have no affect on them. I wouldn’t interfere in the internal politics of another country, nor would I in another state, or west bum fuck Arkansas.

  5. If one wished to have a “dry county”, then one should use one’s own resources to purchase all available land in the county and then institute a “No Trespassing with Adult Beverages” policy.

    1. I used a similar argument on someone who wanted zoning laws for historic preservation. I said that he could raise money through a historic-preservation society to buy easements. He was outraged, but he never explained what was wrong with my reasoning.

      1. It required him to put effort and money behind his will.

        1. Well here you have evangelicals and liquor stores pouring money and effort into an issue and now Reason is raging. Maybe it’s a little more complicated that.

          1. Historic preservation doesn’t mean money in the coffers of the preservationists. Prohibition means money for the next county liquer store owner, and the preachers can drum up money from their congreation for the stamping out of sin.

            1. Right those preachers are making money off this. Only you and your fellow libertarians are so pure and devoid of mercenary incentives. It’s not like retail liquor chains that want to expand their business are supporting the measure. Only freedom lovers.

              1. You think I’m some kind of libertarian?

                Not on your life.

                1. I assume from your handle that you’re some form of bureaucrat, which pretty much precludes you being a libertarian.

              2. You should probably at least google the term “baptists and bootleggers” before you stick your foot any further into your mouth.

                1. Again he claimed the pastors had a monetary interest that has nothing to do with the baptist bootlegger coalition. I’m embarrassed for you.

  6. One liquor store estimates it will lose ten percent of its sales if nearby counties are required to allow booze.

    This is similar to arguments against Free Trade. Capitalism does not work well without competition.

    1. The solution for these stores is to open another branch in the newly wet county – they have name recognition, established contacts for purchasing, and know the business already.

    2. This makes no sense. You are welcome to open a liquor store in as many wet counties as you like. There you would be providing competiton to existing liquor stores. Dry counties have no need for competiton in liquor stores because they have no liquor stores.

      1. The established stores are worried about new stores opening in the dry counties and people going to the geographically closer stores instead of theirs.

        Hense the solution I presented above for the lazy bastards who currently own stores when their neighbors drop prohibition.

        1. The county I grew up in was dry, and one of the residents went to great expense to buy land 50 feet from the county line and build a nice liquor store that was otherwise out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mossy oaks and bayou. He did brisk business for a lot of years, and then the county started allowing liquor sales. He sold his building to a guy who made it an ice house and he built a new store in town. Seems like that’s a better response to a changing business landscape than lobbying for the status quo.

        2. That’s not a competition issue but an access issue. Your argument was that forcing dry counties to serve alcohol would create competition and improve quality. The consumers in wet counties will see no competition-produced benefits because they already enjoy competitive markets. Meanwhile, dry counties which don’t want liquor aren’t interested in the benefits of liquor store competiton. I agree that liquor stores are trying to protect their market share but that’s an entirely different issue than uncompetitive markets. Most likely the already competive liquor store will lose market share to uncompetitive liquor stores newly opened in dry counties simply because of convenience. There is no level or service or competive pricing that could have kept that market share. The consumers in wet counties aren’t being denied any benefits of conpetive due to dry counties.

      2. Go to bed Tulpa.

        1. Develop coherent arguments.

  7. Why do “wet” and “dry” have opposite meanings in geopolitics and viniculture?

      1. Dry liquor or wine means it has more alcohol. Dry locales don’t allow alcohol.

        1. My guess is the first means it has a lower water content and tastes less wet when consumed (largely due to the alcohol’s own effects).

          The second is that there are no drinks to be had, so the area has dried up. So really it comes from different people talking about different things, and applying the nearest label on hand.

  8. It’s interesting. If I was a liquor store owner, with an established supply chain, experience, and presumably some history of success that could help get me a small business loan for expansion, I’d be chomping at the bit to be the first one to enter a new, untapped market.

    1. They currently get to externalize the costs associated with infrastructure, labor and other overhead of a new store onto the consumer (because they are required to drive from dry counties to their existing facility). I suppose if there really is a portion of the market that is dissuaded by distance from getting their fifth of Buffalo Trace the current owners have an incentive to build in the currently dry counties…but those customers can’t be counted on as reliably chemically dependent so eff ’em.

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