A little too much coffee and Roberts' Rules.


22 December 2020


by Jon

Tyler Cowen recomments "Smashing the Liquor Machine" based on the galleys.

I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City. Kansas, of course was the home of Carry Nation, and much of this region is ... abstemious. Kansas City managed to stay "wide open" during Prohibition, but the Carry Nations mostly won the social argument after the fall of the local boss, Tom Pendergast. Until, say, the advent of Boulevard beer, alcohol remained at arms length; Ann Coulter clerked for a local judge in the 1980s, and wrote about how surprising the Kansas City social scene was, because it didn't center around alcohol.

For most of my life, the borders of "dry country" have been shrinking. Even among my co-religionists, the Baptists, while teetotaling remains the public position, over my lifetime it's gone from an urgent moral crisis to something more like our version of veganism. You won't lead a Baptist institution right now with a scotch in hand, but it's increasingly common to have churches accept it at weddings and social events, without risking excommunication.

Which is to say, 'temperance' was once a (high) class marker. For the past 40 years, alcohol consumption has been a high-class marker. I expect the pendulum is swinging back toward abstention being the marker of learning and high-class. There have been a fairly steady series of academic studies saying that alcohol has no health benefits, and lots of social costs. And here come the books for popular consumption.

I suspect the Baptists gave up, just as the science was about to shift in their favor. It will be interesting to watch.