Baptists, bootleggers... and libertarians

Many libertarians like to point out that it is an alliance of "Bootleggers and Baptists" that drives legislation like Prohibition.

But that is just a two-legged and stool, and it won't stand without its third leg: libertarians! By presenting complete license as the only alternative to full prohibition, the libertarians serve to drive people into the camp of the bootleggers and the Baptists: if the only alternative to having prostitution publicly marketed to one's children is a complete ban, then a lot of people will opt for the ban.

We used to have more sensible options on the table: prostitution was permitted, but in a defined red-light district, and certainly couldn't be widely marketed. But we live today in an age of extremes.


  1. Those silly libertarians, thinking they understand people.

  2. "Many libertarians like to point out that it is an alliance of 'Bootleggers and Baptists' that drives legislation like Prohibition."

    And what I have to ask is "So?".

  3. This assumes the opinions of libertarians actually matters in the public policy sphere.

    Outside of the internet (in this day and age) or PBS (in another), nobody ever really cares what libertarians think.

    1. No Prateek: I mean the libertarian impulse understood broadly. For example, there are many, many "free speech absolutists," and they are very influential.

    2. Are you against "free speech absolutism", Gene?

    3. Who do you consider to be free speech absolutists? I think even the most rabid defenders of free speech wouldn't seriously suggest that threats of violence are okay. Rothbard thought libel and slander shouldn't be illegal, and that seems to be as absolutist as it gets without advocating for the right to violently threaten.

    4. Sails, I think that free speech absolutism is problematic for threats.


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