David R. Henderson  

Great Moments (Almost) in Property Rights

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And from the New Republic, no less.

The last two tweaks of the Sheppard Amendment [the Amendment to the U.S. Constitution proposed by Senator Morris Sheppard] were connected to each other. In addition to the congressional wets, a few moderate drys whose votes were still somewhat in question wanted to provide compensation to the distillers and brewers, much of whose property was about to become worthless. At the time the Sheppard Amendment was pending, thirteen million gallons of bourbon were aging in Kentucky warehouses alone. Nationwide, the liquor and beer industries represented nearly $1 billion in invested capital, by that measure making the combination the nation's fifth largest industry. The New Republic said any dry who argued against compensation was "exactly as mindful of property interests . . . as the Russian Bolsheviki."

This is from Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent.


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CATEGORIES: Property Rights , Regulation



COMMENTS (1 to date)
david writes:

The next paragraph is equally interesting:

But hard-line drys countered with an argument that was more theological than political or economic. According to officials of the Methodist Church, the alcohol interests’ “day of grace has been sinned away.” Less holy was the breathtakingly disingenuous no-compensation argument Representative Daniel E. Garrett of Texas had offered when Congress first debated the Hobson Amendment. After the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, he said, four billion dollars’ worth of “property” had been rendered valueless. “I doubt if any man deplores more than myself that the institution of slavery ever existed in this country,” Garrett claimed, and “as it has been with human slavery, so shall it be with alcoholic liquors.” Therefore, he argued, the liquor and beer interests “must pocket their loss just as our fathers had to pocket theirs when you took their niggers away from them. That is all there is to it.” The Congressional Record noted the response from at least part of the House: “[Applause and laughter.]”

It is hard to think of a more succinct insight into the view of the temperance movement on alcohol at the time.

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