Tim Heffernan begins his article on the U.S. alcohol industry by observing the large gap between alcohol consumption in Britain, where alcohol abuse is a national epidemic, and the United States, where the problem is somewhat more restrained. He attributes the gap to the patchwork of state and local and federal regulations that have effectively stymied the emergence of something like the highly-centralized, vertically-integrated, and politically powerful British alcohol industry. The article is well worth reading, and it has interesting resonances with Luigi Zingales’s defense of Glass-Steagall (on the grounds that it helped restrain the power of the big banks) and David Nutt’s vivid account of alcohol regulation in Britain in Drugs without the Hot Air.
Update! I’ve decided that Heffernan’s article is so interesting that it merits a proper discussion, so expect a column on this subject in the near future. Essentially, I want to situate Heffernan’s thesis in the context of the ongoing debate over reforming our marijuana laws and the politics of order and disorder.