Bootleggers and Baptists

How Economic Forces and Moral Persuasion Interact to Shape Regulatory Politics


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In Bootleggers & Baptists: How Economic Forces and Moral Persuasion Interact to Shape Regulatory Politics, economists Bruce Yandle and Adam Smith explain how money and morality are often combined in politics to produce arbitrary regulations benefiting cronies, while constraining productive economic activities by the general public. Yandle’s theory asserts that regulatory “bootleggers” are parties taking political action in pursuit of economic gain. Regulatory “Baptists” are parties participating in group action driven by an avowed higher moral purpose or desire to serve the public interest.

By examining major regulatory activities including Obamacare, the recent financial crisis bailouts, climate change legislation, and rules governing “sinful” substances, Bootleggers & Baptists reveals that lasting regulations require moral and financial advocacy to survive the American political process. With countless regulatory initiatives on the horizon, this book is a must-read for all who are concerned about over-regulation and government intrusion in our daily lives.

Praise for the book

"Read, enjoy, and learn how the Bootleggers and Baptists metaphor applies to climate change, medical care, and to-big-to-fail legislation and policy."

Vernon C. Smith, Nobel Laureate and George L. Argyros Endowed Chair in Finance and Economics, Chapman University

"Smith and Yandle offer a major contribution on how public choice theory applies to government policy today."

Tyler Cowen, Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics, George Mason University

"Smith and Yandle have woven a splendid quilt of evidence that a big state means big corruption. Ethics matters in the economy, yes, but ethics can't be state-enforced without letting the Bootleggers into the kitchen."

Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English and Communications, University of Illinois at Chicago

About the Authors

Adam C. Smith is an assistant professor of economics and director of the Center for Free Market Studies at Johnson & Wales. He has published articles in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, the European Journal of Political Economy, Social Choice & Welfare, and Public Choice. In addition, he is a visiting scholar with the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University.

Bruce Yandle is dean emeritus of the College of Business & Behavioral Science and alumni distinguished professor of economics emeritus at Clemson University. He is distinguished adjunct professor of economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Author of scores of journal articles and special reports, Yandle is author/editor of 16 books.


Number of Pages: 
Publication Date: 
September 7, 2014