Forty years ago, a Democrat did an interesting thing.

On October 14, 1978, then-president Jimmy Carter signed a bill that, among other things, deregulated the beer industry by legalizing home-brewing. At the time, there were 44 breweries in the country. Old Milwaukee, manufactured by Schlitz (which was bought by Stroh’s in 1982, which in turn was bought by Pabst in 1999), offered the slogan “it doesn’t get any better than this.”

While “Old Mildew” certainly has its fans (and a history of awards), I’d pick any of hundreds of other options over it on any given trip to a market or beer distributor. The fact that I have the ability to choose from such a wide selection is a direct consequence of a Democrat’s penchant for deregulation. Today, there are over 6000 breweries and brew-pubs in America, with many producing dozens of varieties.

Carter’s presidency is widely perceived as a failure and a dark time in American history. He presided over a period of “stagflation,” a phenomenon not thought to be possible. His blind eye to the misdeeds of the Shah in Iran contributed to that nation’s turning against America in its revolution, and his mismanagement of the Iran hostage crisis left a lingering stain on America’s reputation. And so forth.

The shame is that Carter got some things right, and that this wide perception overshadows them. It also overshadows how far the Democrats have drifted from the visions of their past leaders.

Carter had a penchant for deregulation, and liberated the airline industry, truck and rail freight, oil and natural gas, and (in a roundabout way), telephones, from cartelized price controls, government-protected barriers to entry, and generalized government ham-fistedness. Working-class Americans have benefited enormously from all this deregulation, with market forces serving to make things cheaper, better, and more accessible.

Today, we’re reaping the benefits of a fresh round of deregulation. Trump’s one-two punch in 2017 of tax cuts and deregulation enervated an economy that had been mired in mediocre growth for the entirety of Obama’s tenure and, we were told, was the new normal.

Deregulation, however, has become anathema to the Left (so have tax cuts, a hallmark of JFK’s presidency). It can be no coincidence that the rise of Democratic Socialism has correlated with an increasing penchant among progressives for more government in everything. Indeed, the Democratic Socialist platform envisions, as a necessary step towards its vision of government ownership of most businesses, even heavier regulation of Corporate America.

How, I do wonder, could the nation have produced 6000 breweries were it operating under a Democratic Socialist economic vision? While that crowd pays lip service to the fantasy of worker-owned cooperatives, it freely declares that capital-intensive businesses are more likely to be owned by the state. While making a jug of home-brew isn’t that difficult, expanding the effort to the point of commercial production and distribution, even on a relatively small scale, takes money and commitment. And, in a heavily regulated economy, would involve negotiating a labyrinth of regulation that might even thwart Theseus.

After all, Bernie Sanders, the patron saint of Democratic Socialism, declared that we don’t need “a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when kids are going hungry.” His economic ignorance aside, the statement reflects the mindset of such as he, and the bureaucrats and mandarins who’d run the Democratic Socialist society would likely have little use for “yet another brewery.”

Beer deregulation and the resultant craft brew explosion has made many people happy. It also created opportunity for countless people of an entrepreneurial bent, and broke the government-protected oligopoly of the big beer producers. Today, hipsters get to choose from a seemingly endless parade of double IPAs, chocolate stouts, belgian wheats, dark lagers, rauchbiers, lambic ales, and whatever else creative and enterprising craft brewers come up with on a constant basis.

Unfortunately, that crowd often speaks in favor of Democratic Socialism, and thinks glowingly of its elder statesman Bernie Sanders and his young heir-apparent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They should open their eyes to what the political philosophy they’re embracing will mean for the things in life that they like.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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