The “Bootleggers and Baptists” theory of regulation, coined by Bruce Yandle in 1983 in Regulation magazine, uniquely explains what otherwise would be considered bizarre coalitions between moral crusaders and morally indifferent businesses.
In a later telling, Yandle explained how the theory
draws on colorful tales of states’ efforts to regulate alcoholic beverages by banning Sunday sales at legal outlets. Baptists fervently endorsed such actions on moral ground. Bootleggers tolerated the actions gleefully because their effect was to limit competition.
One such unholy alliance has emerged between environmentalists and some utilities in the context of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent Utility Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (Utility MACT) rule.
Those unfamiliar with the Bootleggers and Baptists theory may conclude that those compliant energy companies are enlightened at long last. But those who know the theory will take a more cynical view.…