Pissed Off

April 30, 2010

The government will fall that raises the price of beer. – Czech proverb

When you invite the whole world to your party, inevitably someone pees in the beer. – Xeni Jardin

The Lost Abbey tasting room is literally an oasis in the desert. They are no joke and one of  only two breweries (along with Stone) to have two beers on Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s list of the top 25 beers of 2009. The San Diego area has 33 breweries, part of what makes it Men’s Journal’s top pick for American beer towns (Portland has a mere 29). Yes, it’s good to live in San Diego.

What was I saying before this turned into a tourism ad? Oh, yes. The tasting room. A dollar doesn’t get you much these days, but in their tasting room, “it’ll get ya drunk” on a seriously generous serving (4 oz.) of high-ABV beer of outstanding craftsmanship; full pints are a bank-breaking $4. It’s a ridiculous deal in a wonderful atmosphere, right among the barrels, tanks and attendant smells of a working brewery.

It was a good deal; then the state showed up to put a stop to it. The frustration, anger, and raw emotion expressed in this post makes for a breathtaking read. There isn’t much more to say. But I’ll say it anyway.

Prohibition in the US nominally ended at the end of 1933. I say “nominally” because, as Gary Chartier reminds us, “the end of Prohibition was not accompanied by an end to cartelizing laws and regulations…” In this case, the regulation isn’t directly about alcohol per se but is one of “public safety,” because, as everyone knows,  alcoholic beverages are teeming with all kinds of nasty things that can kill you (and it’s not like, you know, the process of making beer requires cleanliness). But Kevin Carson knows that these kinds of regulations are no less draconian than outright prohibition:

One of the central functions of business and occupational licensing, and “health” and “safety” regulations, is to mandate minimum levels of overhead and make such small-batch production effectively illegal.  “Health” and “safety” codes, for instance, typically require our would-be microbaker to purchase an industrial-sized oven, refrigerator and dishwasher:  an enormous debt which can only be serviced by large batch production on a full-time basis, in a separate building with permanent hired staff.

Under such circumstances, the only people who can afford self-employment and entrepreneurship are those who can raise the artificially high, state-mandated capital outlays;  everyone else must offer himself for hire to an employer who can afford such outlays.  And since the entry barriers artificially reduce the number  of employers and inflate the number of people seeking wage employment, obviously, the dynamic tends to be one of workers competing for jobs, and the terms of employment being artificially set by the employer.

Of course this is lost on the trolls, who arrive right on cue:

Awe [sic]…what a shame that someone running a business has to comply with health regulations. I bet if you think about it there are a lot more throughout your business that you don’t really need either, right.

What they, you and I (“we”) need is “an effectively functioning tort law system that hasn’t been hampered by preemption and similar sorts of limitations.” What “we” need is to understand that “decisions about health and comfort are best made by the individual people who bear the costs and reap the benefits.” What “we” need is to let markets work, the actual, freed market:

Government interference only seems necessary to regulate a market, in the positive sense of the word regulate, if you think that the only way to get social order is by means of social control, and the only way for to get to harmonious social interactions is by having the government coerce people into working together with each other.

And further:

American state corporatism forcibly reshapes the world of work and business on the model of a commercial strip mall: sanitized, centralized, regimented, officious, and dominated by a few powerful proprietors and their short list of favored partners, to whom everyone else relates as either an employee or a consumer. A truly free market, without the pervasive control of state licensure requirements, regulation, inspections, paperwork, taxes, “fees,” and the rest, has much more to do with the traditional image of a bazaar: messy, decentralized, diverse, informal, flexible, pervaded by haggling, and kept together by the spontaneous order of countless small-time independent operators, who quickly and easily shift between the roles of customer, merchant, contract laborer, and more. It is precisely because we have the strip mall rather than the bazaar that people living in poverty find themselves so often confined to ghettoes, caught in precarious situations, and dependent on others—either on the bum or caught in jobs they hate but cannot leave, while barely keeping a barely tolerable roof over their heads.

The poorer you are, the more you need access to informal and flexible alternatives, and the more you need opportunities to apply some creative hustling.

Charles Johnson, “Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It”

I don’t know if the brewers at The Lost Abbey are anarchists; they write like anarchists might write. If not, I hope, after this, they’ll head over to C4SS and have a look around. Maybe then they will see all facets of the state as not worth a pitcher of warm piss. If warm piss isn’t your thing either, let me call for solidarity with The Lost Abbey folks. Buy their beer!* Become a Patron Saint or Sinner.  I’m sure it will help them cover these unexpected and downright evil costs.

* I’m not affiliated with the brewery.

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