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Apply the Insights Bruce Yandle

Here’s a letter that I sent earlier this month to the New York Times; it was not published.


While many readers might find it odd that environmentalists and U.S. beef producers have joined forces to keep Brazil’s meatpacking company, JBS, from being listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“Unlikely Allies Want to Bar Giant Brazilian Meatpacker From Stock Markets in the US,” Feb. 1), economists and others familiar with the work of Clemson University economics professor Bruce Yandle will not be. In his seminal 1983 article, “Bootleggers and Baptists – The Education of a Regulatory Economist,” Prof. Yandle explained that there are good reasons why virtuous Baptists and self-interested bootleggers might come together to support prohibition of the sale of alcohol. Baptists sincerely support temperance; bootleggers greedily welcome reduced competition. Similarly, environmentalists genuinely committed to protecting forests and biodiversity might be joined by beef producers seeking nothing more elevated than a protected market. U.S. consumers perhaps have different preferences, but powerful combinations like this one can ride roughshod over the general public.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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