Thank Deregulation and Free Market Capitalism for the Craft Beer Revolution

by Rob Roper

I came across an article this weekend, We Should Thank Millennials for Ruining These Terrible Products, which gave the famed generation credit for, among other things, “wiping out… mass-market beers like Budweiser and Coors…..” As if a new generation just all of a sudden decided we want a more interesting, diverse, higher quality market for beer and then poof. The author states, “on behalf of all millennials, I can only say: You’re welcome.”

Sorry, but the thanks does not belong to you (though we can be happy you like the beer!) It belongs to deregulation, lower taxes, and free market capitalism. The craft beer revolution is what happened when government got out of the way.

In 1978, Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which “created an exemption from taxation of beer brewed at home for personal or family use.” (Kegworks,com) Government getting out of the way allowed for the explosion of a home brewing craze, creating an army of people who, through their own curiosity and investment, became knowledgeable about the brewing process, experimented with new recipes and techniques, and bought and refined the technology of making beer.

What started out hobby industry inspired entrepreneurs, and in the early 1980’s government got out of the way again, this time at the state level, by making “brewpubs” legal. A brewpub is “a restaurant that sells beverages brewed on the premises.” And yes, once upon a time not too long ago, that was a crime.

Today, all fifty states allow brewpubs. Here in Vermont you can’t throw a stick without hitting one. Given freedom, they sprout like mushrooms. And they are terrific! They have become a huge part of our economy and our culture. The diversity and creativity of the industry is inspiring.

So here is my lesson for the millennial author of the article that inspired this post: your preceding generations did not drink beer that “tastes like a seltzer someone peed in” because it’s what we liked (or was all our feeble old imaginations could come up with). It’s because that’s what a beer industry over-regulated by Big Nanny Government makes. Government kills creativity, innovation, and evolution. It inspires bland sameness over creativity, and big corporations over small entrepreneurs. This is why the government that governs best governs least.

So, beer aficionados, if you’re going to give thanks, or raise a glass, do it to free market capitalism and the entrepreneurs it allows to thrive.

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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